These are three plays that sneakily hurt the Jets
The New York Jets lost a disheartening, infuriating game to the New England Patriots.
It’s easy, and correct, to pin this game on Zach Wilson‘s three interceptions. Each one was knuckleheaded and inexcusable.
However, there were other momentum-shifting plays beyond those picks and the roughing the passer that negated Michael Carter II‘s 84-yard pick-six. The Jets still could have won the game despite all that.
Here are three plays that killed the Jets’ momentum and turned the tide in favor of New England.
Mike LaFleur’s two short-yardage decisions
3rd & 1 at NYJ 33 (8:04 – 2nd) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass incomplete short right to E.Moore (D.Wise).
3rd & 2 at NYJ 43 (0:48 – 2nd) (Shotgun) Z.Wilson pass short middle intended for T.Johnson INTERCEPTED by J.Bentley at NYJ 47. J.Bentley to NYJ 40 for 7 yards (T.Johnson, B.Berrios).
I’m putting these two plays together and not focusing on what actually happened on each throw (the first one was tipped, the second picked on a high throw).
For some reason, Mike LaFleur refuses to run the football on third and short. It’s befuddling. I understand that the defenses are most likely going to set up to stop the run, but hasn’t that been the case since the dawn of time on third and short? This is a strength-versus-strength situation, and it’s never a guarantee. But over the last few weeks, we have seen the Jets go in shotgun and even sometimes empty on those plays.
On the second play, in particular, the decision was perplexing. The Jets had run the ball twice on the drive and didn’t seem to be in a particular hurry to score before the half. At that point, on third and two with 48 seconds left, an incomplete pass saves the Patriots a timeout prior to the punt. At the bare minimum, if the Jets ran the football and did not pick up the first down, New England would have had to burn a timeout and most likely would not have had good field position (though, with the Jets’ special teams performance, there are no guarantees on that).
Instead, LaFleur dialed up a pass. What’s ironic is that the throw Wilson was trying to make would have gotten the first down, but it would have accomplished the exact same thing as a run for the first down – a short gain without stopping the clock. So why not run the ball there?
Again, the pick is still Wilson’s fault. He didn’t set his feet and threw it very high, right into the arms of the Patriots’ linebacker. But that doesn’t change the fact that it was a suspect play call.
The first play, as well, would’ve worked if not for the tipped pass. But third and one? Why not go for it? James Robinson is a better short-yardage back than Breece Hall. At the very least, LaFleur should be utilizing his skills. If he doesn’t trust his offensive line to allow Robinson to pick up one yard, he should trust them even less to protect Wilson and prevent penetration that could lead to a tipped pass.
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Jakobi Meyers’ third quarter touchdown
4th & 1 at NYJ 5 (12:07 – 3rd) Jakobi Meyers Pass From Mac Jones for 5 Yds, TOUCHDOWN.
It’s hard to call a touchdown a forgotten play, but how that touchdown materialized is somewhat forgotten. Two things went wrong for the Jets on this play.
First of all, Meyers was lined up in the backfield and then shifted out wide. No one went to cover him until Mac Jones was about to take the snap. By the time Lamarcus Joyner started to break, it was too late.
The Jets could have, and possibly should have, called a timeout there. When you see a receiver come uncovered, even right before the snap, that’s a surefire touchdown.
Besides that, though, the Patriots receiver clearly blocked downfield before the ball was thrown.
There is some misunderstanding about the offensive pass interference rules in the NFL. Prior to the pass, if an eligible player is within one yard of the line of scrimmage, they may initiate a block. However, once the ball is in the air, “it is also pass interference by the offense to block a defender beyond the line while the pass is in the air, if the block occurs in the vicinity of the player to whom the pass is thrown” (Rule 8, Section 5, Article 4).
Though these plays are often not called, this one was rather egregious. Jonnu Smith bulled right into Sauce Gardner and pushed him into the end zone before Meyers even had the ball. Meyers may have still had a first down if not for the pass interference, but that is also debatable; it might not have been a touchdown, as well.
The Patriots should have been held to a field goal here. Instead, no call was made, and the Jets relinquished a lead they would never regain.
Third quarter drive-killing run
1st & 10 at NE 26 (10:27 – 3rd) (No Huddle, Shotgun) Mi.Carter left end to NE 27 for -1 yards (J.Peppers, J.Tavai).
Let’s remember where the Jets were holding at this point. They were down just 13-10 despite having given up an excruciating six-play, 62-yard touchdown drive to open the second half. There was plenty of time to pull the game back in their favor.
This drive started to pick up some rhythm. Following a four-yard run by Michael Carter, Zach Wilson hit Garrett Wilson for 18 yards. He then threw a beautiful pass to Tyler Conklin for 27 yards. The Jets were in business at the Patriots’ 26, and it appeared that Zach Wilson was regaining his confidence following his interception near the end of the first half.
On the next play, Carter lost a yard on a run around left end. That doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but it was an atrocious play call, in my opinion.
The Jets’ passing game had had some rhythm prior to the pick, while their run game hadn’t done much all day. They had just completed back-to-back beautiful passes, and Wilson was getting into a groove. Why run the ball there and kill the momentum?
At the bare minimum, if the Jets were going to run, they should’ve done some sort of jet sweep or counterplay. To just run over left end took the wind out of the sails. Sure enough, Wilson threw back-to-back incomplete passes to Conklin and Braxton Berrios, and the Jets had to settle for a field goal.
This still doesn’t excuse Greg Zuerlein‘s missed field goal, which was another major momentum shifter. But that drive had its momentum killed by the run. LaFleur should have kept passing to keep the defense on its heels.