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.
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The short yardage with Lafluer is the most baffling thing to me. And that no-call OPI is just crazy. The Pats we’re doing it all game but this was so blatant and costly.
I think it’s a defensible non-call. Gardener puts his hands up to welcome the contact, when I think he needed to jump outside and pass Smith off to Joyner and Mosley. If he showed any intention of defending the out, then yes, that’s a blatant missed call. Instead, it seemed like his intent was to lock up Smith, in which case, you gotta let them play.
There was a blatant hold missed on Berrios on a speed out on (I think) another third and short. I forget when in the game or where on the field it happened. The DB didn’t pull his jersey, which is probably how he got away with it, but he clearly grabbed Berrios’s waist and Berrios ended up about a foot short of making the catch.
I agree with the Berrios play but that is OPI at its worse. he’s completely blocking him for the jump past 1 yard before the pass is thrown. And what do you expect Gardner to do there? He is attempting to jam his man at the line, but then gets blocked backwards.
I don’t think it’s defensible. Sauce welcomed the contact as a defensive back within five yards of the line. Hand-fighting is one thing, but being bulled five yards downfield before the ball gets there is clear and blatant OPI. The Patriots did it because they knew they could likely get away with it. I was worried about that before the Packers game because they had done the same to the Giants the week before. The Patriots have been doing things like this for years, so I should’ve expected it. There’s a reason Rob Gronkowski was called for OPI far more than anyone else in the league. The Pats have apparently continued that tradition.
I don’t recall the missed hold on Berrios. Do you remember when the play was?
OK, I guess I am mostly wrong, but I remain disappointed that Gardener didn’t ID the concept, and hop outside to try to get to Meyers. If he had, then the OPI would’ve been even more indefensible, and impossible to ignore.
I guess you could say that he trusted his ability, thinking he could give Smith a bump and still jump the throw to Meyers, and maybe he would’ve if not for Smith bull rushing him. That doesn’t seem likely though, does it? As soon as he squares up Smith, that’s a first down (maybe not a touchdown).
It wasn’t Gardner’s guy to cover. If someone motions out of the backfield then a Safety needs to come down and cover him. Joyner was later reacting to the motion.
Joyner was giving up three yards of horizontal leverage before Meyers went in motion
Joyner was on the opposite hash from the sideline where Meyers scored, while Gardner was the only DB on that side of the field
Meyers is NE’s #1 move-the-chains threat and a WR
Smith is not much of a threat and a TE
I can’t imagine you’re right, and if you are, it seems like a severely flawed scheme.
Considering that Joyner started to run towards Meyers as the ball was snapped, I have to believe it was his guy. I don’t know if he was out of position or just positioned incorrectly on the snap; I imagine Blewett will have something to say about it in his review, but we can probably get somewhat of a better idea when the All-22 becomes available.
Why Sauce was on Smith is a different story, but I imagine it’s because Meyers originally lined up in the backfield or they wanted Sauce’s height to match up with the tight end.
If Sauce had gone to cover Meyers, then the TD would’ve been to Smith. Whoever was supposed to cover Meyers just wasn’t there. If it was actually Joyner, then either Joyner lined up in totally the wrong spot or it was a foolish defensive call.
Sauce had a play earlier in the game where he identified a receiver screen off the snap and blew it up despite playing off coverage. I don’t think it was a matter of identifying coverage; I believe that Meyers was not his man, period. That’s why I said the Jets should have called timeout (once they saw where Joyner was lined up, if he was the one who was supposed to cover Meyers).
I found it. 3rd and 11, 9:38 3rd quarter, right before the missed field goal. The full-broadcast had a replay that shows Bryant grabbing Berrios’s waste at 1:08:46.
A play I’d like to add, is the missed tackle on Stephenson on that first drive in the second half. They had him for a short to zero gain and Whitehead comes in shoulder only, didn’t wrap up next thing you know he pops a big run. Clearly lack of focus.
Based on Whitehead’s comments about the JFM penalty I can see he mentally hadn’t recovered from the call.
I also think it’s incorrect to pin the game on one player, when they had dumb penalties, poor special teams play, and a bunch of defensive mistakes.
Oh, I agree. The reason I didn’t include that was that then a certain YouTube content creator with an account on this site would accuse me of siphoning off his video. I suppose that’s not a great reason to exclude a play that was clearly a game-changer.
Joe Blewett had said that tackling was a big problem for Whitehead. It has cost the Jets several times this season (think: Tyler Boyd’s 56-yard TD vs. Cincinnati).
Despite all the mistakes, ultimately, if Zach Wilson made the obvious plays he should have made and avoided those three completely boneheaded mistakes, the Jets win this game. He missed open receivers and open space to run time and again.
Lots of players made multiple mistakes in the game. Like Jets71 said, missed tackles, stupid penalties, and Special Teams cost us at least 6pts in a 5-point game. Zach has acknowledged a few bonehead plays, but this was a TEAM loss, from the coaching on down.
It was a team loss that still weighs heavily on the QB. Ultimately, when you throw three interceptions, you can’t blame your defense or special teams or even JFM’s terrible penalty for the loss.
Could Wilson have stepped up instead of drifting back?
The larger point about empty sets on third (or fourth) and short is solid. Not even the threat of the run…how does that make any sense?
And I really do not understand the defensive call on the Meyers touchdown. How is Joyner expected to cover Meyers from that formation? He’s giving up three yards of horizontal space before Meyers even goes in motion, and the Jets have four DBs on one side of the field. The only thing I can think is that was supposed to be a banjo, but Gardener failed to step inside and evade Smith’s bull rush. That not only prevented him from switching onto Meyers, but prevented the OPI. With him being the only one on that side of the field, am I right to say he has to play Smith with outside leverage there?
I don’t know if its fair to criticize the run off left tackle. I’m sure LaFleur had a reason to think that would work. You can criticize the reason, but not the play without knowing the process, I think.
I have no data to prove this, just a thought. I think he is reluctant to step up because it’s hard for him to see at that point. Then he has to throw over the OL/DL which is tough for anyone and he’s not tall. I’m not sure if that helps him.
Gonna have to beat that reluctance out of him then. There is no way to be a successful QB if you won’t step up. I think that’s supposed to be a layup for an NFL QB; the fact that it turned into an INT is about as disheartening as it gets.
I agree. He can’t keep drifting back.
I think he is reluctant to step up because the Jets OL has been giving up so much inside pressure. If you look at the Pitt game Zach was stepping up in the pocket a lot and looking quite comfortable doing it. But, the last few games inside pressure has driven him into bad habits of running outside and backwards. The running backwards thing drives me crazy. Nothing good happens running backwards except a throwaway.
It could be, but he had room to step up on several plays against both Denver and New England. Sometimes it’s a step up and a small slide left or right. Instead, he’s running backward, as you referenced. He won’t stop and doesn’t even seem to think it’s a problem.
I agree 100%. I think his height does really impact him. I’ve always been a fan of taller QBs, since it’s easier for them to see over the tall guys in front of them. I wasn’t thrilled with Mark Sanchez’s height coming out, and I felt the same about Wilson. That’s not to say that a shorter QB can’t succeed in the NFL (see: Drew Brees), but it’s already a disadvantage.
Wilson could almost always step up, but he doesn’t. Watch Daniel Jones, as “meh” as he played yesterday. He steps up. I use that comparison because Jones is another QB who struggled tremendously. The guy learned, albeit in his fourth year.
I don’t know if Joyner was meant to cover Meyers. I’m not exactly sure what the call was. It’s possible that Joyner was meant to come out and cover Jonnu Smith so that Sauce could cover Meyers. Looks like Sauce was left in no-man’s land, blocked 5 yards out of the play by Smith before the ball left the QB’s hand. Either way, he was left to cover two guys.
I’m not sure if Sauce was supposed to take Smith or Meyers on that play, so it’s hard to say what leverage he should have taken. If it was meant to be banjo, who was taking the first guy out? Clearly, no one picked up Meyers.
Regarding the run, I’m not even talking about whether it would’ve worked or not, per se. I’m talking about getting Zach Wilson in a rhythm. Many fans on this site have accused LaFleur of not doing that. Wilson had just completed two very nice passes. They should have kept the rhythm going.
Meyers started out in the backfield and then motioned into the slot. No way he was Sauce’s responsibility. Sauce had Smith out wide.
That’s what I thought, and Sauce seems to agree:
I agree on that last point. You can’t blame 2 bad throws by Zach on a run play. If anything, Lafleur got away from the run too early. We never ran the ball more than once in any set of downs. Run for 5 on 1st down? Pass on 2nd. Run for 7 on 1st down? Pass on 2nd. You talk about allowing Zach to get in a rhythm, but what about letting the run game get in a rhythm? We ran the ball 7 times in the 1st half against 18 passes. Chicago ran for almost 250 against NE. We should have been following the same script.
Fair enough. I just remember thinking right after the pass to Conklin that they should continue passing to come right back down the field following the 27-yard pass to Conklin. The run kind of took the wind out of the sails on the drive. I’ve noticed Wilson get into a groove when he completes a few consecutive passes.
LaFleur has generally passed a ton on second down this season, which is something he might want to look at. I agree that his play-calling in this game would have been better served to be more like the Pittsburgh game, when LaFleur kept running despite the fact that it wasn’t working much.