The New York Jets came away with the victory in a wacky contest on Sunday defeating the Kansas City Chiefs by a final score of 38-31. Who’s responsible for the team’s upset win this week?
The writing seemed to be on the wall.
After a terrible start to the game in which the Kansas City Chiefs scored 14 points on six plays in under five minutes, the New York Jets rallied back and led 21-17 at home. It was a great showing of resiliency from a young team that’s shown plenty this season. They played hard in the third quarter and led 27-24 at the start of the dreaded fourth quarter.
This was when the wheels were supposed to fall off. This was when the bottom was supposed to fall out. The Jets were in prime position for another abhorrent fourth-quarter collapse where the team would blow yet another game despite being the better team for 45 minutes. It had happened three out of their last five losses. After an Alex Smith bomb to Tyreek Hill with nine minutes remaining it seemed that we were all once again doomed to witness another Jets fourth-quarter meltdown.
But then something incredible happened. The Jets pushed their figurative foot on the gas pedal and remained strong. Josh McCown led his team to a 14-play, 75-yard touchdown drive capped off by his second rushing touchdown of the day to put the final dagger in what was an embarrassing showing by the Chiefs in the final few minutes of Sunday’s game. As it stands, this week’s game did feature yet another fourth-quarter breakdown.
Only this time it was the Jets who were the beneficiaries.
With that being said, let’s take a look at the five players who deserve the most credit for Sunday’s Jets victory.
Next: 5. Jordan Jenkins
5. Linebacker Jordan Jenkins
As a whole, the Jets defense put together one of their worst outings of the year against the Chiefs. The secondary was torched by Kansas City’s playmakers as both Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce had impressive days, but one of the Jets most underappreciated players put together another strong performance.
Outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins recorded his third sack of the season, which already surpasses his total from last year, and was able to provide pressure on quarterback Alex Smith on a couple of occasions. On one play, Jenkins was able to beat the opposing linemen off the edge and make contact with Smith’s arm to force a wobbly, errant pass.
The second-year pro has come alive in the past few weeks ever since his dominant performance in the Jets Week 9 victory over the Buffalo Bills netted him AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. He’s put together quite the string of impactful games and is playing at his highest level as a professional.
Jenkins has always been solid at setting the edge and has remained one of the team’s best run defenders, but his pass rushing game is finally starting to come along as well. While he may never be a dominant defensive player, it’s clear that Jenkins has carved out a role for himself in this Jets defense and he’s proven that he deserves to be mentioned amongst the young Jets defenders set to be building blocks for the team going forward.
Connor Hughes of NJ.com likened him to a young Calvin Pace. Not a stellar pass-rusher, but a darn good starting outside linebacker who will get his fair share of sacks and remain a reliable piece of this defense, hopefully for years to come.
Not bad for a former third-round draft pick.
Next: 4. The Offensive Line
4. The Offensive Line
The Jets offensive line has certainly received plenty of criticism this season, all of it deserved. But it’s time to give credit where credit is due and praise the unit for their solid performance on Sunday.
The Jets entered Sunday’s game in the bottom five in the league in sacks allowed with 35. Certainly not an inspiring number. However, the offensive line put together one of their best efforts in recent weeks and didn’t allow a single sack all game long.
While Kansas City doesn’t have the most feared pass rush in the league, they rank 25th in sacks, the offensive line did their part to give Josh McCown time in the pocket and was a large factor in his successful day as a passer.
The Jets didn’t necessarily light it up with the running game, but the team remained persistent running the ball 49 times and managed to total 157 yards on the ground. Add to that three rushing touchdowns (albeit two on McCown QB sneaks) and the Jets run game had itself a solid, effective day.
The highlight of the game for the Jets offensive line came when the unit got a good push up front to allow McCown to sneak it into the end zone for a touchdown……twice, including one for the game-winner.
While it remains to be seen how the offensive line will perform going forward given their many lackluster showings this year, more outings like this one will go a long way into making this team successful in their upcoming games.
Next: 3. Robby Anderson
3. Wide Receiver Robby Anderson
Watching the growth and progression of Robby Anderson has been one of the most visually appealing activities for Jets fans this year. The Jets have witnessed Anderson develop from a skinny, lanky, undrafted free agent out of the University of Temple to a premier deep threat one of the league’s most promising young receivers. And the best may be yet to come.
Anderson put together another fantastic game against the Chiefs catching eight passes on a team-high 12 targets for a total of 107 yards. That marks the third time Anderson has recorded over 100 yards receiving in his past five games. Unfortunately, that also marks the end of his five-game scoring streak which dated back to Week 7 against Miami.
That’s a small price to pay for another fabulous showing by Anderson and an ultimate Jets victory.
Over the course of this season, Anderson has become one of the best deep threats in the league. He’s always had the speed and capability to be great but he lacked the intangibles, primarily hands and route running.
Not only has Anderson significantly improved his catching ability as his hands are as strong as ever, but his route running has been top notch and is the main part of the reason he’s been able to get open as frequently as he does on those deep routes. His release is impeccable and he’s able to use his hands to battle the opposing cornerback and beat press coverage. This has allowed him to not solely rely on his speed to get open on vertical routes.
Apart from deep routes, Anderson has become a reliable intermediate receiving option and this is more evidence of his improved route running capability as well as his upgraded ability to catch balls in traffic.
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The Jets have themselves a legitimate number one receiving option in Robby Anderson and it shouldn’t be long before he’s a household name in the NFL.
Next: 2. Jermaine Kearse
2. Wide Receiver Jermaine Kearse
It was a career day for Jermaine Kearse.
The 27-year-old receiver recorded a career-high nine catches for a career-high 157 yards averaging a career-high 17.4 yards per reception. So it’s safe to say that if Robby Anderson is the Jets 1A, Kearse is easily the 1B.
The veteran Kearse was acquired in a trade before the start of the season that sent the talented, but troubled defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for Kearse and a second-round pick. Although it may only be a few months since it happened, that trade is already looking like an absolute steal for Gang Green.
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The Jets were able to ship away one of their biggest locker room cancers and receive not only a second-round pick, which alone seemed a little high for the giant question mark that was Richardson but also managed to acquire a veteran presence in Kearse who has exceeded the expectations of many with his play this season. Kearse has already set a new career high in receptions and is easily on pace to best his previous numbers in receiving yards and touchdowns.
Kearse and the aforementioned Robby Anderson have quickly become a dynamic duo that only seems to improve each week. Many people forget that, much like Anderson, Kearse also entered the league as an undrafted free agent back in 2012 with the Seahawks.
The Jets receivers are just two dudes with a major chip on their shoulders looking to prove the doubters wrong and add to already impressive stat lines this season. And with the, let’s call it “modest,” expectations given to the Jets receiving core heading into this season, production like this should have already silenced the critics.
And it doesn’t appear that Kearse and Anderson are content with stopping there.
Next: 1. Josh McCown
1. Quarterback Josh McCown
It may be a tiresome notion at this point, but if every game the Jets have played this year only had three quarters, Josh McCown would be a Pro Bowl quarterback. He plays mostly mistake-free football and is able to run the offense effectively and his numbers show it. McCown uses his arm and his legs, yes at 39-years-old McCown is one of the more mobile quarterbacks in the league, to control the game and always keeps the Jets in games despite the bad reputation that he might have.
And then the fourth quarter arrives.
Much like the rest of the Jets team, it appeared that we were ready to witness yet another fourth-quarter meltdown when the Chiefs took a 31-30 lead with nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Going into the game, the Jets had a positive point differential in every quarter this season except the fourth quarter where the team had a shameful -66 point differential.
That stat is almost too ridiculous to believe.
But despite all signs pointing to another lackluster fourth-quarter performance from McCown and the Jets, the team bore down and gutted out a close victory behind some stellar play by their quarterback.
McCown played his most complete game of the season completing 72 percent of his passes going 26 of 36 in the air for a total of 331 passing yards and three total touchdowns. Two of those three came on QB sneaks, including the game-winner, where McCown exemplified what the Jets had been lacking all season long when it came down to the final 15 minutes of games.
After the Chiefs took their 31-30 lead, the Jets could have easily just packed it in and conceded victory. The team could have simply shut down and moved forwards knowing another game was blown due to their ineptitude. They could have quit.
Instead, McCown led his team 75 yards down the field, highlighted by a 51-yard catch from Jermaine Kearse and multiple untimely penalties from the Chiefs defense, en route to what would ultimately be the deciding score. McCown gritted his teeth, put his head down, and forced his way into the end zone.
At that moment, he didn’t care about his own personal safety. He wasn’t concerned with the antics that had just ensued with Marcus Peters tossing a penalty flag into the crowd. McCown was only concerned with one word: finish.
McCown finished his run and scored his third touchdown of the game, and the Jets were able to finish the game and put away their opponents. In many ways, both McCown and the Jets stepped up and faced their demons on Sunday. The team stopped worrying about what could have been and began to focus on what was.
They may not be a playoff team just yet, but it’s that mentality that could make this team very dangerous in the future. And if McCown and the Jets have finally put their fourth-quarter troubles behind them, their upcoming opponents better be prepared for what could turn out to be a tougher fight than they ever could’ve expected from the 2017 New York Jets.