The New York Jets finally snapped their six-game losing streak with a fourth-quarter 27-23 comeback win against the Buffalo Bills. What grade did each unit earn following this thrilling team victory?
For years the New York Jets have lacked the killer instinct needed to seize victory in crunch time. They often found themselves in competitive situations late in games but seldom could the team seal the deal and put the game away.
Not this time. Not this game. And not with Sam Darnold under center.
Despite the overwhelming odds stacked against him and the history of Jets fourth-quarter meltdowns fresh in the minds of many, Darnold and the Jets were able to power back and secure a come-from-behind victory on the road in Buffalo.
It wasn’t the prettiest day statistically for Darnold and it certainly wasn’t the prettiest day for the Jets as a whole, but no one will remember the stat line when all is set and done. No one remembers the beginning nor do they often remember the middle.
But everyone will remember how this one ended.
With not one, but two clutch fourth-quarter drives orchestrated by the Jets 21-year-old signal caller first tying the game and then taking the lead with just under two minutes to play.
Was it a perfect performance? Absolutely not. But at the end of the day, the team was able to come out on top and emerge victorious. And that’s certain to help boost the final grades for this week’s team evaluation.
This was, comparatively, the Jets best offensive showing since Week 6 against Indianapolis. The Jets offense accounted for three touchdowns, equivalent to their total over the past five games.
The Sam Darnold effect was in full bloom as the offense appeared more competent and dynamic than it has over the past few weeks with Josh McCown starting. Darnold finished 16-of-24 for 170 yards, a touchdown, and an interception which on the surface looks like a pretty pedestrian stat line. But Darnold was consistently able to make the most out of limited throwing windows and came through when the team needed him to do so.
He made two crucial throws down the stretch to Robby Anderson who clearly benefitted from Darnold’s return. The speedy deep threat pulled in four catches for 76 yards and a touchdown including a game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter and a fly route later in the game that set up the Jets game-winning score.
Anderson has had a disappointing season by all accounts but games like this remind fans just how talented he could be. The chemistry between him and Darnold should only continue to grow and as the USC quarterback develops as a passer, expect to see Anderson’s numbers go up as well.
The offensive line quietly put together a solid outing keeping Darnold upright for the entirety of the game and opening up some holes in the run game at the right times.
The best example of this was on Elijah McGuire’s game-winning touchdown run where the Jets ran a stretch play off tackle for the score. Buffalo stacked the box anticipating a running play and that’s exactly what the Jets dialed up. Credit to the entire offensive line, in particular, Brian Winters and Brandon Shell who each made great blocks sealing the edge allowing McGuire to patiently find his way into the end zone.
Overall, there were some ups and downs for the Jets offense but the team was able to pull it together and come through big time in the fourth quarter. Consequently, the final grade receives a significant boost.
Final Grade: B
Next: Defensive Grades
Similar to the offense, the Jets defense had its fair share of mishaps throughout the game but ultimately came through clutch when the team needed them the most.
After a complete system failure on the final drive against Tennessee last week, the Jets defense stepped up and closed the door on any potential Bills comeback attempt. On just the second play of Buffalo’s final possession, quarterback Josh Allen was intercepted by Trumaine Johnson to seal the deal for a Jets victory.
The interception was Johnson’s second of the day as the affluent cornerback continued his recent string of impressive play. Despite facing heavy scrutiny over much of the early portion of the season, Johnson is playing at a very high level right now and is well on his way to changing the public perception of his contract.
This is the Johnson that the Jets paid $72.5 million over five years. A ball-hawking playmaker who will get beat from time-to-time but ultimately prove to be a game-changer with splash plays in a timely fashion. The Jets will hope to see more of this out of the former Los Angeles Ram over the final three weeks and going into next season.
Leonard Williams is another often-criticized Jet that had himself a solid day on Sunday. Despite not recording a sack, Williams was a constant presence in the Buffalo backfield earning an 87.0 grade from Pro Football Focus, the second-highest by any Jets player over the weekend behind only the aforementioned Johnson.
The USC product’s diminished impact has become worrisome for the Jets given the fact that he might soon be asking for a large payday in the form of a contract extension. Even despite his most recent solid performance, the Jets should be wary of signing Williams to a long-term deal.
One interesting scenario to explore is one where the Jets look into trading Williams this offseason. With the likely change at head coach, the Jets could change schemes to a 4-3 defense leaving Williams as a bit of an odd fit as a 4-3 defensive tackle.
Given the fact that his name still holds weight around the league and that he is just 24-years old, the team may be able to get a second or third-round pick for the talented defensive lineman. If that’s the case, then it might be in the Jets best interest to take that deal and move on from Williams when the value is still high.
Altogether, the Jets defense struggled to contain Josh Allen on the ground and played a far-from-perfect game, but the unit was able to step up and clinch the game in the fourth quarter. The defense made some great adjustments at halftime limiting Allen to just 14 rushing yards in the fourth quarter.
All things considered, it was a good day for the Jets defense.
Final Grade: B
Next: Special Teams Grades
Special Teams Grades
What a turn around from last season. The Jets special teams unit has been arguably the best in the league with all aspects of the unit firing on all cylinders at the moment.
With each week, the special teams finds a way to one-up themselves with the kicking game, return game, and even the punting unit giving the Jets the edge over their opponents. The Jets even managed to block yet another kick, their third in the past two games. Massive praise should go out to special teams coordinator Brant Boyer who has turned this unit around in the face of criticism and scrutiny.
This week, return man Andre Roberts continued his stellar season returning five kicks for a whopping 176 yards including two returns of over 50 yards. The most amazing stat of the week is that Roberts now has six returns of 50 yards or more.
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No one else in the NFL has more than two.
Both returns came in the first half and each set the Jets up for a scoring possession, including an 86-yard return that gave the Jets their first touchdown of the afternoon. Roberts has been invaluable this season and his ability to consistently provide the Jets with good starting field position is not something that should go unnoticed. Hopefully, the Citadel product will be rewarded for his play with a Pro Bowl appearance come January.
Elsewhere, kicker Jason Myers continued his excellent 2018 campaign connecting on both of his field goal attempts, one of which was from a healthy distance of 47-yards out. Myers has been the Jets MVP this year and much like the aforementioned Roberts should hopefully find himself on the receiving end of a Pro Bowl nod when the votes are tallied.
Lastly, punter Lachlan Edwards was called upon to kick just three times and the Aussie punter turned that into 120 yards for a solid 40.0 net average. Edwards has been the least flashy of the Jets three primary special teamers but he has overall been a solid contributor and at worst a league-average punter.
The unit’s final grade is only hurt by a costly fumble from Roberts on the opening kickoff of the second half that turned into a Buffalo field goal. Other than that, it was a flawless day for the Jets special teams.
Final Grade: A-
Next: Coaching Grades
Don’t look now but the Jets coaching staff quietly did a pretty good job of solidifying a win for Gang Green on Sunday. While that statement might provoke a swarm of angry Jets fans to riot in a way that only Jets fans know how it doesn’t make it any less true.
Sure, offensive coordinator, Jeremy Bates didn’t call a great game and his lack of creativity, particularly early on, definitely stymied the offense at points. And it’s not as if the Jets defense looked completely prepared to defend Josh Allen on the ground for much of the first half.
But the coaching staff made the right moves and called the right plays at the right time.
Bates’ playcalling over the last few drives for the Jets allowed Darnold to open up the passing game more and the plays dialed up seemed to work. And Todd Bowles‘ defense made clear halftime adjustments limiting Allen to just 14 rushing yards in the second half as opposed to 87 in the first half.
Perhaps even more telling is that the team does not appear to have quit under Bowles. Save for the first meeting with Buffalo, the Jets have continued to fight in every game and even though the game planning and playcalling haven’t been superb, it’s evident that the players still like and respect Bowles.
Does this mean that he shouldn’t be let go at the end of the season? Absolutely not. Bowles has shown his weaknesses as a coach over this season and it’s definitely time that the Jets go in a different direction for the sake of their young quarterback and inexperienced roster.
Still, it’s nice to see the team stick together and fight even with the inevitable overhaul of the coaching staff hanging over their heads. The writing is on the wall, but the team appears set on ignoring the writing and just focusing on the present, an admirable and enviable quality.
When all is set and done, a win is a win and a victory will always reflect positively on a coaching staff. Given the immense amount of criticism that the staff has faced, much of it deserved, it only seems right to praise the coaches when the praise is deserved.