The Jets beat the Browns 23-16 today at the Meadowlands. The victory improves the team’s record to 2-13 and marks the first winning streak in almost a full calendar year.
Everybody has their own view on late season games like this.
Personally I have a difficult time finding many profound takeaways. I think in the big picture this win doesn’t mean much more than any of the six wins the Jets had in the second half of last season. Those victories were not a sign of a team making genuine progress. Neither was this one.
The Jets did deserve to win the game. It would be disingenuous to act like the circumstances of the last 24 hours had nothing to do with the final result. Losing an entire position group the night before the game is a nightmare scenario for any NFL team. The game plan was already set after a week of practice, and at the last minute the Browns had to figure out how to cope with losing multiple players they were counting on.
Still the NFL is part what happens to you and part how you deal with it. The Jets had their own issues too playing without a number of key players of their own including Quinnen Williams and a roster that was thin to begin with.
Although this game didn’t have a ton of meaning, they responded by playing hard and playing well. We will never know the true emotional state of the Browns, but to my untrained eye, it certainly didn’t seem like they handled the adversity well.
The Jets also worked around their lack of talent by actually trying to manufacture offense through the play calling for the first time all year. They scored a touchdown on a double reverse pass from Jamison Crowder to Braxton Berrios. They also involved their wide receivers in the run game on reverses and end arounds to create vertical stretches in the defense. This along with taking advantage of busted coverages allowed the Jets to jump out to a commanding lead.
On the defensive side of the ball, the line controlled the trenches. This is a Jets team that needs an enormous roster overhaul, but it is becoming clear the defensive line is the one unit on the roster that is complete. Even without its best player, the line shut down an excellent rushing attack and got after Baker Mayfield. John Franklin-Myers and Nathan Shepherd stood out in particular. When it comes to the defensive line at least, the Jets are both good and deep.
The Browns rallied late in the second half, and the Jets barely held on because of their defense. Tarell Basham forced Baker Mayfield fumbles on Cleveland’s final two drives as the Browns tried to rally for a touchdown.
While the play calling was excellent in the first half, the Jets went very conservative late in the game. Rather than try to deliver a knockout blow, the team rolled the dice that the defense could make a big stop.
This playing not to lose mentality didn’t cost the game, but it made the finish shakier than it had to be. Back to the big picture, it was another reminder of why Adam Gase should not return, but that was no change. His fate has been sealed for a long time.
Unlike that late season run in 2019, it seems very unlikely these victories will be enough to buy Gase a third season. Next weekend’s game in New England will almost assuredly be the last time he is on the sidelines as an NFL head coach.
The most enduring legacy of this game might be taking the focus off the win over the Rams. Today’s victory made certain that the Jets will not get the top pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Trevor Lawrence will be a Jacksonville Jaguar. We knew this was probably going to happen anyway, but with a second win in the books the Los Angeles game is no longer the sole reason for this turn of events. Last week’s standout players and pivotal plays won’t be remembered in the same degree of infamy.
We all view these games differently. If you are elated by this victory, I can respect that.
For me, these late season games are just something to get through. Each one, win or lose, gets us a step closer to the exciting part. I am looking forward to an offseason where the Jets will have a chance to start moving this franchise in the right direction.
We are one game away from that.