Josh Adams was stopped for no gain. The Niners got the ball back and drove for a touchdown that put them up 21-3 heading into halftime. Let’s take a look at this ill-fated play.
At the snap number 99 Javon Kinlaw is lined up in the gap between Greg Van Roten and Connor McGovern, but he quickly makes an inside move
Van Roten leans to try and block Kinlaw.
As always I am not in the huddle so I cannot say with certainty, but a fairly common play would have Van Roten working in tandem with McGovern to push Kinlaw followed by Van Roten peeling off to block number 54 linebacker Fred Warner.
(This was one of Le’Veon Bell’s favorite run concepts in Pittsburgh.)
When Warner sees this develop, he races upfield to go through the opening to get Adams. He doesn’t seem to have any concerns about his pass assignment on the play. Maybe his job was to cover Adams if the play was a pass, and seeing the handoff he knew he didn’t have to worry about. Maybe he was sent as a blitzer. Maybe the Jets’ play calling is so predictable that he knew what was coming.
Van Roten took the blame for this play, but the linebacker firing up the field (if I am correct about the blocking concept used here) makes this a difficult block to execute. The Niners just seemed to be in the right defense for this play.
After the game some attention was paid to whether Sam Darnold had the ability to audible in this situation.
Should Darnold have audibled?
You might be able to make a case that a passing play could have worked. Pretty much the entire 49ers defense was near the line of scrimmage that left a one on one outside. All Chris Hogan would have had to do was get inside of the defender to create an easy throwing lane.
I don’t think you can necessarily say the Jets were wrong to not change to a pass in that situation. If there was a go to receiver, it might be a different story. Hogan isn’t really the kind of guy you trust to win one on one, though. He wasn’t even on the team at the start of training camp so he doesn’t have much chemistry with Darnold.
Less clear is why Darnold isn’t just allowed to change the play to a quarterback sneak on short downs and distances if he sees an opening. There was a big gap on the line, and the Jets only needed one yard here.
A Darnold sneak against this alignment looks like a virtually guaranteed one yard gain and a first down.
For whatever reason the Jets didn’t run it here, and the result was failure.