The Jets pulled out a last-second win over the Dolphins on Sunday when Sam Ficken’s field goal sailed through the uprights as time expired for the 22-21 victory. Here are some thoughts and observations from the game:
1. The Jets won’t apologize for any victories in this difficult season, but they did not play very well Sunday and were fortunate to escape with their fifth win of the season. Now, they have three days to prepare for the best team in the NFL, the Ravens.
Here is the thing: No one expects the Jets to win this game. Lamar Jackson and Co. are simply too good. But the Jets can win some hearts and minds by keeping this close.
The last time the Jets were on national TV, they were humiliated. The Patriots ran them out of their own building 33-0 on “Monday Night Football” and Sam Darnold was left seeing ghosts.
It can’t happen again.
Yes, the Jets are going to be outmanned all over the field. But they need to show some pride and put up a fight against the big, bad Ravens. Another blowout loss will be a bad look for the Jets.
To me, if the Jets enter the fourth quarter within 10 points, that’s a win. Darnold needs to keep making strides against a tough Ravens defense and Gregg Williams must come up with another great game plan. If Ryan Fitzpatrick can run for 65 yards on this Jets defense, it is scary to imagine what Jackson might do.
There is little left to play for this season, but a good showing against the Ravens would be a positive sign for this group.
2. Defensive tackle Steve McLendon likes to joke that he was the first pick of the eighth round of the draft. The draft only has seven rounds, of course. It is McLendon’s little way of reminding you that he went undrafted. He has some company on this current Jets defense.
The Jets had six players on defense Sunday against the Dolphins who went undrafted and only one first-round pick. The Jets got it done Sunday with a group of players that have been largely overlooked either in the draft or by other teams that cut them loose.
Here is a breakdown by draft round of the defensive players Sunday:
1st round – Quinnen Williams
2nd round – Marcus Maye
3rd round – Jordan Jenkins, Henry Anderson, Nathan Shepherd, Tarell Basham and Jordan Willis
5th round – Nate Hairston
6th round – Bless Austin, Folorunso Fatukasi and Maurice Canady
7th round – Darryl Roberts
Undrafted – James Burgess, Neville Hewitt, Kyron Brown, Kyle Phillips, McLendon and Brandon Copeland
Burgess led the Jets in tackles in the win and was all over the field. Hewitt has been a steadying force at inside linebacker. Phillips has been one of the Jets’ best linemen. It is staggering what Gregg Williams is doing with this group right now. They kept a hot Dolphins offense out of the end zone completely Sunday, and you needed a program to figure out who was playing defense for the Jets.
3. Ficken hitting the game-winner felt like the Jets’ season coming full circle. The story of the late summer and early season was the kicking situation. The Jets let Pro Bowl kicker Jason Myers walk as a free agent and it looked like a decision that would haunt them. Chandler Catanzaro struggled in the preseason and abruptly retired. Taylor Bertolet replaced him and had his own issues. Then, the Jets acquired Kaare Vedvik on cutdown weekend and pinned their hopes on him. After he missed a field goal and extra point in Week 1 against the Bills, they moved on to Ficken.
Ficken is 11-for-16 on field goal tries this year and 19-for-20 on extra points, having missed his first on Sunday. He has not been perfect, but Ficken solidified the position after it was a weak spot early in the year. He has not cost the Jets a game with his kicking and won them one on Sunday.
4. With the Jets going to Baltimore this week, I thought this was fitting. The NFL Network is doing a fantastic series on the NFL All-Time Team, revealing a different position each week. They revealed defensive backs in the latest episode and Ravens great Ed Reed made the list. It was a footnote in the safety’s career, but he finished with the Jets in 2013, spending the last two months with the team. It was a largely forgettable stint. It was pretty clear his best football was behind him. But coach Rex Ryan knew Reed from their time together with the Ravens and he wanted to have him around his younger players. The Jets raved about Reed’s influence in the locker room.
During the show on the NFL Network, Reed told a story about his arrival with the Jets after being prompted by Deion Sanders. Here is the exchange if you missed it:
Sanders: “When you went to play for the Jets, I heard that there was a walkthrough. You have to understand, guys that sit over here (all-time greats), we’re serious about everything. They said they had headphones on, they were out there joking around. They said the first day you went out there, you went off, you went ballistic.”
Reed: “I just went off on them, like, ‘What are y’all doing? Y’all are professionals. This is still practice.’ When we was in Baltimore, you know, the walkthroughs was the most important time because that’s more mental reps. These guys were just not taking it seriously. That was a wake-up call, like you done made the worst mistake to come here. But I knew it was for a reason and that was it, they brought me in to coach.”
Revealing stat: With two touchdown passes on Sunday, Sam Darnold now has 32 career touchdowns. That puts him 11th on the all-time touchdown list in Jets history. He needs three more to tie Dick Wood for 10th. The man he faced Sunday, Ryan Fitzpatrick, is ninth with 43.
Surprising snap count: Kyron Brown started the game at cornerback and played 53 snaps before leaving the game with a quad injury. Even with the injuries in the secondary, Brown was a surprise starter. I expected Maurice Canady to start ahead of him.
Game ball: WR Robby Anderson had his second straight big game, catching seven passes for 116 yards and a touchdown. The most impressive thing about how Anderson is playing right now is the contested catches he is making. That has never been a strength of his, but he is attacking the ball.