Jets stun Rams

By Dennis Young
New York Daily News/TNS

The Jets nearly blew it. Instead, they merely blew their lock on the No. 1 pick, beating the Rams 23-20. They’re 1-13 and have avoided the third 0-16 season in NFL history.

Even with 20-3 and 23-10 leads late in the second half, the Jets almost collapsed. The Rams got within 23-20 and had the ball with five minute left and a chance to go ahead. But punter Braden Mann made a touchdown-saving tackle of Nsimba Walker, then Marcus Maye broke up a would-be fourth down long conversion to Robert Woods to get the ball back. Frank Gore and Sam Darnold managed to salt the game away from there.

“I don’t think I’ve paid as much attention to the victory formation as I did in this game,” head coach Adam Gase said of the game-ending kneeldowns. “It’s been too long for us to remember what a win even feels like.”

The poor special teams play that had haunted the team through 13 losses was nowhere to be seen Sunday. In his Jets debut, J.T. Hassell blocked a punt, and in his return from a groin injury, Sam Ficken made three field goals. “They deserve this,” Gase said. “They deserved it a while ago.”

The Rams were horrendous in all three phases until too late. Head coach Sean McVay responded commensurately, saying the loss was “embarrassing” and he was “sick to your stomach about it.”

With a Jaguars loss on Sunday, the 1-13 Jets are now tied for the NFL’s worst record, and the Jaguars hold the tiebreaker for the top pick in the draft with a softer schedule. If Jacksonville loses out, they get the No. 1 pick. They would need to beat the playoff-contending Colts or Bears to make Trevor Lawrence a Jet.

Though Adam Gase’s clock management and decision-making were at best questionable on Sunday, he stitched together a game plan that mostly neutralized the Rams’ terrifying pass rush. Sam Darnold played a clean game, hitting short and quick releases all afternoon. He was sacked twice and never turned the ball over.

The Jets were unspectacular on offense, but they did what they’d failed to do all season: Convert turnovers into points. Even if they were only field goals. The blocked punt and a fantastic Bryce Hall interception were turned into three points each, which ended up being decisive.

Even when the Jets win, they lose, and that was true in more ways than one on Sunday. Quinnen Williams, who was unblockable all game, left with a head injury early in the fourth quarter. He’s being evaluated for a concussion, according to the team.

Williams was part of a defense that was as good as it needed to be, shutting down the Rams’ attack for most of three quarters before L.A.’s rally fell just short.

New York Jets safety Marcus Maye knocks the ball away from Los Angeles Rams tight end Gerald Everett on fourth down late in the fourth quarter on Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Ca.