The way the Jets offense played in their heart-pounding, soul-crushing 31-28 loss to the Raiders at MetLife Stadium on Sunday was, to say the least, an unusual change of plans.
Ageless lead tailback Frank Gore left on the second scrimmage play of the game with a concussion and didn't return. Thus the Jets' ground game was suddenly in the hands of second-year waiver pickup Ty Johnson and third-year journeyman Josh Adams.
The very sure hands and decisive strides, as it turned out, of the team of Johnson and Adams (with a small assist from Sam Darnold's legs). They nearly pulled out a victory for the Green & White.
"I think they did a great job, considering we were looking to rotate all three of those guys," head coach Adam Gase said, meaning Gore, Johnson and Adams. "Those two guys did a really good job of going in there and being ready to go. We gave them some good holes and they hit 'em. It was good to have a guy get 100 yards rushing and to get 200 yards on the night. It wasn't enough."
"It was just waiting on the moment," said Johnson, whose previous high carry total for the Jets was three, at Miami and Kansas City. "It's just putting in the work and whenever the opportunity shows, just run with it. The coaches gave me an opportunity and that's what I did with it."
The distinctions this unheralded backfield group achieved in defeat were quite impressive:
■ Johnson ran for 104 yards on 22 carries. He scored the Jets' final touchdown on a 1-yard bolt into the end zone with 5:34 to play (which gave him 99 yards). Even at that point he had a career high, topping his 65 yards for Detroit vs. Green Bay last season. Thirteen more yards on two catches gave him 117 from scrimmage.
It was also the Jets' first 100-yard rusher under Gase and, in fact their first 100-yard rusher since Isaiah Crowell set the franchise single-game record with 219 rushing yards against Denver in Game 5 of the 2018 season.
■ Adams was no stranger to making rushing contributions after notching a pair of 80-yards-plus games in back-to-back weeks for Philadelphia in '18. His donation on Sunday was 74 yards on eight carries.
■ On the drive before Johnson's score, the Jets came back from the dead, as in trailing 24-13 with 22 seconds left in the third quarter at their own 4 after a punt. They moved all the way down the field in nine plays, with eight of them runs, six of them for first downs. Adams began with 12-, 18- and 6-yard dashes, Darnold scrambled for 17, then Johnson had carries of 16, 5 and 7 to set up Darnold for the play fake, roll right and crash across the goal line.
■ The Jets wound up with 206 rushing yards at 6.1 yards/carry for the game, eye-opening numbers considering the Raiders, even though vulnerable against the run, still were 13th in the NFL in rush yards allowed/game and 17th in yards allowed/carry. The Jets' rushing total, plus their seven runs of 10-plus yards, were both their most in a game since the aforementioned win in '18 when they ran roughshod over the Broncos for 323 yards and seven double-digit rushes.
Returning to the 96-yard march mentioned above, the last time the Jets had a drive that long or longer, it was also a 96-yarder that came 53 weeks earlier, in Game 11 last season against the Raiders at MetLife. And that drive ended the same way as today's did — with a 4-yard Darnold TD keeper.
But that was not going to be an accurate omen for how this battle turned out.
"It just hurts, man. I can't give any other words other than hurt," Johnson said of the 28-24 lead the Jets held until 5 seconds remained and Henry Ruggs caught Derek Carr's 48-yard lob for the game-winner. "I feel for the guys, I feel for this team. Guys are just hurt right now."
Speaking of his 100-yard game, Johnson replied: "It's cool and all. My family's happy and a lot of people were messaging me this and that. But at the end of the day, we didn't get the win. I wanted to get the win, that's point-blank. It's a blessing. I appreciate the guys giving me the opportunity, the guys on the line, out on the perimeter. I appreciate the hell out of them.
"I just wish at the end of that we came out with that W."