To usher in the new year and take one last look at the win that was over Jacksonville before taking on Tom Brady and Tampa Bay, Inside the Numbers presents five X-factors for why the Jets prevailed over the Jaguars, 26-21.
Zach Protects the Pigskin
The Jets wasted their one takeaway, and a historic one it was. C.J. Mosley's stripsack of Trevor Lawrence resulted in 19 yards lost to the point of the fumble and 9 more yards lost until the ball was recovered by Ronnie Blair at the JAX-19. The 28-yard sack was probably the longest in franchise history. Records for sack losses go back only to 1968, but the Jets' longest sack until C.J. was a 26-yarder of the Baltimore Colts' Marty Domres by a combination of John Elliott, Mark Lomas and Ed Galigher at Shea Stadium in 1972. All the Jets got off of last Sunday's stripsack was a failed fake field goal try.
But on the other side of the ball, Zach Wilson continued to protect the ball. Starting after he threw a pick against the Eagles, Wilson has gone three full games and 103 passing attempts without an interception.
How did this change come about? "Just understanding the offense more," he said, "and better decisions."
Wilson did lose a fumble at Miami, but it was his first stripsack of the season. (Lawrence by comparison has five lost fumbles off of sacks.) And the Jets have gone from minus-15 in TO margin in their first nine games to a plus-2 in their last six games. Not great numbers but it's a start.
The Green & White defense had its struggles against the Jaguars, especially on crunch downs. One reason is that their average third-down distance was a measly 4.8 yards. Generally, a team that averages less than third-and-5.0 will convert 50% of its third downs.
The Jaguars were 6-of-13, 46.2%, and could've been even better — if not for CB Javelin Guidry, who was in on five different plays in which he either made the tackle, broke up the pass or hit the QB on a non-sack that prevented a conversion. Besides the PD in the end zone on Marvin Jones to seal the Jets' win, Guidry chased and hit Trevor Lawrence on an incompletion and was in on three tackles that forced FG tries.
Five such plays in a game is rare for the Green & White. Since 2006, when the league began recording hits on the quarterback regularly, only two other Jets unofficially notched five crunch-down stops in a game. Both came in 2019: S Jamal Adams with 5 tackles, including 2 sacks, vs. the Giants, and LB James Burgess with 3 tackles, a QBH and a PD at Buffalo.
Michael Carter's big ground game, 118 yards on 16 carries, powered the Jets' 273-yard ground game (along with Wilson's scrambles). It also established some milestones and set up others:
■ Carter's first 100-yard pro rushing game was the first by a Jets rookie since Joe McKnight vs. Buffalo in 2010. If MC can do it again vs. TB, he'd be the first Jets rookie with back-to-back 100 rushing games since Shonn Greene in the 2009 playoffs.
■ It was his third game this season of 100-plus yards from scrimmage. He's the first Jets rookie to do that since Leon Washington in 2006. And one more would make him the first Jets rookie with four 100-YFS games since Freeman McNeil in 1981.
■ Carter averaged 7.38 yards/carry. That's in the top 20 for all Jets backs with at least 15 carries in a game and is second-highest by a Green & White rookie behind only Greene's 7.58 yards/carry at Oakland in '09.
Aggressive on the Offensive
Robert Saleh, Ron Middleton and OC Mike LaFleur were all in on the aggressive offensive strategy in which the Jets went for it on fourth down five times — their most in a game since 2014 — and converted three times — their most since 2008 in the big home shootout over Arizona.
"The thought process," Saleh said the day after, "was just continue to be aggressive, especially in those fringe areas with regards to field goal range."
The big conversion was Wilson's 1-yard TD toss to tackle/tight end Conor McDermott to enable the Jets to open a 23-15 lead. The effect of the strategy was mitigated by their going scoreless at the end of the first half and on the fake field goal. But at least they pinned the Jaguars at their 2 with 10 seconds left in the first half and at their 4 after the failed fake. And that brings us to X-factor No. 5 ...
Winning Field Position
A mix of Braxton Berrios' returns, Braden Mann's kickoffs — he's had 14 touchbacks in his last 15 kicks — and starting the Jags deep in their own end a few times led to the Florida visitors posting an average drive start of their 18.2-yard line.
Combined with the Jets' 30.5 average drive start, their Drive-Start Differential was plus-12.3 yards. That's the best single-game DSD since 2018 and the best at home since '17. And the power of the DSD is captured in these numbers: In games since 1989 in which the Jets had a plus-12 or higher differential, they won 50 of 54 games. When opponents had plus-12 or better, those teams were 55-7. Combined, a plus-12-plus in a Jets game has resulted in 105 wins and 11 losses, a 90.5% winning percentage. And that's hard to beat.