Before the Jets took on New England, special teams coordinator Brant Boyer was asked about the matchup between his specialists and the Patriots' top-notch crew.
"They are obviously one of the best-coached teams in the league and have been very successful through the years," Boyer said. "It will be a big challenge for us to see where we are special-teams-wise for sure, and offense and defense."
The Jets' O and D units both started slow and didn't fare great against the Pats. But the Green & White special teams excelled in making plays to keep the game close and put the Jets within a Randall Cobb Hail Mary circus catch of pulling out a 16-15 win instead of suffering their 15-10 loss.
Some special teams bullet points:
■ P Thomas Morstead, whom Boyer calls "the ultimate professional," put that on display with eight punts for a 51.3-yard gross average, tied for the 14th-best gross in a game (minimum four punts) in franchise history. With Greg Zuerlein back from his groin strain, Morstead also handled the Jets' four kickoffs, notching two touchbacks and, with the cover team's help, of course, held the Patriots' KO returners to just one return for 11 yards. That came on Morstead's 75-yard free-kick punt after the late safety, helping give the Jets two well-positioned chances after the two-minute warning to try to pull out the win.
■ Zuerlein did handle the placements and nailed his impressive 52-yard second-quarter field goal. He played the 15-20-mph wind gusts perfectly to fit his kick safely inside the right upright. It was Greg the Leg's seventh FG of 50-plus yards since joining the Jets last season, giving him the franchise record for most 50-yarders made in back-to-back seasons (with 14 more games to go this year). Nick Folk had six 50-yarders in consecutive seasons several times, John Hall did it once and Jason Myers had six in his only season as the Jets' kicker in 2018.
■ Xavier Gipson didn't wow us as he did with his game-winning walkoff punt-return TD on opening night, but he continued his solid returning with a 9.8-yard average on four punt returns and 27.5 on two kickoff returns.
■ The Jets either punted or kicked off after each of their first 12 possessions and New England's average drive start was its 25.4-yard line, with the Jets, on their late loss on downs, giving the ball up at their 46 and improving the Patriots' drive start to their 27.6. Not mind-boggling, yet still the Pats' worst starting field position vs. the Jets since the 2020 game at MetLife (21.1).
For the season, Gipson's 16.0 punt-return average is fourth in the NFL and his 25.3 kickoff-return average is also fourth. Teamwise the Jets are fifth in PR average and seventh in KOR average, tied for first in FG accuracy (100%) and seventh in opponents' KOR average. All positive trends as Boyer's special teams seek to provide a lift for the offense and defense, especially come Sunday night against powerful Kansas City.
The Jets capped their best drive Sunday — 13 plays, 87 yards, 5:22 — with fullback Nick Bawden taking the lead-back handoff from Zach Wilson and muscling his way off his left side behind blocks by Mekhi Becton, Laken Tomlinson and C.J. Uzomah for the goal line.
It was Bawden's first TD in almost a decade, or since his last game as a senior QB/FB at Los Gatos (CA) HS as a senior in 2013.
"It's a huge blessing," Bawden told newyorkjets.com's Ethan Greenberg. "I've had a lot of ups and downs, a lot of stoppages for injuries and whatnot. It was a huge blessing to run behind the big guys and give us an opportunity to win."
A fullback rushing TD is a relative rarity for the Jets, whose FBs have scored infrequently recently, so much so that the last one to do it was a fullback not by job description but by coach's decision: DL Sheldon Richardson lined up in the offensive backfield as a 294-pound rookie FB a handful of times in 2013. He carried four times for 4 yards late that season, at Carolina and Miami, and scored on a pair of 1-yard runs.
Before that, well, the Jets have had several "bellcow fullbacks" who not only blocked a lot and caught some but ran superbly as well, such as Matt Snell and Bill Mathis. Since 1970, John Riggins would also fall into that category as he scored 25 rush TDs from 1971-75.
Including Riggo and S.Richardson (but not Tony Richardson, who never scored despite three strong seasons as Jets FB), Bawden is the ninth Jets FB to rush for a TD since 1970. The list also includes Roger Vick (9 TDs), Clark Gaines (8), Mike Augustyniak (7), Richie Anderson (2), John Conner (2) and Jerald Sowell (1).