Sometimes it's OK to look in the rearview mirror. So before the Jets move on to Cleveland and New England to wrap up 2020, let's take one more look at the amazing 23-20 win over the L.A. Rams. Specifically, which elements of their game plan as it unfolded helped steer the Green & White to Victory No. 1?
For that we turn to the Jets' five wins since 1970 in which they entered with a record at least six wins fewer than their opponents (Jets margins shown; *overtime):
|1970||3-7||vsMIN(9-1)||W 20-10||+4||Jets 10-0||+15:38||J 30.2|
|1980||2-9||vsHOU(8-3)||W 31-28*||+3||Jets 21-0||+1:12||J 36.1|
|1992||3-9||@BUF(9-3)||W 24-17||+3||Jets 3-0||+6:34||J 30.4|
|2007||1-8||vsPIT(7-2)||W 19-16*||+1||Jets 10-0||-6:41||J 32.7|
|2020||0-13||@LRM(9-4)||W 23-20||+1||Jets 13-0||+8:30||J 35.0|
There are several common denominators in this quintet of upsets:
Turnover Margin: Fox analyst Brock Huard had his "Formula for an Upset " right, beginning with takeaways. There was only one in the game, but rookie Bryce Hall's one-handed snatch of Jared Goff not only took the sting out of the Jets' fourth-and-1 neutral zone infraction the play before but set up Sam Ficken's second FG for a 13-0 lead. The Jets had plus turnover margins in all five upsets above.
First Scores: The Jets have shown that scoring on their opening drive (eight straight games and counting) is no guarantee of success, but it still beats the alternative. And they scored first — and vs. the Oilers and Rams, first, second and third — in all five upset specials, putting the favored opponents back on their heels early.
Possession Margin: Another Huard box checked off. The Jets had the better possession time in all of the big wins above except for the 2007 game vs. Pittsburgh. But to counter that, the defense sacked Ben Roethlisberger seven times.
Drive Start: Again no Namathian guarantee, but better starting drive position — not even factoring in the opponents' average starts — is a big step toward victory. An average drive start of your own 30 leads to wins in about 60% of games. An average start of your own 35 increases the win percentage to 80%. In all five games, the Jets' average start was at their 30 or better.
We could add in blocked kicks, return TDs and the like, but suffice it to say that if a team can gameplan all of the above positives, there's a good chance to ride them to a huge victory. Here's hoping the Jets don't have to rely on all of them again for a while, though ... unless it's Sunday, when the Green & White (1-13) host the Browns (10-4).
Mann Hangs It High
One last note on Braden Mann's game at LA, and if you think it has something to do with the Jets rookie punter's potentially game-saving tackle of Rams PR Nsimba Webster with less than six minutes to play, you'd be wrong.
More than a half earlier, Mann launched a punt toward SoFi's Oculus videoboard and its translucent fluorine plastic roof. The ball came down unofficially 5.65 seconds later, when Webster made a fair catch of the 42-yard punt at his 22.
The hangtime might well be a franchise record, if complete records were kept on hangtimes. But according to our independent research, Mann's 5.65 shattered the best in-game hang by any Jets punter over the last 20 years.
The Jets' previous high hanger was not by Steve Weatherford (best: 5.35 seconds) but by T.J. Conley at home vs. Miami in Game 6 of the 2011 season (5.37 seconds).
Even the NFL-record 98-yard punt in 1969 by Steve O'Neal, Mann's fellow Texas A&M alum, didn't rise that high into Denver's thin sky, notching a 5.18-second hang (from online video) before it was touched by a Bronco and bounded toward the goal line.