The Jets were riding high in Week 7 of the NFL season when Breece Hall took a first-quarter handoff from QB Zach Wilson, followed a caravan of blockers to his left and exploded through a hole for a 62-yard touchdown against the Broncos in Denver.
Hall's home run was the Jets' only TD in a 16-7 win, but they moved to 5-2 with a fourth consecutive victory. Yet the team's hopes were not mile high after the triumph because Hall, the electrifying rookie from Iowa State, and Alijah Vera-Tucker, the team's star offensive lineman, both sustained season-ending injuries.
Hall, who had 72 yards in a dazzling opening quarter in Denver, sustained an ACL tear in the second quarter when he fell awkwardly after being tackled by Denver's Patrick Surtian II and Jonas Griffin. Well on his way to a second career 100-yard game, Hall had amassed 116 yards on the ground the week before in a thumping of the Packers at Green Bay.
"It just kind of sucked," Hall said this week as he reflected on the injury. "As soon as the game started to slow down for me, I get hurt. But I think it'll be a blessing in the end. For a while, I was sitting there asking myself why me? I didn't want to get out of bed. I was just kind of sad. But it got to the point where I was like, being sad ain't gonna do anything for you. So, you just got to suck it up and deal with it."
The Jets' offense was never the same after Hall and Vera-Tucker departed from the lineup. Playing in fewer than half of the team's 17 games, Hall still led the Jets in rushing yard (463), yards per attempt (5.8) and TDs on the ground (4). Through the team's first seven games, Hall had accounted for 29.4% of the team's offensive production, the 10th-highest percentage in the league. And during the Jets' four-game winning streak, Hall's production went up to 38.7% of the offense's yards and 33.3% of the unit's touchdowns.
"I started out, it was kind of bumpy," Hall said. "I wasn't as comfortable. And then I don't know, something just clicked. It was kind of the same with for me in college, too. Just started out not as comfortable and then out of nowhere everything just started to get easier. The game started to slow down."
After landing potentially the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year in CB Sauce Gardner and the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year in WR Garrett Wilson with the No. 4 and No. 10 selections in the first round last April, Jets GM Joe Douglas traded with the cross-town Giants and moved up a pair of spots to land Hall with the 38th selection Round 2. In three seasons for the Cyclones while playing 36 games, Hall totaled 3,941 rush yards and 50 TDs and added 82 receptions and 6 more receiving TDs.
At the time of Hall's knee injury, only one RB (Travis Etienne) had produced more yards per touch than Hall (6.88) among backs with at least 25 touches. The Jets missed him dearly down the stretch as they dropped their final six games and didn't score an offensive TD in their final three contests with quarterback instability plaguing the club. But getting Hall and Vera-Tucker back in '23 to pair with a game-breaker at receiver like Wilson will give the Jets a strong foundation around their starting signal-caller.
"I'll just say it just humbled me," Hall said of the injury. "You know, I used to think I was kind of superman because I never got hurt. I never had to be in the training room, really anything like that. So, I went from never having an injury to boom my knee gave out on me.
"So, it made me really appreciate the small things because there are days where you don't feel like getting up for practice, sitting in meetings, and going through the walk-throughs and stuff. But then I started to miss that because I'm sitting there in the training room, you know, by myself and watching everybody out there. You're just like, this is so boring. It kind of just made me appreciate everybody, too. I appreciate how all the guys were coming to the training room and check on me talk to me chop it up for 5-10 minutes because those little things go a long way."
As the Jets cleaned out their lockers, Hall told reporters that his surgeon and team doctors think he's ahead of schedule in his rehab. He added he feels like he's recovering at a faster rate than normal. While an injury might have cut Hall's impressive rookie campaign short, he believes the best is on the horizon.
"I just always try to find a way to be a better person, a better football player and you know, just have better faith," he said.