One of several motivations for Joe McKnight's emergence as a potential triple threat on the field is just receiving a little love.
"I'm working hard," he said after making the key punt block in the Jets' opening-night comeback win over the Cowboys back on Sept. 11, "to get people to like me."
How do we like him now?
The shame of Sunday night's game at Baltimore was that the Jets lost to the Ravens. Had they won, McKnight would be an even bigger story than he already. After all, he began that game by forcing a fumble on Baltimore's opening kickoff return, then recorded the longest play in Jets history and one of the longest in NFL history for the Green & White's first touchdown, then surprisingly showed up on a blitz off the edge that led to Joe Flacco's hurried interception to David Harris for the second TD. Whew!
Before we immerse ourselves in Jets-Patriots week, here's one last look at McKnight's night, in particular that lightning-strike kickoff return, and what it may portend for him and the Jets down the road.
McKnight may have gotten his chance because Antonio Cromartie, who many worried would sustain an injury that would hurt his play as the starting corner opposite Darrelle Revis, bruised his rib and lung making a defensive play at Oakland. That opened the door for McKnight to return that game's last kickoff, which he did skillfully behind excellent blocking for 50 yards.
"Any opportunity I can get I'm going to take advantage of," he told Bob Wischusen on Monday night's "Inside the Jets" on 1050 ESPN Radio. "Coach Westhoff gave me the opportunity this week to take kickoff returns and I try to make the best of everything I do."
That best came through when he was shot out of a cannon through the onrushing Ravens on his first return Sunday night. The historic nature of the return has been referred to before. Here are two charts. The first shows all the 100-yard players in Jets/Titans history (ROOKIES in CAPS):
And here are the longest plays in NFL history, including rookie Randall Cobb's 108-yard kickoff return for the Packers on their opening night and McKnight's return. Note the name at the top of the list. Cromartie owns the longest play in league annals, a 109-yard missed field goal return when he was a Charger: