Before Monday night, Atlanta had the best first-quarter point advantage in the NFL, a very impressive — and very imposing — 34-0 margin.
This week the Falcons' edge is still impressive and slightly less imposing at 34-3. But our 3-0 edge was an important first step in our primetime comeback victory over the Birds.
"Rex had emphasized early in the week how Atlanta was a first-quarter team," special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica said, "so we had emphasized, 'Hey, they're a team that starts fast and we've got to be able to counter that.' So you get the blocked punt. It was good to see."
No better to be seen than by Antonio Allen, the second-year Jet who swam inside past Falcons wingman Shann Schillinger and applied his right hand to Matt Bosher's first punt of the night. Schillinger actually recovered the bouncing ball and passed to Jason Snelling, all perfectly legal but for naught as Garrett McIntyre brought Snelling down 13 yards shy of a first down. That started us on our way to a half-field drive to Nick Folk's first field goal and that 3-0 lead.
"He played me a little too ... his leverage wasn't really good," Allen said of Schillinger's blocking. "So I just went and dipped inside and was able to make a good play for us."
"It's always rewarding, especially when you see a player work at something as hard as Antonio has over the past couple weeks and you get the results on the field," Kotwica said. "We'd been close there against Tennessee, we saw something there and put Antonio in and he was able to execute. He just had a great move on Atlanta's wing and executed the technique that we've been working on and it ended up working out."
Any team would welcome such a play for their side. Blocked punts don't correlate to victories every season, but since 2004 teams that block a punt win 60 percent of their games (68-44), led by a 15-6 record in 2012.
Additionally, the suddenness of the play, coming as it did 3:25 into the game, had to rock the Falcons just a bit. It was the earliest in a game that a Jet had blocked any kind of kick since rookie Al Washington, in his only claim to NYJ fame, snuffed punter Ray Stachowicz 1:06 into the Jets-Packers game in 1981, and it was the earliest Jets block of any kind in a road game since 1970.
"All three phases of the game count," Allen said. "If we can get a blocked kick or anything like that on special teams, it's a big play."
The first of several. Kotwica also pointed to Clyde Gates' 36-yard kickoff return, his longest this season, and Jeremy Kerley's 24-yard punt return, plus the added 15 yards for Matt Bosher's horsecollar tackle at the end of it, to set up our final TD of the night.
Add in Nick "Ice" Folk's five touchback kickoffs — he has 17 TBs after five games compared to 12 all last season — and his latest ho-hum game-winning field goal.
"It was solid," Kotwica said of his unit's best game of a very good special teams season so far. "It was good to see." *Special Teams Saturday