The New York Jets may have won ugly, but the operative word is “won.”
Following Sunday’s 17-14 win over the Cleveland Browns, New York (3-2) is a surprising co-leader in the AFC East, tied with the Buffalo Bills and the New England Patriots.
It seems like just yesterday when pundits predicted a tanking by the Jets because after general manager Mike Maccagnan gutted the roster of high-priced and well-respected veterans, it sure made it difficult to think otherwise. But here are the Jets competing and winning. Sure, it hasn’ been pretty, and the schedule has been favorable, but Giants’ fans would do just about anything right now for these types of non-aesthetically pleasing victories.
The win over the Browns just showed that no one can really figure out the NFL today.
The Browns dominated that game in every place but the scoreboard, specifically in an insane first half where they outgained the Jets, 175-67. They even recorded their first lead after backup quarterback Kevin Hogan found rookie tight end David Njoku with 9:23 remaining in the third quarter. It was the Browns’ first lead after being behind in the previous 275 minutes and 37 seconds of this season.
Even Cleveland’s defense had some bite, as No. 1 overall pick, defensive end Myles Garrett, had two sacks in his NFL debut, including a sack on his very first professional play. Garrett became the first No. 1 overall pick to ever get two sacks in his debut and the first to get at least one sack in his debut since Steve Emtman of the Indianapolis Colts did it in 1992.
All that being said, it was Gang Green who stole a win from the winless Browns (0-5) and is now heading into a pivotal matchup with the hated New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium. The first five contests were considered winnable games for the Jets, with the remainder of the season featuring a brutal slate. But even with those favorable matchups in the early portion of the season, not even the most optimistic Jets’ fan could’ve seen this scenario coming.
Tom Brady and Co. look rather mortal, while Josh McCown and Co. actually look more than serviceable. McCown entered yesterday’s game ranked second in the NFL with a 70.1 completion rate, behind only the Kansas City Chiefs’ Alex Smith (76.0). And McCown’s near 80-percent completion rate in the first half of games remains tops in the league. He went 23-of-30 for 194 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception in the victory.
McCown (1,020 yards, five touchdowns, and a 71.4 completion rate) seems to be having success with smoke and mirrors. It hasn’t been a traditional way of football for the Jets, with bargain-basement additions and unsung heroes. On the Jets’ eventual game-winning scoring play, McCown hit wideout Jermaine Kearse for a 24-yard touchdown with 8:30 remaining in the game, to give Gang Green a 17-7 lead. The score was set up by a crucial catch from 49ers castaway Jeremy Kerley (four catches for 39 yards). The aforementioned trio was brought to New York by Maccagnan.
Rookie running back Elijah McGuire has been a surprising contributor when his number’s been called. He only had 20 yards on 11 carries and two catches for just 10 yards, but in last week’s overtime win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, McGuire teamed with fellow backup Bilal Powell to gash the Jags. He tallied 156 rushing yards and could be in line to have more production next week if Powell’s calf injury doesn’t allow him to play. Starter Matt Forte is dealing with a toe injury, so it may be time for the rookie to gain a foothold in the rotation even when both veterans return.
Simply put, regardless of the outcome against New England, it actually seems like a plan is finally in place for the Jets. The tanking talk should be no more, with the irony now being that perhaps it’s their MetLife co-tenants who appear to already be mailing in the season.
Jets’ fans must love the sudden reversal of fortunes between the two franchises. Because winning ugly isn’t pretty, but it’s better than not winning at all — just ask Giants’ fans.