The wheels were supposed to come off for the New York Jets this week, all the momentum to evaporate. Instead, the Jets put together their most complete game of the season in beating up a playoff caliber Oakland Raiders team on Sunday.
A 34-3 win by the Jets (4-7) was highlighted by dominating performances on both sides of the ball. The Jets were once again efficient and at times, downright prolific on offense. Defensively, they limited an effective Raiders (6-5) rushing attack, holding star running back Josh Jacobs to just 34 yards on the ground. The unit was so good that quarterback Derek Carr was benched midway through the second half.
Call it a statement game, a measuring stick or a litmus test, the Jets showed up and the Raiders simply didn’t. The Jets previous two opponents have a combined 4-18 record through Week 12, both the New York Giants and Washington among the worst records in football. They didn’t beat the upper echelon in piecing together the two-game winning streak that they carried into Sunday.
But all that changed. The Jets made their statement. They measured up. They passed the test.
Unlike their previous two opponents, on the other hand, the Raiders, under head coach Jon Gruden, came into MetLife Stadium winners of three straight games. That winning streak was good enough to earn them sole possession of the AFC’s final Wild Card berth.
And yet it was the Jets who emerged from Sunday as the team looking playoff bound, putting together a performance that was so unlike their struggles from early in the year.
“I think for us we knew what we were dealing with. The Raiders are a really good team, great quarterback, Gruden is a legendary football coach, and they have a really good defense as well, and a really good defensive coordinator,” Jets quarterback Sam Darnold told reporters after the game.
“So, we knew we had our hands full. I thought our guys did a really good job throughout the week of preparing. It was just nice to come out here, execute the game plan and get a win.”
Now, suddenly, the Jets have won three games in a row. And with the winless Cincinnati Bengals (0-11) and then a home game with the Miami Dolphins (2-9) next on their schedule, the Jets do have a legitimate shot to continue making some noise and carry on with their winning streak.
A month ago, Jets fans were raising money to protest head coach Adam Gase, even flying a banner over Manhattan that echoed those exact sentiments. Now, the Jets are winners of three straight and have a signature win to vouch for their progression and development.
It may not be a perfect team. It might all fall apart next week, but the Jets and their sustained success is underscoring that the rebuild project is heading in the right direction.
For one more week, at least.
“It just shows the kind of character in that locker room and what kind of guys we have, especially with the amount of movement we’ve had in and out of there with guys going down, whether it be [Injured Reserve] or just out for multiple weeks,” told reporters in his post-game press conference.
“It shows the ‘Next Man’ mentality these guys have developed. I really think the way these guys practice and prepare hasn’t changed. It just keeps getting better. We’ll have to go back to work Wednesday and get ready for the next one.”