For the first time in 2020, the New York Jets went into victory formation.
Holding off a fourth-quarter comeback by the Rams, who trailed for this entire game on Sunday at SoFi Stadium, the Jets avoided a winless season with a stunning 23-20 win.
New York roared in front to a 13-0 lead in the first half, shocking those that predicted Los Angeles' top-rated defense would completely shut down the Jets' lowly offense.
Quarterback Sam Darnold, in his homecoming to Southern California, had one of his best games of the season. He threw for 207 yards, had one touchdown and more importantly, didn't turn the ball over.
It was New York's defense that truly came to play. Even without some key pieces on the defensive side of the ball—and after defensive tackle Quinnen Williams exited the game early with a concussion—the Jets won the turnover battle and had more sacks than L.A.
The Rams, who are poised to contend for a division title in the NFC West at 9-5, suffered what has to be the biggest upset in the NFL this season. Now, rather than starting the season 0-14, New York is 1-13 and tied with the Jacksonville Jaguars for the worst record in the NFL.
Here are two rapid takeaways walking through the Jets' first win of the year.
Finally New York made a stand
This wouldn't have been the first time New York collapsed in the fourth quarter this season.
The Rams scored on their first two drives of the fourth to cut a 13-point deficit down to just three. All signs pointed to the winless Jets throwing away another close call with a debilitating defeat.
Instead, New York made a stand.
With four minutes left, the Jets forced the Rams to turn the ball over on downs. Rams quarterback Jared Goff, who had 209 passing yards and two touchdowns on the day, tried to go deep on a fourth-and-four. The pass down the right sideline to his tight end Gerald Everett was broken up on a magnificent play by Jets safety Marcus Maye.
Then, as the Rams began to burn their timeouts in hopes of getting the ball back, all New York had to do was get one first down. It's only fitting that Darnold found veteran Frank Gore on a six-yard passing play to move the chains and secure the victory.
Gore, a future Hall of Famer, said weeks ago that he wasn't going to allow his final season in the NFL to be a winless season. He and his teammates alike didn't want to go down in infamy as the third franchise to go 0-16 in a single season. Their performance on Sunday was good enough to avoid the ignominious feat.
Jets looked like a different team in the first half
New York wasted no time showing they came to play in Los Angeles on Sunday, setting the tone early.
By the time the final whistle of the first half blew, the Jets had a 10-point lead (up 13-3) and had absolutely dominated on both sides of the ball.
The Rams started this game flat on offense with back-to-back three-and-outs. Then, their third drive of the game ended with a blocked punt by J.T. Hassell. Los Angeles ended the second quarter with only 27 yards of offense in the first half. They didn't snap the ball in Jets territory until seconds before the two-minute warning.
If it wasn't for an efficient drive to end the half—capping it off with a 45-yard field goal from Matt Gay—the Rams would've been shutout at halftime.
Meanwhile, New York scored on its opening drive for the eighth game in a row, the longest-active streak in the NFL. Darnold found backup running back Ty Johnson for an 18-yard touchdown pass to finish off a 13-play drive the first time they had a chance on offense.
From there, all New York struggled with before halftime was capitalizing on good field position with six points rather than three. After the blocked punt, the Jets failed to move the football deep in Rams territory, settling for a Sam Ficken field goal.
Next time they had the ball on offense, following a slick one-handed interception from rookie cornerback Bryce Hall, the Jets offense was stifled once again, leading to another chip shot from Ficken.
New York has continued to show glimpses of competitiveness all year long, save for a few abysmal performances, but Sunday in L.A. this team was able to putt it together in the form of a win for the first time. Heading into 2021 and beyond, Jets fans have to feel optimistic about a game like this, especially when rookie left tackle Mekhi Becton and second-year defensive tackle Quinnen Williams played as well as they.
The only downside of New York's stunning victory is the Jets are now no longer in line to pick first in the NFL draft next spring. In other words, this win could have potentially cost the Jets a shot at adding Clemson's Trevor Lawrence as their new franchise quarterback.