By Abe Gutierrez
With their backs against the wall, the New York Jets went into Levi’s Stadium as three-point underdogs against the hosting San Francisco 49ers. In the first half, all indications were that the Niners were poised to end the franchise’s 11-game skid by issuing Gang Green their 10th loss of the year, and their fifth straight.
After an atrocious first half of football, the Jets came out of the locker room with other ideas in mind, though. Fueled by Bilal Powell and Bryce Petty on offense, along with a stingy second-half defense, Gang Green stunned Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers in overtime by a final score of 23-17. The win improved the Jets’ record to 4-9 on the season while San Francisco’s longest skid in franchise history has now reached 12 consecutive ballgames.
Things could not have possibly gotten off to a worse start for Jets quarterback Bryce Petty in Week 14. Starting in place of Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Baylor product threw a pick on his first pass attempt of the ballgame, which led to a 49ers touchdown from seven yards out on a Colin Kaepernick pass to running back Carlos Hyde.
With starting running back Matt Forte out for the game with an injured knee, Bilal Powell went into the phone booth, slapped on his cape and did his best Superman impersonation.
The sixth-year man out of Louisville finished the game with 149 yards on 29 carries and two scores, including a game-winning 19-yard rush to the house that snapped the Jets’ four-game skid.
As a team, the Jets offense finished the game with 24 first downs (11 passing, 13 rushing), 404 yards of total offense (216 passing yards, 188 rushing yards) and went 8-for-18 on third downs and 1-for-1 on fourth downs.
It was also a tale of two halves for the Jets defense, who survived running back Carlos Hyde’s career-best 193 rushing yards. Doomed by an early turnover and poor tackling, the Jets defense opened the game by surrendering 14 points in less than two minutes of play against one of the worst offenses in pro football.
How bad was the Jets’ resistance in the early going? How about surrendering 194 yards of offense in the opening frame and 279 total yards by halftime, most of them coming on 180 rushing yards, which is the most Gang Green has allowed in 25 years.
However, after giving up 17 points and a mountain of yards going into the break, the Jets came out and pitched a shutout in the second half and in the overtime frame. This includes a pivotal stop on fourth-down-and-two that stalled the Niners’ drive after receiving the pigskin first to kick off the extra session.
As a team, the Jets defense gave up 17 first downs, out of which, five were converted through the air, 11 on the ground and one thanks to a yellow flag. In terms of yards, New York’s resistance allowed 364 yards of total offense, with 116 coming via the pass and a whopping, 248 via ground-and-pound.
Nevertheless, they did limit the Niners offense to only 2-for-12 on third downs and 0-for-1 on the lone fourth-down opportunity in overtime.
Special Teams: A+
With not much offense to speak of, the Jets special teams had to be flawless, and on this afternoon, they were. Jets kicker Nick Folk was perfect every time his number was called, going 3-for-3 on field goal attempts, highlighted by a 51-yard field goal to force overtime with 38 seconds left in regulation.
With field positioning being a crucial area in this game, Jets punter Lachlan Edwards kept his team in the ballgame. New York’s seventh-round pick punted the rock a total of six times for an average of 40 yards per boot.
“Lived to fight another day” would be the best way to describe the effort put forth by Todd Bowles and his coaching staff in this one. The silver lining here is certainly the way the Jets were able to turn things around after getting torched in the first half.
Bowles deserves some credit for this win, as his team could have easily packed it up and let the Niners finish them after the break. However, this team kept chipping away at it, playing to their strengths on the ground and keeping their young quarterback out of compromising situations.
Next up: Jets return home to try and spoil Dolphins playoff hopes in Week 15
Over the years, the New York Jets have been notorious for playing the role of spoiler against the Miami Dolphins. Oddly enough, Gang Green will have yet another opportunity to end their division rival’s postseason dreams by handing them what would be a devastating blow in Week 15. These bitter foes will close out their 2016 NFL season series on Saturday night at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands in a game that kicks off at 8:25 p.m. ET.