Even at full strength, the New York Jets aren’t on the same level with the San Francisco 49ers (3-1), who are widely regarded as serious Super Bowl contenders this year.
So, without their best defensive player, two key passing targets and a third lost to injury late in the game, they were absolutely no match for them.
A group of nine different 49ers finished with positive rushing yards, led by running back Frank Gore’s 62 yards on 21 carries to lead a San Francisco rushing attack that outgained New York’s by 200 yards (245-45) in a 34-0 domination of the Jets (2-2) in front of 79,088 fans at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on Sunday afternoon.
New York, which was already missing three key starters – cornerback Darrelle Revis, rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill and tight end Dustin Keller – lost a fourth when its top wide receiver Santonio Holmes injured his left foot on the opening play of the fourth period, during which Holmes rolled over in pain and relinquished his grasp on the ball after a short reception.
Safety Carlos Rogers scooped the ball up and returned it 51 yards, untouched, to extend an already commanding lead to an insurmountable 24-0 margin just 14 seconds into the final quarter and squash any hopes of a Jets comeback.
Quarterback Alex Smith (12-for-21, for 143 yards) didn’t do much more than his counterpart Mark Sanchez (13-for-29, for 103 yards, one interception), but he didn’t need to, as the 49ers’ defense sacked Sanchez three times, held New York to just 145 total yards (just 62 in the second half), blocked a punt that led to their final score, forced all four of the game’s turnovers and controlled the ball for nearly 14 minutes more than the Jets.
San Francisco also had 26 first downs to New York’s nine, including 16 of the game’s 17 that occurred on the ground.
A couple of field goal misses by kicker David Akers were all that kept the 49ers from reaching the 40-point mark, but Akers did add a pair of field goals to go along with a trio of San Francisco rushing touchdowns.
After a scoreless opening quarter, the 49ers took a page from what the Jets were supposed to be able to do in the red zone with backup quarterback Tim Tebow this season, when backup signal caller Colin Kaepernick, who threw and rushed for touchdowns by the dozens over the course of a standout college career at the University of Nevada, capped an eight-play, 68-yard drive with his first NFL touchdown on a 7-yard run, to give his team a 7-0 lead 1:23 into the second quarter.
Three San Francisco possessions later, Smith completed four straight passes for 48 yards and ran for three more to set up a 36-yard field goal by Akers that extended the 49ers’ lead to 10-0 on the final play of the first half.
A Jets’ three-and-out – one of seven in a dozen New York possessions – led to San Francisco’s next scoring drive, a six-play, 48-yard trip that began with consecutive completions of 12 and 25 yards by Smith, and ended with a two-yard touchdown run by Gore that push the 49ers’ lead to 17-0 with 2:49 left in the third quarter.
Trying to get back in the game, the Jets were on the move on their next possession, when after a four-yard completion to the right side from Sanchez to Holmes, the left cleat of Holmes seemed to catch on the artificial turf. Holmes collapsed in severe pain and as he rolled over, threw the football in the air before he was touched down by a San Francisco defender, allowing Rogers to put the game away with a backbreaking touchdown.
Some x-rays of Holmes’ left foot were negative, but he could miss significant time, which would only add to Gang Green’s woes.
Akers extended his team’s lead to 27-0 with a 40-yard field goal on San Francisco’s next drive, and then another New York three-and-out ended with the 49ers getting a blocked punt despite rushing only one player.
Running back Kendall Hunter (eight carries, 56 yards, one touchdown) closed the scoring on a one-yard touchdown run three plays later.
After suffering the third worst home shutout loss in their 53-season history, things don’t figure to get any easier for the Jets as they will next host another Super Bowl contender, Houston (4-0), next Monday night, October 8th.