Don’t look now, the Jets have won two in a row.
Never mind what most of us were thinking about this team’s chances at the start of the season. The Jets apparently don’t share the same sentiments.
If there were any thoughts of this team tanking the 2017 season, it doesn’t appear anyone in their locker room received the memo.
For the second straight week, the Jets’ locker room had the buzz reserved for a team feeling good about themselves after a hard-fought victory.
The Jets overcame a nearly disastrous fourth quarter performance, blowing a ten-point lead, and managed to pull off a 23-20 overtime win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
Now here’s the part that raises eyebrows, brace yourself.
The Jets, now at 2-2, are a .500 team with the same record as their division foes, the New England Patriots. Yes, fairy tales can come true, they can happen to you.
These are the same Jets, many left for road kill before the season began. While others were already having them fitted for the number one pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
The calendar has now turned to the month of October, and the Jets find themselves right back at square one. In ideal position to continue turning heads for all the right reasons.
How are they doing it? Every successful team has to establish an identity.
Head coach Todd Bowles may not think so yet, but the Jets look like a team that’s already found their identity early in this season.
I know what you’re thinking. Of course, the Jets have an identity, the defense! Right?
Yes, the defense is stepping up as expected. Unlike the week before, against Miami, the Jets’ defense wasn’t dominant. But they held their own when it mattered most against the Jaguars.
But the defense isn’t alone, as many expected it to be this team’s sole identity.
The Jets have a run game that’s gaining confidence by the week. They ran through Jacksonville’s defense for 256 yards on 32 carries, averaging 8.0 yards per carry.
All this with Matt Forte sitting out because of a toe injury.
Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire set the tone early and often for the Jets in the first half. Powell exploded for a 75-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to tie the game at 7-7. McGuire broke off a 69-yard run to the end zone in the third quarter which put the Jets up 17-10.
If last week’s effort against Miami was a display in how to effectively run the football by committee – then this week was how to pick your team up with explosive run plays from the line of scrimmage.
“You have to tip your hat off to the guys up front first off and of course the coaches putting in the hard work and preparation throughout the week,” said Powell afterwards. “Giving us a good plan and guys going out, just believing in it, playing together and executing.”
Powell’s been here long enough to know it all starts with offensive line play. There were numerous plays against the Jaguars’ defense where the O-line created lanes for Powell and McGuire to exploit with their speed.
Both Powell and McGuire made team history with two 60-plus-yard runs.
“Both of those guys did a great job popping through and running the football,” said head coach Todd Bowles. “It’s a tough defense to run against. We needed every big play they got. Those guys did a heck of a job.”
This team will need this brand of consistency from the run game in order to take the load off the quarterback. The occasional big play never hurts and this week Powell and McGuire delivered.
Now about that identity angle we were talking about earlier. Bowles isn’t ready to bite just yet.
“It’s getting there, said Bowles. “We have some toughness. We dealt with adversity today. We have to keep building on those things and identity will come.”
“Right now, we’re 0-0. We’re at .500,” Bowles added. “We won two and lost two. We have to get better and correct the mistakes and hopefully win some more.”
One way for the Jets to continue their winning ways is the run game. Powell and McGuire should continue touching the football more as the season progresses. This isn’t a team which will light it up in the air, but they can setup the pass with an effective ground game.
That, along with an already strong defense, looks like one heck of an identity for a team many thought would be winless by this point in the season.