It was a lovely play — unexpected, creative, exquisitely executed.
There were the Jets on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, having been given a gift in the form of a muffed punt that handed them the ball at the Eagles’ 19-yard line.
Coach Adam Gase called for a play on which quarterback Luke Falk faked a handoff to Le’Veon Bell, then pitched the ball to Vyncint Smith, who had lined up as a wideout on the right side and sped to his left.
Smith, whom the Jets signed off the Texans’ practice squad on Sept. 23, ran through the defense untouched and into the end zone.
It was the sort of thing the Jets and their fans thought they were getting when the team hired Gase as an offensive genius and quarterback whisperer for young Sam Darnold.
Here’s the thing, though: Smith’s touchdown was such an isolated incident in this lost season that it only served to illustrate all that has been missing from Gase and his Jets.
It marked the first time in 40 offensive possessions that they scored a touchdown, a streak that dated to Sept. 8. And it came not long after the Jets had ended a streak of 19 straight third downs without a conversion, dating to Sept. 16.
Net result: a 31-6 loss, an 0-4 record and a malaise that even the eventual return of Darnold from illness might not lift.
As is his custom, Gase did not sugarcoat it. “I told those guys in [the locker room] that I’ll get it fixed; it’s on me, nobody else,” he said, later adding, “We’re not doing anything right right now. We’re playing bad.”
The dysfunction comes with an asterisk because Darnold has not played in three of their losses as he recovers from mononucleosis. Backup Trevor Siemian went down with a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2.
Then Falk left Sunday’s game to be tested for a possible concussion late in the fourth quarter, at which point David Fales became the Jets’ fourth quarterback in four games.
But as much as that would test any offense, the failure rate for the Jets still is unacceptable. Take the line . . . please. It allowed 10 sacks against the Eagles, who entered the game having totaled three all season.
“Listen, offensive line, you have to be able to protect the quarterback in this league, and that’s just the bottom line,” center Ryan Kalil said.
Kalil spoke about how the line is close to solving its problems, but he said, “Obviously, no one cares about if we’re close or not. People just want to see us get it done, and nobody wants to see us get it done more than the people in this locker room.”
Again, Gase has limited options, but it is fair to note that he has offered limited solutions.
After one quarter, the Jets had rushed five times, all by Bell, and completed four passes, all to Bell. At halftime, Bell had rushed 10 times for 21 yards.
Alleged deep threat Robby Anderson was targeted three times and caught one pass for 16 yards. The Jets’ longest play of the day was that 19-yard run by Smith. The Eagles’ defense outscored the Jets’ offense, 14-6.
The first series of the game summed things up. Bell up the middle for 1 yard. Bell up the middle for no gain. Falk sacked for a 9-yard loss.
There were other strange occurrences, such as Gase deciding on a fourth-and-3 from the Eagles’ 37 early in the second quarter to attempt a 55-yard field goal — which missed badly — rather than go for a first down.
And what about his decision during the week to give Darnold more work with the first unit than Falk in the hope that he would get his starter back? That presumably did not help.
Bell said the skill position players should have done more to help the young quarterback by not forcing him to reposition players when they come to the line. “Everybody has to know what’s going on,” Bell said.
That does not sound good. Nothing sounds good for the Jets’ offense right now.
Gase obviously deserves more than four games to be judged fairly, and obviously cannot be judged fully until he has Darnold back.
But it is not unfair to give a partial grade to the new coach’s offense based on all that we have seen so far. That grade is F.
With Sam Darnold still sidelined by mono, the Jets continue to reach new heights of ineptitude when their offense is on the field. Sunday’s ugly numbers:
Total yards offense
Sacks of QBs Luke Falk and David Fales
First downs and penalties
Turnovers (2 turned into defensive TDs)
Yards per play