It was a Christmas Week miracle, and it probably spoiled the holidays for some Jets fans.
The Jets shocked the NFL world and the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. It took until Week 15 of the NFL season for them to capture their first victory, and they did it by playing their most inspired and complete game of 2020 in a 23-20 victory.
"I’m just happy for our guys," Adam Gase said. "It’s been too long to even remember what a win feels like, almost. It’s great to see those guys that excited."
The win isn’t what many fans wanted for Christmas because the Jets no longer are the owners of the worst record in the NFL.
The Jets and Jaguars are both 1-13, but Jacksonville owns the tiebreaker based on strength of schedule. The Jaguars now are the favorites to get the first pick in the draft, which is expected to be Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
Many Jets fans wanted their team to go winless to ensure that they would get Lawrence, but the team itself was fighting each week to avoid becoming the third team in NFL history to go 0-16. They came close a couple of times and finally busted through against the Rams (9-5).
"We kept fighting as a team," Frank Gore said. "I’m going to enjoy it today and have a good Christmas."
Sam Darnold played his best game of the season against the NFL’s top-rated defense. He completed 22 of 31 passes for 207 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
Gore had a big game as well, running for 59 yards and a touchdown and helping to salt away the game at the end. He ran for a first down on the Jets’ final possession and also caught a pass for a first down that enabled the Jets to be in victory formation in the final seconds of the game.
"It’s the greatest feeling in sports to be able to ice the game out and know we have it," Darnold said. "It’s the best. Just that drive alone, we knew we couldn’t give it back to them. To be able to execute and see it come to fruition, that was the biggest thing for us. It’s an amazing feeling."
Not for the Rams. "It’s going to be embarrassing," coach Sean McVay said. "Sick to your stomach about it . . . This was very humbling."
With the Jets leading by three in the fourth quarter, rookie punter Braden Mann made a game-saving tackle on Rams returner Nsimba Webster. He could have gone all the way, but Mann tackled Webster at the Jets’ 43 after a 34-yard return.
The Rams had a fourth-and-4 from the Jets’ 37, and McVay could have tried to kick a tying field goal, but he decided to go for it. Marcus Maye slapped the pass away from Gerald Everett with 3:54 left.
"We pulled together as a team, as a group," Maye said. "I just luckily made the play on fourth down. But it was definitely a team effort."
The Jets played with different spirit and energy from the opening kickoff. They led 13-3 at halftime after an inspired first half that included a Darnold touchdown pass on the opening drive, and a blocked punt and an interception that led to field goals.
The Jets had the ball to start the second half and Darnold led another touchdown drive. On third-and-goal from the 1, Gore was stopped short, and Gase went for it. Darnold again handed it off to Gore and he ran behind left tackle Mekhi Becton, who blocked Aaron Donald. It cleared the way for Gore to give the Jets a 20-3 lead with 8:30 left in the third quarter.
"I don’t know if I could have lived with myself on that one if we would have kicked a field goal," Gase said.
The Rams cut it to 10 on their next series, as Jared Goff hit Robert Woods for a 15-yard touchdown.
After the Jets responded with Sam Ficken’s 21-yard field goal, the Rams made it a one-score game. Goff ended another easy drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Higbee that cut the Jets’ lead to 23-17.
The Rams drove into Jets territory again and seemed to have another touchdown, but a holding penalty negated Cam Akers’ 18-yard scoring run.
"They deserve this," Gase said. "They deserved it a while ago. We had a few snatched away from us. To finally close out a game, against a good team too, it says a lot about what kind of character we have in this locker room."