BALTIMORE — There may have been plenty of second-guessing of Adam Gase’s play call on a critical fourth down in the second quarter Thursday night, but the player many fans wanted to get the ball wasn’t one of the second-guessers.
Late in the second quarter of a 42-21 loss to the Ravens, with the Jets trailing 21-7, they faced a fourth-and-1 from the Ravens’ 7-yard line. While the sensible alternative might have been to give the ball to running back Le’Veon Bell, Gase decided to air it out. Sam Darnold rolled to his right to avoid pressure, but his pass to Robby Anderson in the right corner of the end zone was broken up by cornerback Jimmy Smith.
“Whatever play is called, we’ve got to go out and execute,” Bell said. “Everybody always questions fourth-and-1, but when we get it, there’s never a question. I just feel like whatever play is called, we’ve got to go out there and execute. If we execute better than the other team, we make the play.”
Replays showed that Smith made enough contact with Anderson before the ball got there that pass interference should have been called. But the play, which occurred inside of two minutes remaining in the half and thus was subject to a booth review, was not called back.
Bell returned Thursday after a one-game absence because of the flu. He said he had lost several pounds during the week before the Jets’ win over the Dolphins on Sunday, although he admitted to having gone bowling on Saturday night. Gase said he wouldn’t punish Bell, yet conceded it was a bad look for him to go out bowling the same day he’d been ruled out of the Miami game.
Bell had his best game of the season against the Ravens, rushing for 87 yards on 21 carries. He seemed to get into a rhythm by getting a consistent dose of carries, something he said had been missing in previous games. Physically, he felt fine despite the weight loss.
“I felt good,” he said. “My breathing felt fine. Coach did a good job of getting me out of the game every now and then — personnel changes, getting me out of the game and giving me a breather. So you’ve got to give credit to the coach.”
Bell said it was important to have enough opportunities to get the running game untracked.
“When you get in a rhythm with the offensive line,” he said, “that’s when special things happen. I think we got a little sense of that today, and I felt good.”
Bell was frustrated that the Jets couldn’t make it a game, especially when the offense was moving consistently in the first half. The missed fourth-down opportunity and then an interception after the Jets had driven to the Ravens’ 25 in the final minute of the half ruined any chances of a comeback.
“You take the good with the bad,” Bell said. “We didn’t play nearly a perfect game. You’ve got to credit the Ravens. They played better than us today. When you’re down by three or four touchdowns, it’s different than a two-possession or a one-possession game. They did a better job of getting turnovers.”