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Jets coach Adam Gase didn't give Sam Darnold option to call audible on failed fourth-and-1 play

Jets head coach Adam Gase, right, talks to

Jets head coach Adam Gase, right, talks to quarterback Sam Darnold (14) during the second half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in East Rutherford, N.J. Credit: AP/Corey Sipkin

Adam Gase played defense on Monday better than Gregg Williams’ unit did against the 49ers.

Gase defended his offensive play-calling and game plan after the Jets scored just one touchdown against a decimated San Francisco defense. He also said Sam Darnold didn’t have the freedom to call an audible on a fourth-and-1 in the first half of the Jets’ 31-13 loss.

"Not on that play he didn’t," Gase said on a Zoom call on Monday, before adding somewhat defiantly, "That’s my call."

The Jets trailed 14-3 and were at the San Francisco 20-yard line. Gase called a handoff for Josh Adams, who had just entered the game for a tired Frank Gore. Gase said the play would have worked if everyone did his job.

Right guard Greg Van Roten missed the block on middle linebacker Fred Warner. He blew up the play and stuffed Adams, giving the ball back to the 49ers, who scored a touchdown on that series.

If Darnold would have checked out of the play and called a sneak for himself, he might have gotten the first down. Darnold can audible, but on that particular play, he had to do what he was told.

"There’s sometimes that things like that are built in, and he knows he can go to it," Gase said. "There’s other times where he’s going to run the play that’s called.

"If we execute the play, we got the first down. We didn’t execute it."

When Darnold was asked about it, he had a similar response.

"Adam said it the best," Darnold said. "That specific play, I don’t have the option to do that. We worry about executing the play. If we execute the play called, then we have a first down and no one would be talking about it.

"It’s about executing the plays that are called. If we do that, we put the ball in the end zone."

Darnold doesn’t question Gase’s leadership. Darnold is a captain and said the Jets have good leadership in the locker room, as well, and that they can weather this 0-2 start. The Jets have had multiple breakdowns on both sides of the ball that have led to lopsided losses.

"We need to do less talking and more acting," Darnold said.

Gase has come under fire because the Jets have been mostly non-competitive, and their offense has been predictable and unproductive.

The Jets rank last in total offense (265.5 yards per game) and next to last in points per game (15.0) and rushing yards (78.0). Only the Giants are worse in both.

Gase opted to run the ball more than he usually does on Sunday. He called a run on third-and-1 on the play before the Adams’ rush. But Gore was stopped. Gase said he wanted to call a pass for Breshad Perriman, but he left the game with an ankle injury.

"On third-and-1, I felt with what they played, we were in a good position," Gase said. "We took a bad angle to block one of the DBs and he slipped through and that’s what kind of stopped us. We got another opportunity on fourth-and-1. We just got to make sure we do a good job of blocking the linebacker. And it’s going to be a really good play. And we didn’t do that."

The Jets ran 30 plays in the first half, and 16 were designed runs. Ten of Darnold’s first 11 completions were for fewer than 10 yards. Their three-longest passing plays (30, 27 and 18 yards) came in the second half, when the game was out of reach.

Gase said the short passes were by design because of the 49ers' defense, and then losing Perriman changed things.

"That was our game plan going in," he said. "We wanted to make sure that we attacked to keep it third-and-manageable. We had shots that we were going to run later in the game, but we had injuries and those kind of went out the window. Our game plan was to work those guys, make sure that we negated the rush. Once that happened, the guy that was able to stretch the field for us was out of the game."

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