Josh McCown felt something last week in Oakland. It was halftime and his team was trailing by 11 in a game it would eventually lose by 25. But the Jets quarterback was understanding the positive vibes coming forth around this team as they headed home.
While talking to reporters during the week at the Jets’ facility in Florham Park, New Jersey, new CEO/chairman Christopher Johnson said wins and losses are not important for this rebuilding team, progress is.
Yesterday afternoon, the Jets displayed progress and carried over the positivity from a loss on the West Coast as they earned their first victory of the season with a strong 20-6 victory over the Dolphins at MetLife Stadium.
The run defense, something that was pitiful the first two weeks of the season, held the Dolphins to just 30 yards.
The offense, led by McCown’s 249 passing yards, picked up its first lead of the season on Chandler Catanzaro’s 40-yard field goal with 7:21 to go in the second quarter. Miami got behind 20-0 and didn’t score until no time read on the game clock.
A shutout would have been the cherry on top. Instead, just earning a victory and blocking out the narrative of tanking was good enough.
“We’re trying to win anyway,” coach Todd Bowles said. “We block all that stuff out. That has nothing to do with our motivation to win. We’re trying to win ballgames because we want to get to the Super Bowl, not because we want to prove people wrong. It’s extra motivation but we’re competitive and we’re going to compete every week.”
This Jets team didn’t fold after Catanzaro missed a 45-yarder wide left with 5:04 to play in the first quarter. Catanzaro would get another chance in the second quarter thanks to a completion from McCown to Jermaine Kearse for 18 yards on a third-and-22 from the Dolphins’ 40.
The pass play set up Catanzaro’s 40-yarder.
Defensively, the Jets were all over Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler, sacking him three times. After not recording a hurry in the loss at Oakland last week, there were seven yesterday. Cutler was also picked off by Terrence Brooks (who also got an INT on a fake-punt attempt).
Bowles’ defense played with more discipline against the Dolphins. There were fewer missed tackles and assignments.
“We always had confidence,” rookie safety Jamal Adams said after recording his first NFL sack and a pass breakup. “We just need to put the right pieces together and it’s finally starting to mold. We’re not where we want to be — this is the start of it. This is a win and we’ll take it.”
The Jets’ run game picked up 103 yards, opening the door for the passing attack. McCown (18-for-23) completed passes to six different receivers. Jeremy Kerley had five catches for 42 yards, and Robby Anderson grabbed three for 95.
McCown’s touchdown throw, a 69-yarder to Anderson against man coverage, gave the Jets a 10-0 lead with 1:51 left in the first half.
Before the score, Jets center Wes Johnson was flagged for holding, nullifying a long run by rookie running back Elijah McGuire, who was tackled at the Dolphins’ 9. Faced with a second-and-8 from the Jets’ 31, McCown’s deep pass landed in Anderson’s hands — which it turned out, put the game away.
“I had five guys madder than I’ll get at,” McCown said of his teammates about the penalty. “They played [the replay] so quick that they didn’t see how it could be a penalty.”
The victory ended an 11-game losing streak for McCown as a starter and marked his first home victory as a starter since 2013 when he played for the Bears.
McCown said this Jets victory reminded him of the halftime scene in Oakland where he saw something that Johnson wanted to see: Progress.
“It was upbeat,” McCown said. “Obviously there was a lot more celebrating in that room, but I think that win took place last week at halftime against Oakland. It was the way that we were together. The way that we approached that second half [in Oakland]. We didn’t quit. I think that was the foundation for this week. It was awesome in there. It was a lot of fun.”