Jets coach Adam Gase heaps praise on Sam Darnold, Frank Gore for key final drive to pick up first victory
In terms of avoiding infamy, it was the biggest third down of the season, and to get it, the Jets went to an old reliable part: Frank Gore.
Gore backed his way toward a game-clinching first down with 2:17 remaining in the Jets’ 23-20 upset of the Rams on Sunday, catching a short pass from Sam Darnold and bulldozing on his heels toward the first- down marker.
Then came a victory formation — one that had not been seen from this group in 2020, which had week-after-week come out on the wrong end of an NFL Sunday . . . or Monday . . . or Thursday.
Adam Gase heaped postgame praise on Darnold and the way he handled the final drive. It ultimately may have been the third down that sends Trevor Lawrence to Jacksonville and keeps Darnold in Jets green — a scenario he has said he prefers.
"That third down was textbook of going through his progressions [and] finding the back," Gase said. "Good thing we had a Hall of Fame running back in there that seems to make plays at the right time."
Said Gore: "I knew it was going to be a pass. Before the play, I just told Sam, ‘Hey, watch me over the middle.’ [Rams linebacker Troy Reeder] ran, Sam looked. I was open and wanted to make sure that I catch the ball and secure the win."
Darnold said Gore was hard to miss.
"It was a pretty simple design," he said. "When he got to the middle, there was no one around him, so he was waving his arms and I was like, ‘All right, Frank, I see you.’ "
Gore, 37, has been a featured piece in the Jets’ offense all season, so it was fitting that he played such a critical role in their first win. He rushed for 59 yards on 23 carries and scored on a 1-yard run with 8:30 left in the third quarter to put the Jets ahead 20-3.
"The O-line did a great job," Gore said. "Coach Gase did a great job believing in us and my two tight ends [Ryan] Griffin and [Trevon] Wesco did a great job getting me in the end zone. [It was a] big touchdown."
It was a big day in general — one that the Jets have been dreaming of for quite some time.
"We up right now," Gore said. "We finally got one. I could look back and say we could have won a couple games, but we didn’t. We got the win and I’m happy."
Gore, like almost all of the Jets, had a bad taste in his mouth from last Sunday’s 40-3 loss at Seattle. Gore had only 23 yards on eight carries in that game. After all the wins, miles and touchdowns Gore has experienced, he still takes a performance like that hard.
"I wasn’t myself last week," he said. "Coming off that concussion [in Week 13], I was timid. I told my coaches that I owed them one. We watched the film and I could tell in the Seattle game that I was more conscious about how I would get hit and how I would feel. Like I told my coaches, I owed them and I would bust my behind for them today, and, man, it was big. We got the win."