The jets did the seemingly unthinkable on Sunday. They have won.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the season, the formerly winless Jets (1-13) beat the Los Angeles Rams (9-5) in a convincing manner, building a 17-point lead in the third quarter and then holding the Rams back to their first high-performance offense Win game of the season, 23-20, in Inglewood, California.
The Rams battling the Seattle Seahawks for the NFC West crown were 17-point favorites. The jets that were blown out by the Seahawks in Seattle last week crossed the country this week and should have been exhausted, at least on paper.
But Jets quarterback Sam Darnold shook off early nervousness, completed 22 of 31 passes for 207 yards and one touchdown, and led the Jets on three drives of 10 or more games to use large chunks of the clock and keep the Rams offensive off the field .
“It means the world for us to come here, successive west coast trips. We couldn’t stay on the west coast because of Covid,” said Darnold after the game. “We did our job this week.”
The Jets became the first winless team in NFL history to win on the road against an opponent with nine or more wins.
They have also fallen behind in the race for the top picks in next year’s draft, which will leave their for-profit fans with mixed feelings. The Jacksonville Jaguars, who lost to the Ravens on Sunday and are also 1:13, will keep the tiebreaker in the draft above the Jets if they finish the season with the same record.
Other winless teams won their first game later in the season, most recently the 2016 Cleveland Browns, who scored their first (and only) win in their 15th game.
The Jets have had a scratch with victory lately. Two weeks ago they lost the penultimate game against the Las Vegas Raiders. But on Sunday they weren’t playing like a team refueling to make the first choice in next year’s draft – as some desperate Jets fans relied on – but like a young team that didn’t end up injuring themselves.
The Jets were 7 of 17 on third runs, Frank Gore ran the ball 23 times for 59 yards and one score, and the wide receiver Jamison Crowder caught six passes for 66 yards. The Jets defense held Rams quarterback Jared Goff at 209 yards and intercepted him once.
On the final run of the game, when the Rams ran out of timeouts, Darnold withstood a heavy pass rush and completed a 6-yard pass for an initial descent to Gore. After the two-minute warning, the Jets did something they haven’t done since last season: the offensive was in the winning formation and Darnold knelt three times to leave the clock and seal the victory.