Short-handed Jets no match for depleted 49ers in 31-13 loss

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at New York Jets
Sep 20, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Braxton Berrios (10) is tackled by San Francisco 49ers middle linebacker Fred Warner (54) and free safety Jimmie Ward (20) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

After their 27-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills in a terrible Week 1 performance, it was hard to imagine the New York Jets looking any worse in Week 2. But they found a way.

Playing host the San Francisco 49ers, the short-handed Jets once again looked like a junior varsity football team in a 31-6 loss on Sunday, Sept. 20, in their home opener at MetLife Stadium.

New York was thoroughly outclassed right from the start, as San Francisco running back Raheem Mostert carried the ball 80 yards for a touchdown on the game’s first offensive play to give the defending NFC champions an early 7-0 lead.

The Jets (0-2) punted after six plays on their first drive, but after forcing the 49ers to punt on the ensuing drive, New York found a bit of a rhythm on offense. 

Third-year quarterback Sam Darnold converted three third down attempts (two passes and a scramble) and led the Jets down to the San Francisco 23-yard -line. Kicker Sam Ficken booted a 41-year-old field goal to cut New York’s deficit to 7-3. That’s as close as the score would be. 

The 49ers offense, led by quarterback Jimmy Garappolo, responded with a 14-play drive that culminated with an 18-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jordan Reed , giving San Francisco (2-0) a 14-3 lead. The touchdown catch was Reed’s first since 2018.

The Jets’ offense moved the ball deep into 49ers’ territory on the following drive, but Adam Gase’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-one from the San Francisco 20-yard-line backfired, as running back Josh Adams was stopped in his tracks, leading to a turnover on downs with 3:41 remaining in the half. 

Adams was in the game rather than reliable veteran Frank Gore, who got the starting nod with Le’Veon Bell sidelined with a hamstring injury. Gore ran the ball the previous three plays and already had 15 carries before Adams came into the game for the pivotal carry. 

San Francisco took advantage of the turnover, driving 13 plays and 80 yards, and scoring when Garappolo found Reed through the air for their second touchdown connection of the game and, for the second straight game, New York found itself trailing  21-3 at halftime.

Garoppolo, who took a rough sack from Jets’ defensive lineman Quinnen Williams in the first half, tried to play through an ankle injury, but was ruled out for the second half. Garoppolo finished the game 14 of 16 for 131 yards and two touchdowns before giving way to Nick Mullens in the  third quarter.

After the Jets’ offense went three-and-out to open the quarter, their defense allowed Mullens and the 49ers to add to their lead with a 46-yard Robbie Gould field goal. 

Mullens’ second drive didn’t go as well, as a pass intended to running back Jerick McKinnon was intercepted by cornerback Pierre Desir and returned 23 yards to the San Francisco 22-yard-line.

But the Jets failed to get into the end zone, as their drive stalled at 7-yard-line and Ficken kicked another field goal, cutting New York’s deficit to 24-6. 

New York’s offense once again struggled to put points on the board. In addition to playing without Bell, the Jets were without slot receiver Jamison Crowder, who has been Darnold’s top target the last two years. Crowder was a bright spot for the Jets in Week 1, when he recorded seven catches for 115 yards — including a 69-yard touchdown — in their loss to Buffalo. 

Throughout the game, No. 1 wideout Breshad Perriman was ruled out with an ankle injury, and fellow wideout Chris Hogan had to go into the locker room in the third quarter after sustaining an injury to his ribs, though he would return later in the game. With rookie receiver Denzel Mims on injured reserve, the Jets were extremely short-handed at wide receiver, which limited them offensively. 

The 49ers’ increased their lead to 31-6 when McKinnon scored on an 18-yard touchdown run. It the injury-plagued running back’s his first touchdown since 2017. 

The Jets’ offense found some life within the final two minutes of the fourth quarter, when Darnold escaped pressure, scrambled to his left and found open receiver Braxton Berrios through the air for a 30-yard touchdown, making the score 31-13, which would prove to be the final score. 

Darnold finished the game with 21 completions for 179 yards and a touchdown on 32 attempts. He looked a bit better than he did in Week 1, but with no real weapons, he couldn’t guide the Jets into the end zone, even though the offensive line played well, allowing just one sack.

Gore carried the ball 21 times for 63 yards on the ground.  Rookie running back La’Mical Perine made his debut and finished with 17 yards on three carries. 

Hogan led the Jets with six catches and 75 yards. Berrios also had six catches, including the touchdown, and recorded 59 yards. No other Jets receiver had more than 16 yards.

Defensively, Williams had his best game as a pro, recording seven tackles and two sacks. Linebacker Jordan Jenkins also recorded a sack and the Jets recorded 11 total quarterback hits.

Despite earning the victory, the 49ers did not escape the game unscathed. In addition to Garoppolo, Mostert also did not return after halftime after suffering a knee injury.

Star defensive lineman Nick Bosa was carted off the field with a knew injury after being in the middle of a pile of players while making a tackle. Moments later, fellow defensive lineman Solomon Thomas was also carted off the field after getting tangled with an offensive lineman.

San Francisco was also without All-Pro tight end George Kittle, pass rusher Dee Ford, and star cornerback Richard Sherman, each of whom were inactive for the game. 

While shorthanded, the 49ers had no issues taking care of the Jets, who will look to turn things around in a Week 3 showdown in Indianapolis against the Colts, who improved to 1-1 after defeating the Minnesota Vikings  28-11 on Sunday.

San Francisco will return to MetLife Stadium in Week 3, when they will take on the New York Giants, who dropped to 0-2 after their 17-13 loss to the Chicago Bears.