<
>

10 plays that shaped the season (No. 3)

1/16/2014

We're counting down the 10 most important plays of the New York Jets' season. After presenting numbers six through 10 in one post, we'll take it one at a time from five to one.

No. 3: The blocked-punt fiasco in Carolina

The Jets picked a bad time to have a major breakdown on special teams. In a must-win game against the Panthers in Week 15, the Jets suffered a fourth-quarter collapse and lost, 30-20. It all started when Jason Williams blocked a punt by Ryan Quigley.

For 47 minutes, the Jets went toe-to-toe with the heavily-favored Panthers, trailing only 16-13 at the start of the fourth quarter. Punting from his own 30, special teams coach Ben Kotwica employed a tactic he used twice earlier in the game. Concerned about speedy punt returner Ted Ginn, Jr., Kotwica used three gunners instead of two. It was a calculated gamble. Not only did it leave one less player in protection, but it allowed the Panthers to line up over the center -- by rule, a no-no when there are only two gunners.

Exploiting the alignment on the third try, Williams rushed the center/left-guard gap. Zach Sudfeld, the left guard, failed to slide and block Williams, who had a free path to the punter. The Panthers recovered the block at the Jets' 14, marched in for a touchdown a few plays later and scored again a few minutes later on a Geno Smith interception that was returned for a touchdown. In less than five minutes, a close game turned into a blowout.

The loss left the Jets on the verge of mathematical elimination. On Wednesday, Kotwica left the Jets to become the Washington Redskins' special teams coach.