Friday, January 17, 2014
10 plays that shaped the season (No. 3)
By Rich Cimini
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.