The Jets won’t come close to the Super Bowl this season, but they will always have Sunday and the postgame euphoria that ensued.
After stunning the Rams 23-20 to pick up their first win of the season following an 0-13 start, the Jets on Monday did not downplay their emotions upon finally breaking through.
“As somebody that’s been through a lot of different things in my career, I don’t think I’ve seen a group more excited after a game than what I saw [Sunday] night,” said coach Adam Gase, who was the offensive coordinator for the Broncos in 2013 when they went to the Super Bowl.
It was a stark contrast to what a large portion of the fan base was feeling, since the win may have cost the Jets a chance to draft Trevor Lawrence. But that was hardly a thought for the players and staff who had taken a beating week after week this season.
“I know it’s a huge relief for a lot of the guys in the locker room to be able to get this win, and it means the world to us,” quarterback Sam Darnold said Monday on a conference call. “It was just a lot of emotion and excitement in the locker room after the game and obviously on the flight back as well.”
It was only a week ago the Jets had taken another redeye flight back from the West Coast after getting crushed by the Seahawks, 40-3. That came a week after their best chance of a win slipped through their fingers on the now-infamous cover-zero blitz that delivered a heartbreaking loss against the Raiders. There was the late blown lead against the Patriots, too, and the comeback that fell just short against the Chargers.
All of it had taken a toll on the Jets, but they still fought back to avoid the infamy that would have come with becoming the third team in NFL history to go 0-16.
“It took a lot longer than obviously we wanted it to,” Gase said. “Nothing’s really gone right this season and they’ve been through a lot of adversity. … The excitement that they had on the way home, it was fun to see.”
Gase explained that the reaction to the win that clinched the Broncos a spot in the Super Bowl was different because of the expectations that came with their record-setting regular season in 2013.
The Jets, meanwhile, were largely left for dead — coming in at 0-13 as 17-point underdogs against the Rams — and won anyway.
“That’s probably the best I’ve felt after a regular-season win,” sixth-year defensive end Henry Anderson said. “It definitely was a little bit different than normal. I guess that’s kind of what happens when you start the season 0-13 and win your first game in Week 15.”
Gase said CEO Christopher Johnson “was just really happy for everybody” after seeing the work the Jets have put in throughout the season. The embattled coach and his players had often spoken of strong practices and continuing to play hard despite the brutal season, but Sunday they finally had something to show for it.
“It says a lot about the character in the locker room,” Anderson said. “[At] 0-13, it’s easy for guys to roll it in, say, ‘Screw it.’ … [Guys] could just not be paying attention on our virtual meetings and come out to practice with bad energy and just try to get through the rest of the season and go back home after our game against the Patriots. But we don’t have those types of guys in our locker room.”