By Alexess Sosa
Big Spring, TX
The New York Jets earned a come-from-behind victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in their preseason opener on Wednesday, prevailing 17-13 at MetLife Stadium despite a poor offensive showing.
The Jets gained just 284 yards compared to Jacksonville’s 415, but New York still triumphed after a strong second-quarter performance.
The Jaguars started strong behind third-year quarterback Blake Bortles, who went 6 of 7 for 105 yards, leading Jacksonville to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. Jason Myers kicked a 33-yard field goal to open the scoring, and a Chris Ivory 1-yard run put Jacksonville up by two scores.
The Jets rallied and took their first lead of the preseason before halftime after their offense sputtered in the first quarter. Following a contentious contract dispute in the off-season, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick started for New York, but played just two series on Wednesday before exiting. Fitzpatrick, who signed a one-year deal worth $12 million in July, completed three of four passes for 72 yards.
Fitzpatrick showed chemistry with third-year wide receiver Quincy Enunwa, who caught two passes for 69 yards in the first quarter, setting up the Jets’ first touchdown of the game, scored by Bilal Powell. The running back’s 4-yard score cut Jacksonville’s lead to 10-7.
Returning Jets backup quarterback Geno Smith struggled at times behind a struggling offensive line after taking over in the second quarter. Smith completed 8 of 14 passes for 79 yards, including a touchdown pass to rookie Charone Peake that gave New York the lead.
Second-year quarterback Bryce Petty handled the pressure better, helping the Jets keep their lead over the Jaguars in the second half. The Jets tried to find their running game with running back Romar Morris, but he only managed 27 yards on 11 carries.
Petty, who completed 7 of 14 pass attempts for 93 yards, is competing against 2016 second-round pick Christian Hackenberg for the third-string job. Hackenberg, a three-year starter at Penn State, didn’t play on Thursday.
The Jets ranked 10th in the NFL last season in total offense, helping the team to a 10-6 finish, the franchise’s best since 2010. New York, which narrowly missed the playoffs, struggled defensively last season, ranking 29th in the NFL. The team showed little improvement against Jacksonville. With both teams’ starters playing in the first quarter, the Jaguars racked up 151 yards, including 99 through the air, and eight first downs. The Jets’ defense had no answer for Jaguars receiver Allen Robinson, who caught three passes for 80 yards, including a 45-yard leaping grab over safety Marcus Gilchrist. Robinson led Jacksonville in receiving last season, catching 80 passes for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns.
But with both teams’ backups in the game, New York fared better defensively, allowing just three points in the final three quarters. In the final moments of the game, the Jaguars drove to the Jets’ 14-yard-line, but safety Doug Middleton intercepted Jaguars quarterback Brandon Allen in the end zone with eight seconds remaining, sealing a win for New York.
The Jets missed other opportunities to pad their lead earlier in the game. Rookie kicker Ross Martin missed field goals from 39 and 54 yards after making a 23-yarder. Veteran kicker Nick Folk, who is competing for the starting job with Martin, didn’t attempt a field goal but made both of his extra point attempts.
Despite the loss, Jacksonville’s early success on offense was an encouraging sign, as the franchise comes off its best offensive season since 2007. The Jaguars ranked 18th in total offense and 14th in scoring in 2015, averaging 23.5 points per game en route to a 5-11 record, the team’s highest win total since 2011.
The Jets’ next preseason game is Friday at Washington, while the Jaguars are set to host the Buccaneers on Saturday.