CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Momentum seemed to swing in favor of the New York Jets heading into the fourth quarter Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.
Then, it flipped on the Jets in the instant that Carolina's Jason Williams burst through the Jets' line untouched and blocked a Ryan Quigley punt just over three minutes into the fourth quarter. The block gave the Panthers the ball at the Jets' 14-yard line, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by Mike Tolbert four plays later that turned a narrow 16-13 Panthers' lead into a comfortable 23-13 advantage.
The Jets never recovered as the Panthers went on to win, 30-20.
"They just made a good call. We had gone into a certain formation that they adjusted to, and he just got a good jump off the ball," Jets long-snapper Tanner Purdum said of Williams.
Coach Rex Ryan admitted the Jets got caught in a vulnerable formation, going with an extra gunner -- Ryan referred to it as "a flyer" -- on the outside that permitted the Panthers, by NFL rule, to place a rusher over center. Having been burned in the past by Carolina punt returner Ted Ginn, Ryan put an extra coverage man in play to prevent a big return by Ginn -- who in 2009, while with Miami, returned a pair of kickoffs for touchdowns against the Jets, from 101 and 100 yards, no less.
"We were trying to take advantage of our speed," Ryan said. "Obviously they have one of the premier returners in the game in Ted Ginn. But when you do that, you obviously cover up the center. The guy had a good rush on us. That's exactly what happened."
A dejected Purdum insisted there wasn't much he could have done to stop Williams in that situation.
"There was nothing we could have done differently in that formation. Not that I know of," Purdum admitted.
Quigley tried to shift some of the blame onto himself.
"It's on me. When it comes down to it, you've got to get the ball off faster," Quigley said.
But then he said Williams was upon him so fast that it would have been very difficult. He also pointed out the Jets had not previously had a punt blocked all season.
"We've been using different formations all year. We've been mixing it up, and obviously we've run that formation this season, so they might have seen it," Quigley said. "And obviously whatever they did, it worked. ... It's just unfortunate that it happened at that point in the game, where it switched the momentum.
"Anytime that happens, it's tough. That was a very tough spot for us to put our defense in."
Quigley said mishaps on special teams are always magnified, and understandably so.
"I was out there four times tonight, and you've got to be perfect all four times," he said.