Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer 355d

Now a .500 team, Jets may have found formula to drive them forward

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The punching bag is learning how to punch back.

Dismissed at the start of the season as a talent-poor joke and the odds-on favorite to land the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft, the New York Jets have accomplished something few envisioned.

They're a .500 team for the first time since Week 2 last season, as they overcame a calamitous fourth quarter on Sunday to defeat the Jacksonville Jaguars in overtime, 23-20, at MetLife Stadium. Chandler Catanzaro kicked a 41-yard field goal to win one of the weirdest games you'll ever see.

"Three weeks ago, we wouldn't have recovered from this," said coach Todd Bowles, alluding to the 10-point lead that disappeared. "Right now, they're growing every week. They didn't flinch."

Wrap your brain around this: The Jets (2-2) and New England Patriots have the same record at the quarter pole of the season. This doesn't mean the Jets are a legitimate contender (some perspective, please), but they're better than we thought because they've established an identity.

They can run the ball and play some defense. They displayed resilience, too, reclaiming a game that appeared to be lost in overtime. They got lucky because the Jaguars outcollapsed the Jets, but rebuilding teams shouldn't have to apologize for wins.

"This team showed grit and perseverance," tackle Kelvin Beachum said. "I think this team is continuing to show the world we have a lot more in this locker room than people think."

How the Jets won this game is beyond explanation, but they displayed a formula that can drive them for the rest of the season. Bilal Powell and rookie Elijah McGuire ran for a combined 256 yards. With Matt Forte (turf toe) sitting out, Powell and McGuire scored on 75- and 69-yard runs, respectively, the first time since 2002 the Jets produced two touchdown runs of at least 65 yards in the same game.

Wonder if Forte ever heard of Wally Pipp. Powell and McGuire are younger and faster than Forte, and they should be the focal points of the running game as the season moves forward.

Their defense controlled most of the game, making Blake Bortles look like the Bortles from last season. He was 15-for-35 for 140 yards. If he had completed one clutch pass, he would've won the game. The Jets defense surrendered only one touchdown and made some big stops. Most of the mess was the responsibility of Josh McCown and the offense.

The Jets blew a 20-10 lead and let the Jags back in the game because of two fluky turnovers by McCown, who gave away 10 points with two short throws to Powell. An off-target backward pass was scooped up by Myles Jack and returned 81 yards for a touchdown, and, minutes later, McCown was intercepted when Powell slipped on his route.

The two plays were something out the "Stupid Jet Tricks" collection from a bygone era, but the team didn't fold. On the sideline, Bowles told players, "Don't blink, don't blink your eyes."

This was an unusual game because the Jets managed to win despite losing the turnover battle, two to one. They got away with it against the Jaguars, but they don't have enough talent to live that way against better opponents. But if they continue to control the ball and play good defense, the Jets will be competitive.

More competitive than anyone could've predicted.

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