This time it was the Dallas offensive line that had to do all the explaining for poor execution
EAST RUTHERFORD: If there was group of men who looked more down with themselves, it would be hard to find any outside the New York Jets offensive line in their locker room at Lincoln Financial Field after the visitors gave up 10 sacks in a humiliating 31-6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
There was no gray area, the Eagles defensive line mopped the floor with these guys last week. It would be just as hard to find a more relieved group of men anywhere than in the Jets locker room after the New Yorkers knocked off the defending NFC East Champion Dallas Cowboys 24-22 at MetLife Stadium.
“It's awesome,” Jets right guard Brian Winters said at his locker after the game. “It's awesome to get a 'W.' [The Cowboys] are a really good team, really good defense. We have all our pieces now, we're on a roll, we're going to be great.”
The Jets linemen took their lumps from their fans and the media during the week leading up to their game against DeMarcus Lawrence and the Cowboys (3-3).
It wasn't all their fault. They had to block in front of a quarterback in Luke Falk, who started the season as the No. 3 signal-caller on the Jets depth chart. He played like it. Falk was released by the Jets a few days before the Dallas game.
“Life is filled with adversity, and that was just another adversity that we were faced with ,” Jets left guard Alex Lewis said at his locker after the game. “We put our nose to the grind stone this week and we just went to work. That's all you can do. If you focus too heavy on the negatives and think too high on the highs. It felt good to come out and play as a unit today. I always say the offensive line is a team within a team and I think we played as a team today.”
Behind starter Sam Darnold, who was back from a four-week battle with mononucleosis and the accompanying swollen spleen, the Jets passing was offense was crisp, scoring 21 first-half points.
The offense did just enough in the second half to keep the Cowboys offense off the field to help produce the first win of the season for the Jets (1-4).
Darnold was 23 of 32 for 338 yards, two touchdown passes and one interception in the second half that killed a long, 10-play drive. One of his touchdown passes was 92-yard bomb to Robby Anderson in the second quarter that gave the Jets a 14-3 lead they never gave up.
“Sam's a captain for a reason,” Lewis said. “He's a great leader. He's a great competitor. It's huge having him out there. I appreciate him coming back. He had to take care of himself, I understand that. Now we've got him back and we'll go to work and get another one.”
Lewis went on to talk about how important it was for New York to get off to a quick start and dictate the pace of the game.
“It's always important to come out strong,” Lewis said. “Whether you start strong or not, it's huge when you get the ball rolling, you get the offense going, it let's the defense catch their breath, their not out there the whole time getting tired, especially early in the game, it's huge for us. I'm glad we did it and we've got to do it again.”
Even though the Jets scored only three points in the second half, you never got the feeling the Cowboys were going to takeover the game.
Ezekiel Elliott rushed 28 times for 105 yards, but just 3.8 yards per carry. He scored on a five-yard run in the fourth quarter, but did not have as big an impact on the game as he has done in the past.
Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott was 28 for 40 for 277 yards. He did not throw a touchdown pass or an interception. He scored a touchdown on a four-yard run with 43 seconds left in the fourth quarter. It was too little to late as Prescott's two-point conversion pass was incomplete.
“You've got to finish in the second half,” Lewis said. “I think when we had the interception down there in the second half in the Red Zone, nobody folded. We just went back out there and did our thing. That's how we need to do every drive.”
Lawrence was almost invisible. The Pro Bowl defensive end registered just two assists on tackles and no other stats.
Backup defensive end Robert Quinn led the Cowboys with two sacks for twelve yards in losses.
The Cowboys got the interception by cornerback Jourdan Lewis, but no quarterback hurries.
Darnold pretty much picked the Cowboys secondary apart.
“We're not playing like we know how to play or how we should be playing," Lawrence said at his locker after the game. "I feel, from my eyes, we're an elite defense. It's an elite team and we should be playing that way. We're not, we're not doing that. We have to dig in and figure it out."
Some of the Cowboys downplayed Darnold's return.
"I don't think it was that big a deal, we knew he was going to play," said rookie offensive tackle Brandon Knight, who started in place of injured La'el Collins. "I think, at the end of the day, it's about execution. The offense didn't execute in the red zone. That's what wins and loses ball games."
The Cowboys other tackle Tyron Smith was also out and was replaced by Cameron Fleming.
The backup tackles showed why they aren't the starters. The Cowboys offensive line gave up a sack, eight quarterback hits and eight tackles for loss.
Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick talked about the impact of having these guys miss the game.
"Honestly it's hard to say," Frederick said at his locker after the game. "Obviously I haven't seen the film yet. As far as I know I know, both tackle did a pretty good job on the outside as backup guys stepping in there. It's admirable. But when you're missing the starters on both sides, it's tough. It's a hard situation to be in. Those guys are clearly starters for a reason. We're looking forward to getting them back."
With Philadelphia coming to AT&T Stadium next Sunday with its legion of fans in tow, they better figure it out fast. *
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii