If the Jets execute a fake punt every other game, does it no longer qualify as a fake?
As special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff said this week in response: “I’d rather execute than trick. That’s me as a coach. I don’t think we really tricked anybody.”
But to be sure, the Jets have out-executed three opponents in the past four weeks. That’s 3-for-3 on Tim Tebow-triggered plays. The only other time in the last 30 years that the Jets have reeled off three fake punts for first downs was in 2009, when they went 4-for-4. Add in fake field goals and the only time besides ’12 and ’09 that the Green & White went 3-for-3 was in 1987. (
“We have to execute. That’s what it comes down to,” said linebacker and “tight end” Nick Bellore. “But I think we’ve got a lot of confidence in what we’re doing right now.”
Bellore worked in tandem with Tebow to pull off the 23-yard jump-pass conversion on fourth-and-11 at the Colts 40 on Sunday. Who’d a’ thunk it that Nick, who’s picked off a few passes over his years in the game but doesn’t remember ever catching a pass, would have gotten wide-open, taken TT’s pass flawlessly, and then motored and leaped for 14 yards after the catch?
“YAC. That’s what they brought me here for,” Bellore said Friday.
Westhoff said there was never a doubt in his mind that No. 54 would get it done.
“Nick’s just athletic, and when we did it in practice, he caught it well,” Coach Westy said. “I think there was one time when we did it in practice that he didn’t report. Now our officials caught it and they were going to throw the flag, and then he was begging them — he knew I would kill him — he said, ‘Please don’t tell him, don’t tell him.’ So that did happen, but no, I have a lot of confidence in Nick.”
The confidence in the first two plays was of a different sort. Tebow kept for 5 yards on fourth-and-3 from the Jets 25 at Miami, then two weeks later he bulled ahead for 3 yards on fourth-and-1 from the Jets 24.
For both runs Tebow plowed off his left side with the short snap from Tanner Purdum, with the help of some strong blocking from Garrett McIntyre, Josh Mauga and Konrad Reuland. I’s all in a day’s work for Reuland, a tight end, but Mauga (since IR-ed) and Mac, they’re used to shedding blocks, not blocking sheds.
“It’s a little different,” McIntyre said, “but it’s pretty easy, just get off the ball as hard as you can and block the guy.”
Easy to say when it’s the Dolphins’ punt-block team, but the Texans smelled a rat and sent out their first defense to try to stop the potential primetime fake. The 255-pound McIntyre found himself going up against 284-pound starting DE Antonio Smith.
“It was crazy for a second, but there was a big bubble next to him and Tim found the bubble. He’s given me a little props for my blocks,” Mac said. “Running these fakes is great in the fact that we can help extend the drive. That’s an awesome feeling.”
Indeed, the Jets turned a three-and-out series into a 15-play field goal drive against the Dolphins, another three-and-out into a seven-play drive vs. Houston, and Bellore’s beautiful catch-and-run turned a six-play punt possession into an 11-play, 70-yard touchdown march vs. Indy.
Dare we say a drive-extending out-execution against the Patriots might be extremely helpful as the Jets compete up at Gillette Stadium with the Pats? OK, we dare not. And as Bellore reminded:
“Against New England, it’ll be tough. I’m not saying the other teams we ran our plays against weren’t tough, but we’re playing a lot of really, really good special teams units this season.”
But then as Westhoff reminded reporters on Thursday, “I’d run more of ‘em than that if we could. We have them up all the time. Many times on fakes you catch someone totally unprepared. That really has not happened too much with us, especially after we’ve run them, because people now know and they’re going to gear up for it.
“But we still think we can do it.”
Malone’s Monster Game
Kudos to Malone for his five-punt, 52.0-yard gross, 48.0 net game vs. the Colts. The net is actually a franchise mark of sorts, equaling the best net in a game, minimum of four punts, by a Jet since 1976. Brian Hansen previously held that distinction alone with his five punts in the Astrodome against the Houston Oilers on Dec. 24,1994.
“Last week, his first punt we were disappointed in — he tried to muscle it,” Westhoff said of a ball that Malone told me was blown out of his hand a bit by the early Meadowlands gusts and still hopped out of bounds for a 50-yard gross and net. “After that I thought he was outstanding. He’s got a very strong leg, a powerful leg. I think he’s got a lot of future ahead of him. Now he’s got a lot of things to do to work out his technique, his drops, to get all those things consistent, but he’s worked at it very well.”
Westhoff is certain the Patriots will have Wes Welker returning punts Sunday, so if Malone’s got a bunch more of those 5.13-second hangtimes in that powerful leg (that’s my unofficial average for his last four punts of the day), it will help Ellis Lankster and ‘Zaiah Trufant to keep WW thinking fair catch and help the Jets in the all-important field position battle.
*Special Teams Saturday
Tags: Garrett McIntyre, Indianapolis Colts, Josh Mauga, Konrad Reuland, Mike Westhoff, New England Patriots, Nick Bellore, Robert Malone, Tim Tebow, Wes Welker
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