Graham Gano’s sudden inaccuracy in kicking left a target squarely on head coach Brian Daboll’s chest.
With the Giants leading by three points and facing a fourth-and-1, Daboll sent Gano for a 35-yard field goal that, if converted and combined with a near-automatic touchback, would have forced the Jets would have to drive the entire length of the field in 24 seconds with no timeouts to achieve a victory.
Given that the Jets had converted one third down and had eight first downs in the first 59 minutes, it sounded absurd enough that the Giants’ probability of winning was the same (99.7 percent) regardless of whether they kicked or attempted to score a first down, according to ESPN.
But Gano missed a chip shot – perhaps due to Jets rookie Will McDonald’s vertical jump in the car – Zach Wilson hit two deep passes to set up the game-winning field goal, and then the Jets completed the stunning comeback victory 13-10, in extra time.
“I have no excuses. “That’s not me,” Gano said. “I just have to do a better job and not let everyone down.”
Daboll’s other option would have been to ask an offensive line stacked with backups to push Barkley on fourth-and-1.
Barkley’s first 25 Telegraph runs of the second half – when third-string quarterback Tommy DeVito attempted just one pass – somehow gained 94 yards.
However, if the run could be broken off, the Jets would have only had to get within range of strong-legged kicker Greg Zuerlein to force overtime.
Unfortunately, Gano’s miss allowed this scenario to take place with an additional 8 yards of starting field position.
“We expected to make the field goal and then they would have 24 seconds with no timeouts, but still have to go the full length and our defense played well the whole game. That’s why I made the decision,” said Daboll. “There is always a downside. I understand what it is.”
Jets head coach Robert Saleh wasn’t surprised to see Gano on the field.
“They take a touchdown lead, no timeouts,” Saleh said. “I probably would have done the same thing.”
The Jets believe McDonald — the first-round pick who went viral for videos of him jumping over cars in college — had an influence on Gano’s misstep.
“People were already saying he was going to block it,” cornerback DJ Reed said. “They put him in there to block it. He didn’t block it, but he got close and definitely changed the kick. That was a big game.”
One X-factor is whether the Giants expected Gano to be sidelined all season, perhaps for health reasons.
After converting 91.8 percent of his field goals (89 of 97) over the past three seasons, Gano has converted 64.7 percent (11 of 17) since signing a three-year, $16.5 million contract extension before the season US Dollar has signed and has been struggling with a knee injury for weeks.
“That’s not a problem,” Gano said. “My knee is what it is, but I have to do my kicks. That’s not why I missed today, I just played poorly.”
The Jets’ win probability had dropped to 0.01 percent before Barkley was stopped on a third-and-3 when he thought he could have moved his legs for a first down.
So Barkley wouldn’t question Daboll’s decision.
“I will not persist in this situation. I have to find a way to get the first down beforehand,” Barkley said. “Our defense is playing at full strength, we have a really good kicker, I rock with his call.”
Daboll seemed to have a magical sense of decision making heading into the playoffs last season.
The worm has definitely turned with this 2-6 start.
“There are so many different things,” Daboll said. “I felt comfortable with what we talked about. It didn’t work out and I’m disappointed.”