Marshall called his ill-advised attempt to lateral the ball to Jeff Cumberland, the "worst play in NFL history". He's wrong, but at least he recognizes it was a reckless thing to do. The Jets were driving, down 17, at the time and seven plays later that lead swelled to a what-proved-to-be-insurmountable 24 points.
What was he thinking, though? Let's take a look...
As you can see, if Marshall was able to pitch the ball cleanly to Cumberland, he'd have theoretically had 60 yards of green grass ahead of him down the sideline. The idea is almost too clever from Marshall, like a Rajon Rondo no-look behind the back pass that bounces past the big man and out of bounds because he isn't able to catch it. The execution, though, is completely wrong. Marshall's obviously been watching too much of the Rugby World Cup ahead of the London trip because those guys make it look easy.
If Marshall tossed the ball sideways at the moment of the image above, then the worse thing that could happen would be that Cumberland didn't expect it and it sailed harmlessly out of bounds. This is why I say that using a lateral at the right time could be a good option and a worthwhile risk. Marshall didn't do that, though, he tried to fall forwards for extra yardage and only at the very last moment decided to try and flip it to Cumberland almost as if he was thinking "Oh, I'm being tackled. What was that great idea I had two seconds ago? Ah, yes, I remember..."
Now he knows how Mark Sanchez felt after most of his interceptions in 2012.
By the time Marshall tried to offload the ball to Cumberland, Connor Barwin was in the way and the ball rebounded off his face mask for a turnover. The other issue with this pitch was that he tried to get the ball to Cumberland. Not only was Cumberland clearly not expecting this at all, he's also Jeff Cumberland! That means Marshall was making a risky toss to a guy with questionable hands who might not have had the footspeed to make much out of it anyway.
It shouldn't have been ruled a fumble, by the way. Had that been a successful lateral, I'm sure he'd have been ruled down. Consider it like a buzzer-beater in basketball. If the elbow touching the ground is equivalent to the red light and the ball is still in contact with the shooter's hand when the right light comes on, the basket doesn't count. Marshall probably deserved not to get the benefit of the doubt from the booth there, though.
Marshall admitted after the game that he "played like crap" and this wasn't the only reason. He also had the ball go through his hands on Fitzpatrick's last interception, almost lost another fumble and failed to pick up the first down on a short pass at the marker. Even so, Marshall, who had minus-six yards on two catches until late in the first half, ended up with 10 catches for over 100 yards and a touchdown, so he continues to produce. That's even with Eric Decker out of the line-up.
It's obviously still pretty early in the season, but Marshall is actually on course to break the single season Jets receiving records for receptions, yards and touchdowns if he continues to produce at this rate the rest of the way. The last two would be close, but he's potentially going to smash Al Toon's record of 93 catches in a season if he doesn't get hurt.
Marshall also drew one penalty and I counted three other plays that could have also been flagged. Had the Jets got the ball back in the last minute, that might have been one way the Jets could have quickly moved into scoring range.
Last week, every receiver and tight end not named Marshall or Decker managed to combine for just one catch, but this week Ryan Fitzpatrick did have more success spreading the ball around. The three other receivers combined to catch 14 passes for 122 yards and a score and even Cumberland caught two passes, his first of the season.
The big story was Jeremy Kerley finally seeing action on offense and producing well. Kerley had six catches, although four of these were dump-offs that didn't generate much yardage. He scored a touchdown on a well-designed play where Fitzpatrick found him open at the back of the endzone and had an absolutely spectacular one-handed catch where he was extremely unlucky that his elbow came down out of bounds just before his other foot got down.
Many have suggested that this proves Kerley should have been used a lot sooner and while I definitely think he should be playing more than he has - you'll recall I was calling for him to get more reps in the Colts game - I don't know if this production necessarily warrants him jumping ahead of Quincy Enunwa or Chris Owusu quite yet. After all, if not for those four dump-off passes, Kerley actually only had two catches on seven targets.
I had been wondering if part of Kerley's drop down the depth chart is due to him lacking the instincts to adjust his routes accurately, as required in the Erhardt-Perkins system Chan Gailey employs. Sure enough, on three passes in this game, he and Fitzpatrick weren't quite on the same page with the timing of the throw just slightly off, which could in theory be because Kerley's route didn't take him to the correct spot. (Of course, it could equally just be an inaccurate throw.) Two of these were off his hands and a third saw him tackled short of a first down on a slant where the ball was ever so slightly behind him.
Enunwa is starting to show more of how he can be a weapon each week. His five catches for 50 yards included one diving grab where he got up and gained some extra yardage. As I mentioned in the quarterbacks review, he got behind the defense deep on one play where Fitzpatrick couldn't get him the ball and was also uncovered underneath on a third and short play, although he perhaps should have recognized that and sat down in the gap in the zone to present Fitzpatrick with a more obvious target. Enunwa also seemed to be open on a deep crosser on the play where Fitzpatrick instead opted to go deep and got picked off. He did display good physicality after the catch and on one good block from the slot, but it wasn't a perfect performance because he also had two bad missed blocks, a false start and another drop.
The only other active wide receiver, Devin Smith, did some good things in his first NFL game, but I was a little disappointed in his ability to get deep separation and his physicality in contesting downfield passes. I can't fault the Jets for going after Eric Rowe because I suggested it myself after Rowe's awful performance in the Bollinger Bowl. Rowe hadn't been getting any reps in the first two Eagles games, but when the Jets went deep with him on Smith, he was able to break up one and intercept the other in the end zone. In fairness to Smith, each of these passes was perhaps slightly underthrown and had he been able to keep accelerating rather than having to slow down to contest the pass, perhaps he would have got that deep separation.
The three catches he did make all came as he ran a hitch route on the outside. Teams will respect his deep speed, so that's something he needs to master. I always felt Stephen Hill was perfectly adequate at running those routes, but he had the disadvantage of quarterbacks that never seemed to make the throw on time, so at least that's something Fitzpatrick is good at. Smith did run a variety of routes and looked okay in doing so, although his hitch-and-go on one of those ill-fated deep passes did not fool the defender.
With the Jets not running the ball, the tight ends Cumberland and Kellen Davis didn't make much of an impact as blockers, although Cumberland still did have a couple of missed blocks, including one on a short yardage play. He caught two short passes, one for a first down.
Next up...even the usually reliable defensive line wasn't able to dominate as they usually would...