Adam Gase and Jets prove Sean McVay right in shocking upset over Rams

Jets quarterback Sam Darnold throws a pass in front of Rams defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day.
Jets quarterback Sam Darnold throws a pass in front of Rams defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day during the first quarter of the Jets’ 23-20 win Sunday at SoFi Stadium.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Sean McVay has a big heart. Last week, while watching tape to prepare for a game against the winless New York Jets, the Rams coach made a highly unusual decision. He made a morning phone call to Jets coach Adam Gase, offering him a few words of encouragement.

“He called me at 7:15 our time,” Gase said after the game Sunday. “I’m sitting there going, I can’t believe he’s at the office already. It’s 4:15 [in Los Angeles]. I answer it because I know he’s up and wants to say something. He just said, ‘Watching the tape and, man, these guys play hard for you. I know things haven’t gone the way you wanted. But just keep those guys grinding and keep ’em pushing.’ ”

After a stunning upset — a 23-20 Jets victory — it was Gase who could have delivered the keep-your-chin-up speech.


In beating a Rams team that’s maddeningly inconsistent but probably headed to the playoffs, the Jets dodged the indignity of becoming the third NFL franchise to finish 0-16.

Rams miss a chance to clinch an NFC playoff berth after falling to the previously winless Jets 23-20 in perhaps the biggest shocker of the NFL season.

Dec. 20, 2020

“I’m happy for our guys,” Gase said. “If you watch them work every day, you see how hard they compete in games, they deserve this. I mean, they deserved it a while ago. We’ve had a few snatched away from us, and to finally close out a game — against a good team, too — it says a lot about what kind of character we have in this locker room.”

As noted by ESPN Stats & Info, three teams 0-13 or worse have gotten their first victory against an opponent with a winning record.

In 2011, the 0-13 Indianapolis Colts — slogging through the season without Peyton Manning — beat the 7-6 Tennessee Titans.

In 1962, the 0-13 Oakland Raiders beat the 9-3-1 Boston Patriots.

And now the 0-13 Jets have beaten the Rams, who were 9-4 and would have secured a playoff spot with a win.


It’s the Jets, so of course even good things are laced with bad. By winning, they surrendered the inside track on the No. 1 overall draft pick to Jacksonville. The teams have identical records, and should both lose their final two games, the Jaguars would win the tiebreaker based on strength of schedule.

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence passes during a game.
The Jets’ win over the Rams on Sunday could complicate their chances to land the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL draft and select Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
(Brian Blanco / Associated Press)

The prize is likely Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, and heading into the Rams game all signs pointed to the Jets trading former USC star Sam Darnold, the No. 3 pick in 2018, in favor of Lawrence. Now, that plan could be kaput.

The Jets finish with a home game against Cleveland, then at New England. Jacksonville plays host to Chicago, and is at Indianapolis for a finale.

Darnold has a year left on his rookie deal, and it’s clear the Jets aren’t going to exercise his fifth-year option for 2022, which would cost them an estimated $25 million guaranteed. Even though his career hasn’t gone as he had hoped, Darnold would be a coveted player on the open market for a team nearing a transition at quarterback.

Sunday was his first game back in Los Angeles since directing USC to a victory over UCLA at the Coliseum three years ago, although he said he didn’t give the locale much thought. He was just happy to finally win a game.

“It’s the greatest feeling in sports to be able to ice the game out and know we had it,” he said. “It’s the best. … To be able to execute and be able to see it all come into fruition, I think that was the biggest thing for us. It was an amazing feeling.”

Rams running back Cam Akers is tackled at the goal line by Jets cornerback Arthur Maulet.
Rams running back Cam Akers is tackled at the goal line by Jets cornerback Arthur Maulet on a run nullified by a holding penalty during the fourth quarter Sunday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Conversely, the Rams have to be deeply troubled. Throughout the season, they have shown that when things are going well, the team looks really good, but this group has yet to show it can pull out of a tailspin when what they’re doing isn’t working.

That’s a recipe for a one-and-done playoff appearance, if the team gets there at all.

Meanwhile, salt in the wound for the Rams: NFC West rival Seattle defeated Washington on Sunday to clinch a postseason berth for the third season in a row.

Then again, for a team picking up its first victory in Week 15, one win is a feast.

“You come and watch us, man, and it don’t look like an 0-13 team,” said running back Frank Gore, 37. “These young kids — I won’t call them kids — these young men come in and fight, and we finally got one.”

Breaking down the notable numbers behind the Rams’ 23-20 loss to the New York Jets at SoFi Stadium on Sunday.

Dec. 20, 2020