Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Willig's False Start near Goal Shuts Down Jets' Momentum

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Willig's False Start near Goal Shuts Down Jets' Momentum

Article excerpt

Certainly any football game possesses its own ebb and flow. Big plays and small plays. Twists and turns.

But a fourth-quarter illegal-procedure penalty on Jets left tackle Matt Willig with New York at the Rams' 1-yard line Sunday qualified as a tide-turner. The penalty washed away hope of a touchdown and changed the tide of the game.

The Jets had to settle for a Nick Lowery field goal. On the next possession, the Rams marched 58 yards and scored on a Mark Rypien-to-Isaac Bruce pass. The Rams eventually put down an uprising by the blitzing, battling Jets in a 23-20 victory at the Meadowlands.

The Jets' record crashed to 3-10.

"We're making some crucial mistakes," Jets coach Rich Kotite said.

Injuries, too, have played a role in the Jets' skid this season. New York played Sunday without Hugh Douglas (sprained ankle), its top pass rusher. Douglas, the Jets' first-round draft pick, has 10 sacks. Defensive tackle Tony Casillas is out because of a bruised knee. That forced the Jets to shuffle their defensive line, with Marvin Washington moving from left end to right end for Douglas.

Against the Rams, starting right guard Matt O'Dwyer went out with an ankle injury and cornerback Aaron Glenn was hobbled by cramps.

The injuries hurt the Jets defensively Sunday. Going into the game, the Jets ranked sixth in the American Football Conference and ninth in the National Football League in total defense, allowing 308.8 yards a game. That defense mustered four interceptions against the Rams, two each by Otis Smith (University of Missouri) and safety Gary Jones.

But little mistakes, such as Willig's penalty, hurt the Jets.

"At that point, it was me," he said. "That's why we lose games. We have mistakes like that."

The Jets had momentum before the penalty. Rams quarterback Chris Miller had been knocked from the game in the second quarter. He suffered a concussion on a hit by Washington, who was ejected. The Rams' offense stalled.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, with Rypien in relief of Miller, Smith picked off a pass intended for Bruce at the Rams' 27. Bruce fell down on the play. …

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