The Jets were trailing Las Vegas by 11 points in the third quarter last Sunday, when running back Ty Johnson turned to offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains on the sidelines.
“ ‘Hey, do you think you can call some runs for me?’ ” Loggains recalled the conversation earlier this week. “Just how loose he was, how charismatic he was, you could feel his personality.
“And it was awesome to see as a coach, to see this young kid who’s a great competitor to full-on maximize his opportunity.”
Indeed, with future Hall of Famer Frank Gore sidelined with a concussion, Johnson rushed for 104 yards on 22 carries to become the first Jets running back to surpass the century mark on the ground since Isaiah Crowell ran for a team-record 219 yards on Oct. 7, 2018.
Gore could be cleared from concussion protocol to return Sunday against Seattle, but Johnson — and Josh Adams, who contributed 74 rushing yards against the Raiders — suddenly have presented the Jets with viable options at the position following the October release of Le’Veon Bell and an ankle injury suffered by rookie La’Mical Perine.
The last-second loss to the Raiders overshadowed the winless Jets’ first 200-yard rushing game as a team since the aforementioned Crowell performance.
Johnson, a sixth-round pick in 2019 claimed off waivers in October from Detroit, added a 1-yard touchdown plunge Sunday to give the Jets a 28-24 lead with 5:34 remaining. It marked the first NFL touchdown for the 23-year-old Johnson, who had totaled only eight carries in four previous appearances with the Jets.
“I didn’t believe I actually scored,” Johnson said. “To hit pay dirt, it was just really wild. I was like, ‘Damn, I just scored!’
“It was a great moment, still doesn’t seem real. … It’s been a long two years and it was just a blessing.”
Johnson added the scoring play would have meant even more to him if not for the Jets’ latest heartbreaking loss to fall to 0-12.
Coach Adam Gase acknowledged “the game doesn’t always go the way you want,” but even if the 37-year-old Gore, who is questionable, returns this week, the coaching staff would like to keep Johnson involved in the offense.
“Obviously, you hate to see a player go out to get an opportunity to [play],” Johnson said of Gore. “But at the end of the day, the coaches gave me an opportunity to go in there and play and that’s what I was going to do.”