Ryan Kalil could feel the difference.
“It felt like the first time this season we were able to play fast,’’ the Jets center said.
The difference was palpable to Kelvin Beachum.
“We knew where each other was, and I think that showed throughout the game,’’ the Jets left tackle said.
The Jets were 0-4 entering Sunday’s game against the Cowboys, and their offensive line had become a five-man punching bag for critics, with the offensive looking like it was running in sand.
And then Jets 24, Cowboys 22 happened Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
The maligned offensive line kept quarterback Sam Darnold, who’d missed the previous three games with mononucleosis, clean and safe, allowing only two sacks. And the running game was just effective enough to keep the Dallas defense honest.
“We had a quarterback that knew what he was doing,’’ Beachum said, referring to the Jets having to play third-string quarterback Luke Falk — who was waived late in the week — the previous three games.
“It was getting depressing around here,’’ left guard Brian Winters conceded. “It wasn’t all the offensive line. It just took time, and obviously it’s good to have all the pieces back. To have Sam back was a game-changer. He puts us in the best situations and he makes plays.
“We weren’t far away. Obviously, it took more time than we wanted it to, but we have a chance to be a great team and go on a roll.’’
Kalil, a 13-year veteran, had been insisting that the line was “close’’ in recent weeks.
“We cleaned up a lot of the stuff that we said we were real close on,’’ Kalil said. “Guys did a good job of trusting the scheme and trusting the process and staying the course. We were one block away here, one quick cut away there. When you do that, you can stay ahead of the chains and it give coach [Adam] Gase a lot more options to call things.
“To finally have a win coming out of this, it gives the team confidence, especially the younger guys.’’
Beachum said he understood the criticism, saying, “The offensive line always gets the brunt of the criticism. It’s part of this game. It’s something you sign up for when you play the position. But this game shows what this offensive line is capable of.’’
It’ll be interesting to see what this game does for the Jets confidence.
“It was a confidence booster and a morale booster,’’ backup center and guard Jonotthan Harrison said. “Something like this brings us together as a team that much more. Nobody likes hearing [criticism], but we have a lot of older guys in the room so there’s a lot of maturity. I feel like this group does a great job of drowning out the noise.’’
The sound of silence on Sunday night was music to the ears of the Jets offensive line.