The Jets set a franchise record for penalties in a Week 3 win over the Bills. In the days immediately following that game, head coach Rex Ryan instituted a policy in practice whereby if a player get whistled for a call the whole team had to do push-ups.
Something had to be done. Granted, the Jets had beaten the Bills but an upper-echelon team would have run them off the field if they had committed 20 penalties for 168 yards.
The policy appears to have worked. The past two weeks show a startling decline in penalties. The week after the Bills game, in a loss at the Titans, the Jets cut the penalties in half — still a dangerously high 10. But in their last-gasp win over the Falcons on Monday night, they were whistled just six times for 24 yards.
All those pushups are paying off.
“I do pushups every day, so it's not the push-ups,” tight end Jeff Cumberland told Metro. “What it is is focus. It is being aware of it and keeping that in the back of your mind. It is having your antennas up and being aware about it. Then it carries over to the games like it is supposed to. It is all about the right focus.”
After that franchise record for penalties, Ryan instituted the pushup policy — but with a twist. When a player was flagged in practice, the entire unit had to drop down for 10 push-ups while the offending player stood there and watched. It was as much mental conditioning as anything.
Ryan even teased that owner Woody Johnson would need to do push-ups if he was at practice.
The best news to come from this isn't just that the Jets are cutting back on their penalties but they are still playing with a certain reckless abandon and not getting flagged. Against the Falcons, the Jets had two sacks, recovered a fumble and blocked a punt. They also had a tremendous goal-line stand right before halftime. The penalties are down but the Jets are still playing with an edge.
It is a fine line and a true balance that the Jets struck on Monday night and hope to do again against the Steelers this week.
“You can't let penalties keep you from making plays. We're professionals, we just needed to focus on it,” safety Josh Bush told Metro. “Every team has something they have to work on coming into the season and for us it was penalties. Now it is something that we've worked on and focused on and improved on.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.