Sunday’s win over the Baltimore Ravens could be the impetus for a Jets’ resurgence, especially considering the way the schedule shakes out.
New York is sitting at 2-5, but with an upcoming slate that includes the Cleveland Browns (0-7), Miami Dolphins (3-4), and Los Angeles Rams (3-4) -- before their Nov.27 tilt with the New England Patriots (6-1) – Gang Green might be able to gain some traction and get back into the AFC Wild Card race.
The Ravens game was a good start to do so, particularly on defense, which means the Jets may be able to hearken back to a time when the defense did the heavy lifting. They made need to, considering their quarterback issues – one who is reportedly out for the year with a torn ACL, and the other with an injured ego. The former, Geno Smith, has likely played his final down in green and white, as reports are surfacing that he’s suffered significant damage to his knee. Smith is in the final year of his contract, meaning he’s likely done with the Jets – and vice-versa. The latter quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, came into the game for relief and played well. And with Smith done, he will regain the helm.
Smith’s injury and Fitzpatrick’s postgame mini-tirade stole the tabloid headlines, but the real story going forward for the Jets should be how well the defense has rebounded and will likely be called upon to shoulder a bigger load.
Gang Green limited the Ravens to just six rushing yards on 12 attempts, which was the lowest single-game output allowed in franchise history. It marked the fewest single-game rushing yards allowed by the Jets since surrendering 12 yards to the Dolphins, last November. Todd Bowles’s defense have had their moments since he arrived, last season, as the Jets have held opponents to the three lowest single-game rushing totals in franchise history.
Baltimore could be the springboard for New York to start to flex its muscle again. At least, that’s what some of its members are hoping.
“These last couple of weeks, we’ve been in a slump as a team,” noted cornerback Darrelle Revis. “I think everyone was. [But] I think it [their defensive performance] can carry over … Moving forward, I think we can build off this win.”
New York didn’t allow an offensive touchdown to Baltimore. The last time that happened was Dec. 2014 at Tennessee, and the last time that occurred on home soil was against Arizona in Dec. 2012.
A main reason for Sunday’s performance was the creativity of Bowles and defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers, and the versatility of the players. Even without Pro Bowl defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle) and stellar rookie linebacker Darron Lee (ankle), the Jets were able to rattle Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco with exotic blitzes and coverages, and a chameleon scheme.
Lining up customary defensive end Sheldon Richardson at linebacker at times has been a brilliant wrinkle in recent games. Richardson, who has been criticized over the years for showing a terrifying lack of judgment and for being selfish, was all over the field. He tallied his first full sack of the season to go along with a team-high eight tackles -- three for loss. Richardson was more than happy to primarily play at his usual defensive end spot in the 3-4 defense (three lineman and four linebackers), sans Wilkerson, but also displayed the type of team-first mentality that’ll further ingratiate himself with the coaching staff by accepting some linebacker duties.
The 6-foot-3, nearly-300 pounder was everywhere a Raven ball carrier was. He takes pride in the fact that he’s the only one of the defensive linemen on the team who is deft enough to guard “running backs, tight ends, [and] slot receivers … I hold my own.” Richardson reasoned that playing so many positions, even if miscast, is “building my resume.”
That type of versatility can serve Gang Green well going forward, especially once Wilkerson and Lee return. And if the Jets can use the Baltimore game as a catalyst for a winning streak, then all the previous drama – including quarterback issues, locker room disputes, and finger-pointing -- will give way to a feeling that hasn’t been experienced much this season, hope.
Gang Green notes:
-Entering Sunday’s tilt, the Jets had recorded just four takeaways. But in a little more than a five-minute span in the third quarter, they collected three takeaways and turned a 16-14 deficit into a 24-16 win. Revis is hoping the takeaways continue in droves:
“We struggled early on to force turnovers as a defense, but we’re known to force turnovers. We were one of the top defenses in the league last year. Once one comes, they start coming in bunches.”
-Since 2015 (a span of 11 home games), the Jets have allowed NFL-lows of 735 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns at home. And Gang Green is one of three teams this season to yield 60 or fewer rushing yards in three or more home games.
-Forte rushed for 100 yards on 30 carries en route to becoming just the seventh player in NFL history to amass 9,000 rushing yards and 500 career receptions for his career. He’s also just the sixth player in league history to record 9,000 yards rushing, 4,000 yards receiving, and 500 receptions.