The Jets’ secondary still has its plight, but at least for head coach Todd Bowles, his front seven has managed to pick up a majority of the slack during its recent winning streak.
Sunday’s comeback win over the Cleveland Browns, where the Jets erased a 20-7 halftime deficit, featured some of the same errors that plagued the Jets (3-5) during its recent four-game skid. Cornerback Darrelle Revis was undressed by wideout Terrelle Pryor in the first half, as the former quarterback racked up 101 receiving yards before the two-minute warning. Browns quarterback Josh McCown hooked up with receivers on the deep ball often in that first half, including completions of 35, 32, 32, 24, 18, 17, and 15 yards. Those kind of numbers – and the amassed deficit – makes the Jets’ comeback even more impressive, regardless if the Browns are still winless.
McCown completed 16-of-22 passes for 228 yards in the first half and looked sharp in carving up New York’s defense. But something changed for Gang Green after the break, and it came in the form of an offense with renewed energy and purpose, and a defense that flipped the switch. McCown was a paltry 9-of-22 for 113 yards in the second half, and he threw both of his interceptions after the break.
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It was as if the defense said they had enough and decided to play up to its potential.
Bowles has been impressed with the defense – particularly his linemen – in the recent two-game winning streak. He noted that the versatility has been a real key in the unit’s resurgence.
“We’ve utilized them in different ways, different weeks. But all four of them can do different things at different times,” Bowles said. “[Defensive ends] Sheldon [Richardson] and Leonard [Williams] had good ball games. [Defensive end] Mac [Steve McLendon], too. As has Mo [defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson]. Going forward, depending on the game plan, we’ll use them all in different ways as we see fit.”
The Jets’ quasi-resurgence can be tied to a defense that’s seemingly beginning to find its form. Sure, it was against the struggling Baltimore Ravens (3-4), who are losers in four straight, and the winless Browns (0-8), but a revival must start somewhere.
The next order of business, though, must be for Bowles and co. to figure out a way to start hot and maintain the momentum instead of trying to use a wake-up call like an early deficit to kick-start matters. The coach is hoping his defense will be able to set the tone during a three-game stretch that is very winnable, and the best way to get the Jets back to the .500 mark, is in Miami, on Sunday.
Bowles reasoned a faster start will help cushion the blow any time adversity happens, since morale always seem to lessen any time an opposing offense executed a big play against them during the four-game slide.
“We always try to play that style [attacking and aggressive] in the beginning, but sometimes when big plays happen, here and there, they kind of put a damper on things and you don’t try to do as much,” Bowles said. “And when you get behind and teams do certain things, your aggressive personality goes away.”
But after two solid performances by his defense, the Jets seem poised to at least get back to respectability and make a mini-run. And at the very least, Bowles thinks that maybe Gang Green has gotten back its swagger.
“We’re getting back to what we do best and what certain guys can do best,” Bowles said. “Early on in the season, we tried to get to that and we couldn’t get some of the things done depending on certain game plans. … We’re not protecting guys. We’re doing what we do best and letting guys do what they do best.”