The schedule said Week 6, but the fate of the Jets season was very much in the balance. Their 24-6 win against the Dolphins should infuse some much needed swagger back into this team.
Things were looking good for the Jets to start the season. A comeback victory in Week 1 over the Cowboys was followed by a dominating win against Jacksonville. But just as Jets fans began to believe that this could be the year to end four-plus decades of misery, the slide began. Three straight losses on the road all of a sudden turned promise into a season on the brink. The ledge was suddenly filled with Jets fans ready to jump.
But against a team they had to beat, the Jets stepped up and got the win.
“We needed a win in the worst way,” head coach Rex Ryan said. “Just happy we found a way to get one.”
The Jets answered the bell in sending the Dolphins to a 0-5 mark, amidst all the talk about their stale offense and fans disgust at offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
It wasn’t a perfect performance. The offense started slowly – failing to get a first down until well into the second quarter. There was also a bad special teams play by Garrett McIntyre in the first quarter. He unwittingly made contact with the ball on a kickoff, a gaffe that led to a turnover. And the defense gave up 215 yards of total offense in the first half to backup quarterback Matt Moore. But the Jets turned jeers to cheers with a win on Monday night.
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Quarterback Mark Sanchez said it was “crazy” to think that this locker room was splintering with all the losing. Instead, he said the team “was hungry for a win.”
“I think we realized what we’re capable of. We did it through practice; we had a great week of practice,” running back Shonn Greene said. “When stuff like that happens, it’s great to see.”
It could have been easy for the Jets to let their losing skid get the best of them. Earlier this week, they traded disgruntled wide receiver Derrick Mason in a move that management and Ryan said was based on the player’s on-field performance and not his recent outburst about the offense’s poor performance. Two days later, Santonio Holmes called out the offensive line for poor play. Guard Brandon Moore fired back at Holmes in the media.
It looked like the Jets were unraveling.
There was drama, finger pointing and enough ill will to qualify the entire Jets locker room for Congress. But somehow, they overcame all that for an emphatic win. Right tackle Wayne Hunter told Metro that the message from Ryan all week was one of unity.
“Morale was down after the three game losing streak. Us getting us a win, this picks us back up,” Hunter said. “Just pick it up, that was the message, just pick it up; pick each other up. Trust – that was from Rex, trust in each other and trust in yourselves.”
As Holmes and Moore walked side-by-side to take the coin toss– a vintage move by Ryan– there was a quiet sense of confidence about this team. Even after the Jets went down early to the Dolphins, and the boos began to rain down after their first four possessions resulted in three-and-outs, the Jets didn’t waver. There was no temper tantrum, no hissy fits and no name calling.
Instead, they answered with plays. First with a Darrelle Revis first quarter interception and a 100-yard touchdown return to atone for McIntyre’s special teams blunder. Then, it was Sanchez systematically marching the team down the field 81 yards in 11 plays for a second quarter touchdown drive.
There is a certain strain of character that pops through these Jets, even though it seems like the locker room is ready to fracture at any moment. A despondent group of Jets last Sunday in Foxboro, Mass. gave way to giddiness on the sidelines Monday night, with Holmes kidding around with his teammates and shout-outs replacing players being called out. A win can change a lot of things for any team, and it might be just what the Jets need to finally begin reaching their potential.
Critics inside and outside the team may have grabbed the headlines for the past week, but the Jets weren’t too worried about all of that. They worried about themselves.
“I think we answered our own, doing it for ourselves. We’re not too worried about what the critics had to say,” Greene said. “We know what we’re capable of.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.