The Jets defense learned from the mistakes of their ugly defeat last week.
One week after Andy Dalton tore the New York defense to shreds, Muhammad Wilkerson, Antonio Cromartie and the secondary stepped up to limit Drew Brees in a 26-20 win over New Orleans.
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The Jets caught a break with Marques Colston inactive and an early injury to Darren Sproles, but the defensive line looked much more like before the blowout in Cincinnati. Wilkerson, Quinton Coples, Sheldon Richardson and Calvin Pace routinely pressured Brees. The team had just two sacks (one each by Wilkerson and Pace) but that did not tell the whole story. Wilkerson also had two QB hits, with Pace adding three hits and Richardson one of his own. David Harris was also routinely in the backfield, finishing with a team-high 10 tackles, including one for loss.
The offense, meanwhile, did just enough to win. It was the twin attack of Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell that did most of the damage. The pair returned to the physical style they showed against New England two weeks ago. Ivory finished with 139 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, while Powell added nine carries for 29 yards.
Smith minimized mistakes despite finishing with an underwhelming line — 8-of-19 for 115 yards, no interceptions and no touchdowns. He did rush for a 3-yard score at the end of the first half.
The bright spot for the Saints was Jimmy Graham, who couldn't be covered by anyone. Safety Jaiquawn Jarrett gave up a deep touchdown pass to Graham, while Cromartie gave up a short one. He was really uncoverable.
What went right ...
1. Big stops
The Jets defense has been criticized in the past for choking in big spots. Twice they came up with big stops in the fourth quarter against the Saints though. Coples stayed at home on a reverse on fourth-and-1 with 7:49 left in the game and brought down Lance Moore for an 8-yard loss. And after the offense quickly went three-and-out twice in a row, the Jets defense was forced to stop Brees with a tenuous 26-20 lead and 1:58 remaining. Wilkerson forced a holding penalty on the one pass Brees did complete and the Jets ended the game with their defense harassing Brees into an incomplete shovel pass on fourth down.
2. Big backs
Ivory ran downright angry against his former team. He always had said he believed he was a feature back, but never truly got the opportunity to show it in New Orleans. He did against them — with the Jets — though. He finished with 139 yards rushing, but it was the big runs that often were backbreakers. Specifically, he had a big 52-yard run with his team backed up inside the 5-yard line in the second quarter.
3. More Folk
Nick Folk continues to establish himself as the Jets' team MVP. If you are going to play a physical, defensive style, you are going to need to play well on special teams. Folk has literally been perfect on the season. He was 4-for-4 Sunday and improved to 23-of-23 on the season. He hasn't missed an extra point either. He hit field goals from 39 yards, 21 yards, 47 yards and 45 yards — in that order. When Smith and the offense continued to bog down, it was Folk who bailed them out and at least got some points on the board.
Follow Metro New York Sports Editor Mark Osborne on Twitter @MetroNYSports.