The Jets got a little defensive on Sunday — and not just in getting the back of their head coach.

A dominating performance against the high-octane, full-throttled Patriots’ offense not only erased the humiliation of 45-3 loss in their last trip to Foxborough, but showed that despite the down numbers, this Jets’ defense is every bit the same fearsome unit that led the NFL in yards allowed last season.

“We just came out and played, we executed in every facet of the game,” safety Brodney Pool said. “We stayed tight on them in the secondary and didn’t let them get open. It was just a great all-around effort, something to really hang our hat on.”

While they only forced one turnover, the Jets’ secondary was responsible for all the pressure on Tom Brady. The All-Pro quarterback was sacked a season-high five times, largely due to limited options down the field. The numbers are a stark contrast to Week 13, when Brady torched Gang Green for 326 yards and four touchdowns. While the team buried a game ball near their practice field just two
days after that game, a symbolic gesture that they had moved on from the game, nothing more clearly
showed that they finally have bounced back then Sunday’s performance
against the Patriots.

“We officially buried the ball today with the way we played,” nose tackle Sione Pouha said on Sunday. “We maybe didn’t really do that until this game, but it’s now completely over. We’re back where we want to be with the way we’re playing.”

It’s about time.

The swagger and intimidation of an aggressive unit from 2009 took a big hit in its encore performance this regular season despite — or perhaps because of — so many new faces, such as Jason Taylor and Antonio Cromartie. After 17 weeks, though, the Jets have regained that swagger and are peaking at the right time.

And while the three and four man pass rush of the Jets wasn’t overwhelming, it was the secondary that shone in clamping down on the Patriots receiving corps. The Jets succeeded in multiple front looks against Brady, stunts and moves which utilized the versatility of head coach Rex Ryan’s four linebackers on the field and confused the Patriots quarterback. Brady never looked comfortable in the pocket and had trouble settling in with his feet constantly moving as he scanned down field for options.

The result was five coverage sacks as Brady couldn’t get the ball away fast enough, knocking his Uggs off repeatedly.

“You can’t just give them one thing all the time. You have to mix your coverages, mix your blitzes, mix your simulated coverage,” Ryan said. “Against these great quarterbacks, that’s what you have to do.”

The season-high number of sacks on Brady was from a defense that for consecutive weeks has made the league’s top quarterbacks look very average.

In the wild-card win over Indianapolis, it was Peyton Manning who was limited in the pocket against the Jets, held to his third-lowest yardage game of the season. It was humbling stuff for the Colts quarterback, who was coming off the highest passing totals of his career in the regular season. The Jets face an equally daunting task in the AFC championship against another top-10 rated passer in Ben Roethlisberger.

The strategy for the Jets is simple and remains the same.

“You’ve got to mix it on them,” Ryan said. “This isn’t the first time we’ve ever played good on defense. We know a little bit about playing defense.”

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