Jets' Defense Shows Its Dominant Side
By Neil Cohen
A push by the New England Patriots might’ve been the key play which led the New York Jets to a 30-27 overtime win Sunday at MetLife Stadium, but the way the Jets’ defense pushed around the Pats for a while was also important.
The third quarter proved to be one for the ages for the defense, especially the front seven.
A hint of what was to come came late in the second quarter.
New England already held a 21-10 lead and had the ball the 50. Following an offensive-holding penalty the Patriots were unable to get anything going and lost 7 yards on the drive.
The defense seemed passive against Tom Brady in the first half, giving him time to throw. That would change after halftime.
“(The defensive staff) made a couple of adjustments that they thought would help us, and they did,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said. “You’re playing against a group that knows what they are doing with the football. The fact they were 1-for-12 on third down was good. We can put that in the good category, but I think it was more about our defense than about who wasn’t there and everything else.”
On the first possession of the third quarter, Brady targeted Rob Gronkowski, in his first game of the season. Safety Antonio Allen was able to get in front of the pass and returned it for a touchdown. Allen was up to the task of defending Gronkowski, who was targeted 17 times and made eight catches.
After that, the men up front took over. For the next three series, the Patriots went three-and-out. On the first one, the Patriots came up just short, gaining 9 yards, but had to punt the ball away. The next possession started with a Damon Harrison sack and finished losing 3 yards in three plays. The third time, Muhammad Wilkerson got to Brady on first down and that drive was finished for minus-5 yards. By the next time the Patriots got the ball, the Jets held a 27-21 lead.
“That was huge,” rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said “They were gashing us starting off the game. (They) had a few good offensive positions, but we turned it around real quick. We bend but don’t break sometimes.”
Unfortunately, the bending caused problems in the fourth quarter. It’s been a problem this season, getting a lead then letting down a little bit. New England put together two long drives (10 plays for 62, then 12 for 66) before settling for field goals. That was enough to force overtime. The defense held after the Patriots won the toss, and the Jets got a break for the win. Brady was sacked four times, and the Patriots were held to 295 total yards.
While the Jets’ defense, with the exception of last season, has been tough under Ryan, this is a different look. In the past the Jets had older players in the front seven and had to rely on stunts and safety blitzes to get to quarterbacks. Now, the team is getting the type of players up front which caused the Daily News a few weeks back to compare this year’s group to the fabled Sack Exchange of the 1980s. According to ESPN, the Jets sent four of fewer pass rushers on 43 of Brady’s 49 dropbacks.
First among those stars is Wilkerson, who has collected six sacks already this season, after getting five all last year. The third-year player has become a handful for offensive lineman to deal with. He’s gotten plenty of help from Richardson and Harrison.
As for the linebackers, Quinton Coples, when he’s been healthy, has played well, and David Harris and Calvin Pace provide steady production and veteran leadership.
This stout defense ranks second in the NFL, allowing 77.7 yards rushing per game and hasn’t given up 100 yards to a back this year. Next up is Cincinnati, which averages 102.7 yards on the ground, 19th in the league.
The Jets showed how dominant they can be in the third quarter against the Patriots. Now they just have to mature and avoid the letdowns they had in the fourth and against the Bills to really become a force.