Raise your hand if you thought the New York Jets would be 3-3 at their bye-week break after Aaron Rodgers went down with a torn Achilles tendon four snaps into his debut.
Even the most optimistic of fans likely had a tough time envisioning that scenario, especially after ugly losses to Dallas and New England in consecutive weeks, followed by a tightly contested defeat against Kansas City.
It still probably seemed unlikely Sunday until late in the fourth quarter, when the Jets’ defense came up with stop after stop and made a big play – Tony Adams’ interception – to put New York in position to score the eventual winning touchdown in a 20-14 victory over previously undefeated Philadelphia.
“Not that anyone cares, but there has been a lot of adversity within this organization, with all the different things that have transpired,” coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “But the resolve and the resilience of the group that we have in the locker room and the effort that’s put out day in and day out, on Sundays, I think has been evident.
“But all this great momentum could end if we don’t finish strong coming off the bye week.”
Entering the season, the talk around the facility was Super Bowl hopes – but that was with Rodgers leading the way.
Without the four-time NFL MVP and with the struggling Zach Wilson under center instead, all that seemed like nothing more than a pipe dream.
But the defense has been strong and Wilson has been more efficient and not making the mistakes he made so often his first two seasons.
“I think there’s been no hiccup with this team, especially this offense,” Wilson said. “These guys understand how good we can be and we’re seeing it out here.”
There are certainly still some major flaws, especially on offense, with the Jets relying too often on field goals instead of finishing drives in the end zone. In their last two wins, over Denver and Philadelphia, Greg Zuerlein has kicked nine field goals.
That can’t be sustained if New York plans to keep pulling out victories.
The defense has been downright stingy in the second half, not allowing a touchdown in the final two quarters in five of the six games. Against the high-flying Eagles, the Jets kept Jalen Hurts & Co. off the scoreboard after halftime – and that was even with starting cornerbacks Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed out with concussions.
“I’ll tell you what,” linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “On the defensive side, we’ve been through hell and back.”
So have long-suffering Jets fans, who now suddenly have optimism after feeling despair just a few weeks ago.
Second-half defense. Credit defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich for consistently making halftime adjustments and helping the defense live up to its lofty expectations to be one of the best units in football.
“He’s got an unbelievable level of trust with the players, and the players trust him and love him,” Saleh said. “From a head coaching standpoint, I’m just going to say this for him: He checks every single box and is definitely deserving of every accolade that he gets.”
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Third-down and red-zone offense. The Jets are still struggling in both situations. They were 2 for 11 on third down, with both conversions coming on the same drive late in the third quarter. At 25% on the season, New York ranks last in the NFL in that category. The Jets were 1 for 4 in the red zone and are 29.4% for the season, ranking better than only Pittsburgh (29%).
“I think we’re close,” Wilson said. “But I think it comes down to eliminating negative plays.”
Adams. The second-year undrafted free agent was mostly a backup as a rookie but won the starting safety job out of training camp this summer. Adams, who missed two games with a hamstring injury, came up with the play of the game – and the Jets expect that to be a regular occurrence.
“We know he’s going to have some ups and downs,” Saleh said. “The ups are going to continue to become more and more frequent. He’s a freak athlete.”
MetLife Stadium turf. Wide receiver Garrett Wilson left briefly with a non-contact injury and was able to return, but he had some strong criticism about the playing surface. “It’s garbage, man,” Wilson said after the game. MetLife Stadium replaced its synthetic turf field during the offseason after several players were injured in recent years, but even the new playing surface is being heavily criticized. Rodgers’ injury came on the same field, but it was on a sack and not a non-contact play.
Saleh had no immediate updates on injured players, but the Jets hope to have both Gardner and Reed back from concussions after the bye. … Rookie OL Joe Tippmann is dealing with a thigh injury that could sideline him a few weeks.
2 – The number of teams in NFL history that have trailed at halftime in each of their first six games and still have at least a .500 record, according to ESPN Stats and Info. The Jets join the 2022 Colts (3-2-1).
After the bye, the Jets take on the Giants as the visiting team before facing the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders. Then come AFC East games against Buffalo and Miami, so New York has a chance to begin its playoff run with a good stretch.
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