FLORHAM PARK — When Aaron Rodgers went down for the year two weeks ago, the belief was that the New York Jets vaunted defense they possess would need to be key to their games.
Lost in the concerns of the team’s offensive line and quarterback through two games is that same defense had one of their worst games of the Robert Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich era last Sunday in Dallas.
“It wasn’t our standard as we all know, nobody in that locker room or the coaching staff is happy with how we played, but ultimately it was a third down issue,” the defensive coordinator said. “Partly me, there are some calls I would love to have back and partly the guys just need to execute a little bit better. We get off on those third downs and those drives just don’t keep extending and keeping us on the field, so that was a big part of it.”
New York gave up over 380 yards of offense and allowed the Cowboys to go 9-18 on third down. Dallas scored on seven offensive drives in the contest – more than any opponent in the last two seasons. The 42:15-17:45 time of possession difference was a collection of major issues the team is working through.
With all of those issues though, problems along the defense and organization can go away if the Jets can beat their arch-rival on Sunday. The New England Patriots have won 14 straight games against Gang Green – the last games thanks to ineptitude on the offensive side of the ball.
Gang Green’s offense will be under the microscope again, but the only way the Jets can officially win against Bill Belichick’s squad is if their defense leads the way.
New England may sit at a disappointing 0-2 on the year, but improved play from quarterback Mac Jones, and the return of Bill O’Brien to the staff make the offense far more lethal.
“I know their record does not indicate that and I know they got behind in a couple of these games early, so it kind of maybe changed the direction of the offense, but he (O’Brien) is a fantastic coach, had a lot of success in the League and they got some guys on offense that are a problem,” Ulbrich explained.
The Jets lineup is focused on ending the near decade-long streak that has hovered around the halls of their facility over the years. And while the Patriots may not have many top talents like in the days of Tom Brady, they still have a superb coaching staff that has given even the best defenses in football fits over the first couple of weeks.
“They don’t have a complex offense. It’s pretty simple…but they excel at it. What they try to do is get other people to mess up. They do everything right,” All-Pro cornerback Sauce Gardner said Wednesday.
Gardner’s comments may have been a surprise, but it’s the way the Patriots have won over the last two decades. Their ability to not make mistakes offensively puts a stranglehold against some of the top defenses, while their defenses force players to make mistakes in key moments.
For a team as talented as New York’s playing a mistake-free game is easier said than done. The Jets defense struggled to contain CeeDee Lamb throughout Sunday’s contest and missed plenty of tackles across the board. The Jets aren’t focusing on what happened in Dallas though, they are more worried about what will happen on Sunday.
“We have the mentality to go and shake back. We didn’t perform like we wanted to do. We can’t dwell on the past so we have to look forward to this week and bounce back,” Gardner explained.
If the Jets want to be considered a “historical defense” like many on the roster were talking about, they’ll need to be the focal point for most of their wins during the 2023 season. Without Aaron Rodgers, how they play on Sunday could very well determine how the rest of the regular season goes.