Stopping the run remains a work in progress for the New York Jets defense.
Going up against a run-heavy San Francisco 49ers offense Sunday, a valuable opportunity presented itself. The 49ers entered the contest ranked seventh in the NFL in rushing offense, averaging 141.0 yards per game after being held to 88 yards in their 24-13 loss at Minnesota a week earlier.
However by the time the game was complete, before the late afternoon games were in the books, the 49ers had risen to second, exploding for a season-high 245-yard performance on the ground in defeating the Jets, 34-0, at MetLife Stadium.
"I've never given up so many rushing yards in my life," Jets head coach Rex Ryan said following the loss. "We can't just say it's poor tackling and this and that. There must be something to it, so we're going to find out. Clearly, we're not going to beat anybody when we play like we did today."
Safety Yeremiah Bell, who recorded five tackles on the day, said besides tackling, the unit needs to also improve on getting its opponents off the field on third down.
"We know what to do, we know where we're hurting at," Bell said. "That's not the thing. It's just execution. I guess the execution is not there like we want it to be and you know, it's becoming a real problem and it's something we've got to take care of right now."
When you consider opponents rushing yards, the Jets defense has given up totals of 195, 66, 185 and 245 through their first four games. The numbers are very surprising, especially due to the fact that the defensive unit has been ranked among the NFL's top five in total defense in each of Ryan's three seasons as the Green & White head coach.
"We just have got to stop the run," third-year cornerback Kyle Wilson said. "Once we stop the run, that tailors to our defense, as far as making them one-dimensional and making them throw the ball. Again we just have to watch film and get some things corrected. Overall, just play our technique and our defense will be fine."
The defense had a few successes, forcing San Francisco to punt on its first two drives and allowing 10 points through the first 30 minutes. CB Antonio Cromartie spoke up for the pass defense in the secondary's first game since All Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis tore his left ACL.
"I think we did pretty good," Cromartie said. "I think we still got beat on a couple of throws down the field, but we just have to make sure we learn from that and continue to play and make sure that we're communicating the way that we need to communicate. I think the communication was very good today. I think we had one or two miscues with the ball thrown down the field, but we just have to keep building from there and just continue to work hard. That's all we can do."
San Francisco appeared to catch the Jets off guard when they ran the Wildcat with backup QB Colin Kaepernick, who scored on a 7-yard keeper early in the second quarter and took off on a 30-yard run late in the game.
"We weren't surprised by them doing it, but probably just by how many times they did it," linebacker Aaron Maybin said. "If you're giving a team like that success, they're going to continue to do what's working."
Ryan said he is giving the team today and Tuesday off. He hopes his players will use the days to dissect, evaluate and reflect where they stand. With the undefeated Houston Texans next on the schedule, maybe two days away from football is what's needed most right now, although several Jets said they'd still be at the Atlantic Health Training Center both days.
"I think today was an indication that all of us, not one person on this team is where they need to be right now," Maybin said. "We all have corrections and mistakes that have to be rectified if we're going to be able to turn this ship around."