Jets cornerback Isaiah Trufant's mindset heading into Sunday's AFC East showdown against the New England Patriots was "Focus, pay attention to my job, and do what I was coached to do."
The Jets fell, 29-26, in overtime to the Pats, but a day after the loss, Trufant received high praise from his head coach, Rex Ryan.
"Watch him cover a kick, watch him on the practice field, watch him on the game field. He deserves it," Ryan said during his news conference this afternoon. "He's been doing a terrific job for us. He's such a competitive young man that we thought that gave us our best chance. Going against Wes Welker, that's about as tough as it gets. I thought he really competed well."
Matched up against Welker, New England's four-time Pro Bowl WR, the 5"8' 170-pounder proved he was up for the challenge.
One of quarterback Tom Brady's favorite receiving targets, Welker entered the game having produced four straight 100-yard receiving games.
But those impressive stats didn't scare Trufant.
When it was all over, No. 35 for the Green & White had ended Welker's streak of consecutive 100-yard games, leading the charge as the ninth-year pro was limited to six catches for 66 yards.
"It definitely means something deep down inside of me," Trufant said. "He's obviously a great wide receiver. He's a quick, fast guy. Big ups to the little guys, anyway. But at the same time, it just feels good to be out there amongst guys like that, given those kind of roles."
With the home team appearing to be driving into Jets territory and already holding a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter, Trufant came up with his two most important plays of the afternoon.
At second-and-9 from the 50, Brady threw a pass to Welker, who was immediately wrapped up by Trufant for a loss of 2 yards. Now facing third-and-11, Brady this time hit Danny Woodhead, but the play finished with the same result as Trufant once again came up with a 2-yard tackle for loss. The back-to-back plays forced the Patriots to punt and provided the Jets offense some momentum as they immediately set out on a 92-yard drive to Dustin Keller's 7-yard TD reception from Mark Sanchez, which cut New England's lead to 23-20.
"They were getting some pretty good gains off of the screens a few drives before that," the Jets CB said, "so I feel that was pretty big getting those stops like that."
Trufant was in for 89 plays, second-most on the Jets behind rookie LB Demario Davis' 98 plays. Sixty-nine of 'Zaiah's plays came on defense, 20 on special teams.
Although the Jets didn't leave Foxboro with a W, Trufant's performance was an encouraging sign, especially for a secondary that has had to elevate its play ever since All Pro corner Darrelle Revis tore his left ACL last month in Miami.
"I felt that if I didn't play good it would cost us," he said. "So I was trying to be on top of my game to the best of my ability and trying to do the things right."
It's now evident that Trufant's quickness and speed is capable of causing smaller receivers havoc. With the Miami Dolphins next on the schedule, the Jets will aim to correct their mistakes from Sunday quickly. And the former Eastern Washington product believes he can build off his most recent performance.
"I'm going to try to feed off any positive things that I took from the game and try to take them on to the next week," he said. "Any opportunities I have on defense, I'm going to try to take full advantage. But if not, I'm going to do my job wherever I'm at."