Updaetd, 5:47 p.m. ET
The Green & White picket fence remains under construction for at least one more week. And the house it's protecting today, heading into the bye week, is standing tall, pretty as a picture.
The Jets, as battered and bruised as New Orleans was today, nailed together a powerful rushing game by former Saint Chris Ivory, some timely takeaway defense against QB Drew Brees, and four more Nick Folk field goals in holding off the ballyhooed Saints at MetLife Stadium, 26-20.
We've alternated wins and losses all year and as head coach Rex Ryan said, one more week would be just fine before he got that pattern fixed. And so it was as these resilient Jets improve to 5-4 on the season heading into the bye to get healthy and then head into road stops at Buffalo and Baltimore to start our final seven games.
"All I know is I've got a team that believes in itself all the way," the jubilant Ryan said (after, as an aside, improving his record vs. Saints coordinator Rob Ryan, his twin bro, to 5-0 in the pros). "It was a great team effort. We had some tough injuries, but we just kept hanging in there and found a way."
Ivory was the star in this game that he swore was no bigger to him than the next opponent up. He muscled his way to 139 yards and a second-quarter touchdown on 18 carries as the Jets outrushed New Orleans, 198 yards to 41, even while the Saints were outgaining the Jets overall, 407 yards to 338.
"Going in, we knew you could run the ball on these guys," said Ivory, who has two 100-yard performances in his last three games with the Jets after three 100-yarders in three years with the Saints. "It was all about dialing up the right play at the right time, and I think Marty [Mornhinweg] did a great job with that."
"We have a David versus Goliath mentality," said LB Demario Davis, one of the defensive stars of this triumph. "Coach Rex said the main thing was to bounce back from Cincinnati. Don't hesitate, don't flinch. We told everybody that wasn't us. Then we went out and showed everybody who we were."
Another Fantastic Finish
Folk and Garrett Hartley traded field goals in the third quarter, and then again in the fourth as our second-half lead bounced from nine to six points twice. Folk made it 4-for-4 with his 45-yarder with 11:56 to go — moving to within one of Jay Feely's 24-consecutive-FGs franchise record — and MetLife Stadium rose to its feet and kept up the noise. Then Hartley cut it back on his 43-yarder with 3:06 left.
Smith, who had a quiet 8-for-19 passing day but also one sharp-cut rushing TD, couldn't get his offense to move the chains, so the black-and-gold visitors with the rifle-armed QB got the ball back with 1:58 to play and two timeouts left.
But Brees, with TE Jimmy Graham limited by an arm injury and with the Muhammad Wilkerson/Quinton Coples pass rush turning up the heat, threw four incompletions from his own 10 as the Green & White nailed down yet another eye-popping victory in an odd-numbered game. And now, after the bye week, it'll be time to tear down that fence with a winning effort at Buffalo.
"Those guys up front, those guys are special," said appreciative LB David Harris, whose 10 tackles led the Jets' charts. "Pretty much any time you go into a situation where they know it's gong to be a pass, they just pin their ears back and really do what they do best and that's get to the quarterback."
Two Brees Takeaways in First Half
At the game's outset, the "D" survived and even thrived in the Saints' first two drives, slowing an impressive Saints opening march at the 25 before Hartley's 43-yard field goal try was blown wide left. After one drive at least, our breeze held off their Brees.
Smith's offense went 3-and-out, then the visitors took over again at their 20. Three plays in, Brees tried to fit a pass into a small window to backup TE Benjamin Watson, but Dawan Landry with the tip and Demario Davis with the interception slammed it shut. It was Davis' first career pick and our first first-quarter takeaway in 13 games, or since Jacksonville late in the 2012 season.
That turnover led to Folk's 39-yard field goal. It wasn't long before New Orleans got on top by going over the top. Brees stepped left from pressure and let it fly for Graham, who caught it and dragged S Jaiquawn Jarrett to the goal line, where Graham planted the ball for his ninth TD of the season and a 7-3 lead.
Another Saints drive was stalled near midfield. Then came a Jets drive that could have been finer only with a TD at the end of it — an 11-play, 93-yard series, with an Ivory 52-yard burst in the middle of it, from our 4 to the Saints 3 before stalling and producing Folk's 21st consecutive FG, from 21 yards out, to cut the deficit to 7-6.
But Brees, Graham and the Saints came right back to open the score to 14-6. The big plays: Brees to WR Robert Meachem for 60 yards on a blown coverage, then Brees to Graham, boxing out CB Antonio Cromartie for the 10-yard score.
We came back with Josh Cribbs' 42-yard kickoff return, his longest as a Jet, to start up our first touchdown drive of the day, crowned on Ivory's 3-yard dash off his favorite Austin Howard/Willie Colon blocks to make it 14-13.
Then Antonio Cromartie made the D's next big play of the half, plucking a Brees deflection off of New Orleans WR Nick Toon as he was heading out of bounds at the NO-39 with 2:12 left. Five creative playcalls from Mornhinweg later, Smith kept around his right side, then cut back inside in front of DE Cameron Jordan for the TD.
"It was Nick's idea," Smith said of the play, referring to his center, Nick Mangold. "He saw something on the D-line, so he relayed it to Marty and Marty relayed it to me. ... I think it was one of those plays going in at the half that really elevated us because not only did we get points but we gained some momentum."
Suddenly, the Jets had their first 20-point half since Game 6 last year against Indianapolis and victory was in the air and 30 minutes of clock time away.