2008 Week 12 - Jets at Titans Photos
The New York Jets defensive players had their work cut out for them this week, considering that the Tennessee Titans entered the game rushing for nearly 133 yards per game courtesy of LenDale White and rookie Chris Johnson and with their offensive line performing at a high level.
"To be successful in this game we knew we had to stop those two guys," said linebacker Bryan Thomas following the Jets' 34-13 win over the Titans on Sunday. "You have one in Johnson that is fast outside that is going to bounce out and you have LenDale White who is a downhill runner. We knew the keys to victory were stopping those two guys."
"We had to play solid team defense and that was our goal," nose tackle Kris Jenkins said in his postgame news conference. "I guess we did OK."
That's OK as in allowing the Titans a mere 45 yards rushing on the day.
The Jets' run defense, once a weak point, has seen a huge turnaround this season. It has been ranked in the NFL's top 10 all season and will be ranked in the top five for the ninth straight week. Heading into the Monday night game between Green Bay and New Orleans, the ranking improved to third in the league.
Jenkins went on to detail the defense's decision to get better.
"I think that it started in the locker room," he said. "I think what we started to understand was that a lot of us had to make sure that we knew when to put the egos down and blend as a unit.
"I think that when we were in the locker room, we just started to realize how seriously we wanted to win. Some of us, we've been a long time removed from having success and I know some of the younger guys said that they really don't know what it's like.
"We just got tired of losing, basically.
Jenkins said the players sat down and the veterans told the young players what it's like to win and prepare.
"The young guys bought in," he said. "A lot of guys could have fought it and been on their own thing, but everybody bought into each other. We've got a lot of guys that listen and I think that that's what helps us a lot. It's not that we've got all this athletic ability or egos. We've got a lot of guys that listen. We listen to the coaches. We pay attention to what's going on. We buy into the system."
Jenkins continues to display veteran leadership while embracing his role doing "the dirty work" on the D-line, but some longer-tenured Jets players are confidently enthusiastic about how the defense is performing as well.
"We came into this game confident," said safety Kerry Rhodes. "We knew that if we played the way we play and the way we've been playing that we had a good chance to come out of here with a victory."
"I think we're jelling at the right time. We've said since way back since preseason and training camp that we have a good team. We knew that. We started off kind of tough early, but we're starting to jell now and things are starting to come together."
The Jets have been asked many times throughout the season if the game they were playing was a statement game. They're a team that wants to be taken seriously, and after handing the Titans their first defeat of the season, if teams weren't taking Jenkins and the Jets defense seriously before, they are now.
"It is making a statement," said linebacker Bryan Thomas. "Now people are going to start looking at us and say, 'They are a team you have to reckon with.' "
"From minicamp till now, it's been a dramatic improvement," Jenkins said. "You could see it there. You could see it starting to show up in spurts, especially in training camp. So we knew that we had the potential, but we knew that we were lacking the consistency.
"Now it's started to become very consistent and that's what really makes us stand out now."