When the game is on the line, this New York Jets defense makes a stand. For the second time in two games, Jets cornerback Dwight Lowery sealed a Green & White victory as the opposition was attempting a game-winning drive in the closing minutes.
Denver was on the move and had reached Jets territory with less than a minute to play, when Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton couldn't come up with a bad shotgun snap and Lowery recovered it to nail down a 24-20 win.
"You could tell they were unsure what they were doing on that call," Lowery said. "He probably wasn't expecting the snap and bobbled it a little bit and then he tried to pick it up. That's one thing you're thinking as a defense. When the ball's on the ground in that situation, just fall on it and it's over."
The Jets' defense didn't put together the greatest game that head coach Rex Ryan has presided over since his tenure began in 2009, but they did enough to slow down the second-rated passing offense in the NFL coming into Week 6. The Jets held Orton to 209 yards and Brandon Lloyd, the NFL's receiving-yardage leader, to no first-half catches. In fact, they've affected the completion percentage of opposing QBs in the last three games, holding Orton, Brett Favre and Ryan Fitzpatrick to a combined 40-of-95 passing — 42.1 percent accuracy.
"We found another way to close out a game when our defense is on the field, so I'm proud of that," Ryan said. "Are we playing as well on defense as we did last year? No, but I'll take it this way. We're finding ways to win it at the end of games and that was tremendous."
In a surprising move, the Broncos actually rushed the ball more than they threw it. They had 37 carries for 145 yards against the Jets after running the ball only 13 times in their Week 5 loss to the Ravens, and Orton had the most dropbacks in the NFL through the Broncos' 2-3 start.
Another component of the Denver offense was its attempt to pick on Jets All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis. The proprietor of "Revis Island" has been battling a hamstring injury and was thrown at on multiple occasions, with mixed results.
"I knew I was a target, I knew I wasn't 100 percent," Revis said. "So in their game plan, they felt that since I wasn't 100 percent, they could come at me. It's a good win and we're a tough team. When adversity strikes, we stepped up to the plate and tried to make plays as much as we can."
Orton found rookie Demaryius Thomas in the end zone over Revis along with firing a ball down the sideline to wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, who grabbed the pass just before Revis swiped for it. On other plays, however, Revis showed flashes of his typical prowess; including making his second fumble recovery in as many games, a picture-perfect pass deflection, and a hard hit in the flat.
"I thought Darrelle played well and 90 percent of Darrelle Revis is still pretty impressive," Ryan said. "I never felt, after talking to the medical people, Darrelle, the people that I leaned on, that he could further the injury."
With No. 24 partially hamstrung, the rest of the Jets defense stepped up, with cornerback Antonio Cromartie making three pass deflections, safety Eric Smith breaking up a potential touchdown pass down the sideline and defensive tackle Sione Pouha getting into the backfield and sacking Orton. In general, key cogs of the defense like David Harris, Bart Scott and even nickel cornerback Drew Coleman played aggressively.
Then at the end of the contest, the Jets defense needed to get a stop.
"It was a testament to our resilience," quarterback Mark Sanchez said of coordinator Mike Pettine's bunch. "It was the defense saving our bacon. They did an awesome job, they really did. The defense held up. That's two games in a row where they're on the field last and they came out with a win."
Sanchez threw two interceptions and wide receiver Santonio Holmes fumbled a ball away, but the Green & White defense picked them up. By recovering two fumbles of their own and making what turned out to be a crucial third down stop in the first half that led to a botched Broncos field goal attempt, the Jets D made stops in pressure situations, including the final play by Lowery that allowed the Jets to kneel down in Victory Formation.
Now, heading into the bye week, Ryan's squad will have a positive stretch of football to reflect upon instead of what could have been a tough loss.
"This is a great win, for us to be 5-1," Ryan said. "We never had our best game, we turned the ball over a bunch. They ran the ball more effectively than we would have liked. But at the end of the day it's a Jet victory and we'll take it."