The Jets defense forced only one fumble in the three games of the season. During Sunday's historic 56-35 win over the Arizona Cardinals, they forced five fumbles, recovering four.
Jets head coach Eric Mangini is always one to point out the significance of turnover differential in determining a game's outcome, and Sunday's game was a case in point. The Jets lost one turnover and had seven takeaways, giving them a plus-6 margin — tied for the second-best single-game margin in franchise history.
"We were rolling. It was a good feeling," said DE Shaun Ellis of the Jets' five takeaways and 92 yards allowed in the first two quarters. "We played as complete of a first half as you can play. The second half got us in trouble. They made adjustments. They gave it to us. They gave us a lot of problems. Their playmakers started making a lot of plays. They just kept scratching and scratching.
Yet just when the Jets needed the defense to rise up and stop Arizona, they did just that. Following a fourth-quarter touchdown that cut the Jets' lead back to 13, the Cardinals got the ball back at their 35-yard line. On their first play, OLB David Bowens got his second strip-sack on Kurt Warner, this one recovered by LB Calvin Pace
"That was huge," said Bowens. "The second one, we gave our team the opportunity to put them away."
DT Kris Jenkins rebounded from the sore back that kept him out of three-quarters of the Monday night game at San Diego by driving C Lyle Sendlein back into Kurt Warner, forcing the QB into an off-target throw that S Eric Smith intercepted. midway through the second quarter.
Jenkins also contributed with a key special teams play. The Meadowlands erupted when he blocked Neil Rackers' field goal attempt late in the first quarter, denying the Cardinals the opportunity to score the game's first points.
"It felt good. I got to do my part," said Jenkins.
In addition to making his teammates and coaches proud, Jenkins had another reason to soak in the great play.
"The good thing about it was I got to look up at the stands and see my dad beating on his chest," he said. "Just to know that he was getting excited made me feel better."
After shutting out the Card's in the first half, Arizona came out swinging, scoring 21 points in the third quarter before Favre delivered his fourth touchdown pass of the day, opening the Jets' lead back up to 20.
But Warner continued to move the chains and score points, and the Jets' defense was forced to weather the storm.
Pace admitted that in the second half the defense came out "a little flat."
He correctly predicted the Cardinals' second half strategy, warning his teammates at halftime to "be ready for the no-huddle."
Warner used his two-minute offense almost exclusively to bring his team to within 13 on several occasions.
"We really played the whole second half in two-minute," Pace said. "And that's not what you want to do."
"They adjusted some things at halftime," said CB Darrelle Revis. "They were figuring out what we were doing. One thing that we can control is we have to keep on playing our schemes and play it out. We have to dig deep those times."
"When I was playing in Arizona, I had seen them do it before," said Pace. "We were down a couple times and [Warner] would come out in the no-huddle and drive it down the field. It's one of those things that's tough for a defense.
"When you have the caliber of guys they have, they have four or five capable receivers that can dink and dunk it down the field. Before you know it, they're in the red zone. Just that quick."
S Kerry Rhodes said it wasn't that hard for the defense to move on from yielding 48 points to the Chargers' explosive offense six days earlier.
"We wanted to get back on the field and prove that we are a good team," Rhodes said. "Whenever you play a game like that where you play so bad, you just want to get back out there and prove yourself again. We have a resilient group of guys and we went out and did it today."