Updated, 2:04 p.m. ET
In each of Rex Ryan's first three seasons at the helm of the Jets, his team's defenses finished ranked in the top five in the NFL.
For most of this season, the unit hadn't lived up to its typical high standard.
But on Sunday in the Jets' 7-6 win over Arizona, Ryan said, "The defense, that's about as good as we've played in a long, long time." The Cardinals were held to 137 total yards, 56 passing yards, five first downs and 0-for-15 on third down.
"It was so needed," DE Mike DeVito said on a conference call with reporters Monday afternoon. "We really needed that. That's the defense that we've seen all training camp; that we've seen off and on all season. It's the defense that we know we have on this team. It was great to see it manifest itself on Sunday to full extent, and to play that way across the board was just awesome. We needed that going into this last quarter of the season."
The outstanding effort jumped the Jets from 19th in total yards allowed heading into the weekend all the way to 10th, their highest weekly ranking of the season, after the Redskins' Monday night win over the Giants. Additionally, they're eighth in yards allowed per play. So maybe it's actually not too late to end the season with a fourth straight top five defense? With four weeks left, DeVito is optimistic.
"That's what I was saying last week, too," No. 70 said. "Let's wait till the end of the season before we start deciding where we're at. Let's wait until the end of the year and then we'll look back and see how we played. But it's right there in front of us and we know we can play that way week in and week out. Let's continue this upward trend and continue to play Jets defense."
Ryan said that the 137 yards could have been even lower had the Jets not given up a 40-yard fake punt run by Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson. Yet what impressed him most was the unit not allowing Arizona to convert a single third down. It was a drastic improvement from 10 days earlier, when the Green & White hardly could keep New England's offense off the field as the Pats converted 11 of 15 third downs (73%).
"We'd been struggling to get off the field on third down and we came up big," Ryan said.
The Jacksonville Jaguars, the next opponent on the Jets' schedule, rank 31st in the league in total offense, averaging 282.3 yards per game. If the defense can have a few more outings like they did Sunday, then their streak of top five defenses surely won't be coming to an end this year.
"As far as we think in that room, we know that we recognize, when any team scores, they can win, and if they don't score, they can't win, and that's on us," DeVito said. "We can't really be concerned about the other side of the ball and what's going on. We trust everybody in that locker room. We trust the coaches. We trust the guys playing. We know everybody's out there doing their jobs and that's all we can focus on."