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Inside the Numbers: Red Zone Arising

No Secrets, Just Good Defense, Explain the Jets' Recent Play Inside Their 20 vs. Dolphins & Rams


It's hard to know if the Jets' recent red zone defense is an anomaly or a trend. But the unit has now gone five straight possessions (not including Miami's late kneeldown, also a red zone "stop") without allowing a touchdown.

Particularly impressive were the Rams' three forays inside the Jets 20 two weeks ago. Eight plays resulted in minus-3 yards of offense and three field goals.

The last time the Jets' red zone brigade allowed minus yards and no TDs on multiple opportunities in a game? Last year vs. Jacksonville (4 plays, minus-14 yards, field goal, fumble). Before that: "Win And We're In" in 2009 vs. Cincinnati (6 plays, minus-9 yards, punt, fumble).

It is true that the Jets D yielded 73-, 55- and 36-yard drives to those three L.A. field goals in the 9-6 loss, but as Chad Pennington told Eric Allen on The Jets Podcast Network this week, "Anytime my defense gives up only nine points, I'm happy."

I asked a few defenders what their secret has been near the goal line recently. No revealing answers were forthcoming.

"When we take the field, we take it," said Zen master Steve McLendon, "no matter who it is, no matter what the circumstances are."

"You take pride in doing that — that's the mindset," said LB David Harris. "We try to get better each week, whether it's in the red zone or out in the field. We try not to give up plays and points. I don't have much else to say about it."

That's been true recently. Since slumping to 23rd-6th-28th in the league in total yards/rush yards/pass yards allowed per game after Week 6, the Green & White have improved to 11th-4th-19th through the Rams game. From Week 7 to present, the Jets' overall defense is third-best in the NFL while the pass defense is seventh.

Tom Brady and the Patriots have ways of exposing defenses' flaws and deflating their pretensions. Here's hoping Harris, McLendon and the Jets' D are ready, whether inside or outside their 20.

Help from the Bye?The bye week, Jets fans will recall, has never been a consistent cure for what ails their team. Since 1990, when the NFL began the bye concept, the Jets are 13-14 in games after their off week. And Rex Ryan's squads never got the hang of it, going 1-5 from 2009-14.

But in reality, the bye doesn't always pay big dividends around the league. Last year, for instance, teams coming off their byes (not including three sets of post-bye teams playing each other) were 13-13.

Yet 2016 has been different. Through last week's games, NFL teams are 17-7 after their bye weeks, and teams playing at home in games after byes are a blistering 12-3.

Of course the Jets (1-0 under head coach Todd Bowles after last year's post-bye home win over the Redskins) are home off their bye on Sunday against the Patriots, who lost to the Seahawks this year after their bye.

The bye week clearly is a factor but also clearly is not the factor in how well a team performs the next week. But if there's something going around this season, the Jets have added it to their arsenal for tomorrow's MetLife matchup.

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