Jets CB Sauce Gardner was named the NFL's Pepsi Zero Sugar Rookie of the Week after helping lift the Green & White to a 20-17 victory against Buffalo at MetLife Stadium in a Week 9 game last Sunday.
The Cincinnati product intercepted Pro Bowl QB Josh Allen and returned it 16 yards to the Buffalo 19-yard line. Three plays later, RB James Robinson caught a touchdown pass from Zach Wilson to give the Jets their first lead, 17-14.
"We were in a Cover-2 concept, to my side," Gardner said. "The receiver got outside of me and they had a running back there sitting in front of me. It was a running back or receiver, I don't know. I just felt like I had a feel for Josh Allen and the throws he likes to make. So, I was just taking away the throws to the running back, I tried to time it up to make the play."
Leading by 20-17 and with Buffalo in a fourth-and-21 with 33 seconds remaining, Gardner came up big again. Allen hurled a pass that traveled 65 yards intended for WR Gabriel Davis. Gardner stuck his arm in to prevent the completion and force a turnover on downs, effectively ending the game.
"I was just looking at Gabe," Gardner said. "I was looking at his eyes. I didn't see any signs of the ball being thrown short, so, I couldn't believe it. I just kept seeing his eyes do that. I'm like, 'Oh man, he wants that ball for sure.' I just had to stay calm and don't panic. He was trying to push off a little bit, I just stayed poised, and I made the play."
Gardner registered 7 tackles, which lead the team, an interception – his second of the season (Week 5 vs. Miami) – and a pass defense. Bills All-Pro DE Von Miller praised Gardner's performance after the game.
"Hats off to those guys," Miller said. "They've built up a great team. Sauce Gardner, he went crazy tonight."
Gardner also won the award in Week 5 (vs. Miami) and Week 7 (v.s Denver). A Jets rookie has won the award seven times in the first nine weeks this season, including six in a row. WR Garrett Wilson won in Weeks 2 and 8 and RB Breece Hall won in Weeks 4 and 6.