It's been feast or famine at times this year for opponents against the Jets defense, and in light of the holiday season, the Bears were treated to a big meal on Sunday. The Green & White spotted the new Monsters of the Midway a 10-point cushion in the first quarter and then let up 21 third-quarter points in their 38-34 loss at Soldier Field. While the offense lit up the scoreboard, the defensive players were displeased with their performance.
"As a defense, we're not happy," nose tackle Sione Pouha said. "We know we can play better than that. Especially I can do way better than that. We'll look at the tape and fix what we have to fix as a unit. I know I'm looking to fix the mistakes I made, so I'm pretty sure that'll be the M.O. for the whole defense."
Pouha made only one tackle in the game, but the entire defensive front will take a lot of the blame. After last week's 100-yard rushing game by the Steelers' Rashard Mendenhall was reduced to 99 yards, Chicago's Matt Forte finished with 113 yards on 19 carries. In addition, the Jets struggled to get to the passer and got burned in coverage in the first nine minutes of the second half.
"In that third quarter, we couldn't stop a nosebleed," head coach Rex Ryan said. "Everybody has to step up and it would have been easy if it was just one guy's mistakes, but you have to give them credit. When Cutler is hot, he's as good as there is. He made some big plays against us and eventually it comes down to, you have to make some plays."
It was a tale of quarters for the Jets, who, like Ryan quipped, struggled mightily against Cutler and his bevy of quick receivers during a frantic third quarter in which the Jets defenders didn't have time to get their issues sorted out.
"We just didn't make enough plays," linebacker Calvin Pace said. "We got it corrected in the fourth quarter, but we go out there and lay it on the line and a couple of things happen and it ends up looking like we had a bad game."
It wasn't all bad for the defense, particularly when safety Dwight Lowery returned a second-quarter Cutler interception for a touchdown.
"I played my responsibility," Lowery said. "They ran a route, I just jumped it, I just went for it. Intuition, instinct, I don't know what you'd call it, but I just knew he was going to throw the ball."
Lowery cut underneath WR Earl Bennett to take the ball 20 yards to paydirt to give the Jets a 14-10 lead. Another defensive stop later and the Jets were once again in business and holding a 21-10 lead, but they allowed Cutler to engineer a scoring drive before halftime and only led by seven at the break. That's when the wheels fell off of the defense.
In what multiple players called a "bittersweet" moment, the Jets found out in the locker room that they'd clinched a playoff berth despite losing because the Jaguars also lost. For a defense that had seven pass deflections, two sacks and four quarterback hits, it was the number 38 that stuck out the most. A proud defensive unit that came into the game in the top five in the NFL allowed 322 total yards and has some major self-reflection to do before the playoffs start in two weeks.
"Throughout the week we've got to make sure everybody's on the same page," linebacker Bryan Thomas said. "It should be tightened up by now. Yeah, we have guys out, but there shouldn't be lapses like we had today. D-line, linebackers, DBs — we've all got to do our jobs. As a defense we can't let that happen. We can't let any team put up 38 points."