The Jets' defense had another bittersweet affair in their last-second loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday.
They had some sweet plays and stops that gave them all the hope that they were about to pull out their first win of the season, especially Marcus Maye's fourth-quarter fumble recovery that led to the Jets' go-ahead touchdown with 5:34 to play and the fourth-down Derek Carr pass that fell incomplete just short of WR Nelson Agholor's hands in the end zone with 1:37 to play.
"With things like that, it's just natural for your team to get excited," LB Jordan Jenkins said. "The energy was up, everybody was excited. That's just how it was."
They had some rough patches again, none more rough than in trying and failing to cover TE Darren Waller most of the game. Waller finished with 13 catches for 200 yards and two first-half touchdowns. The yardage was the most in a game by a tight end against the Jets in franchise history and Waller was a big reason the Raiders rolled up 440 yards and 4 touchdowns.
But not the only reason. There was Las Vegas' final play of the game, when Carr, under an all-out, no-deep-help blitz called by Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, rolled slightly to his left, saw rookie speedster Henry Ruggs separate off his double move from rookie CB Lamar Jackson. Carr lobbed a 46-yard bull's-eye into Ruggs' mitts for the TD that sent the Jets to their 31-28 loss, No. 12 on the season without a win.
"First and foremost, we were in zero, zero coverage," said Jackson, distraught along with his teammates for giving up the play but showing great poise for an undrafted rookie out of Nebraska with his postgame remarks to Jets reporters. "I've got my man. I knew the situation. I knew it was one of those things where they were taking a shot at the end zone. So I was just getting back, getting back. The receiver gave me a nice little double move, I kind of [reacted] to it. He's a fast guy. That was that."
Head Coach Adam Gase was as unhappy by the outcome, of the play and the game, as his players.
"We were trying to create pressure," Gase said of the blitz. Carr, he said, "hadn't done well with it all game. So that's what happened. We had a couple of free runners but we didn't get there.
"Everybody's disappointed. You lose a game like that ... our guys work way too hard to go through this."
See Best Images from the Week 13 Matchup in MetLife Stadium
The Jets defense wasn't perfect, but it had its stars and it played well enough for the victory.
The run defense, led by LB Neville Hewitt's game-high 12 tackles, held the Raiders (minus injured starting RB Josh Jacobs) to 72 yards on 25 carries, 2.9 a pop.
The D got only two sacks of Carr, but they came on back-to-back plays at the end of the first half, by Hewitt and Quinnen Williams, to push the Raiders from the Jets 42 to the LV-45 and prevent a last-second field-goal try. And as the head coach said, the Jets applied six QB hits to Carr (three total by Williams) in forcing him into under-60-percent passing and an early interception by Arthur Maulet.
And besides his fumble recovery, Maye made another outstanding PD well down the field, staying with WR Agholor, looking up at the last split-second, and deflecting the 45-yards-in-the-air pass away with his shoulder at the Jets 15 with under five minutes to play.
But the Jets left a small window of opportunity and the team formerly from Oakland, now from Las Vegas, found a way to wriggle through it, keep their playoff hopes alive and dash their hosts' hopes for the late home win.
"You're in this league long enough, you see games like this," Gase said. "And you don't want to be a part of them. I know that. ... These players deserve better than going through that.
What did Gase say to his defense, to his team after this one?
"There's not much you can say. We've got to go back to work," he said. "These guys, they battled the whole game. We've just got to finish it."