While Jets star DT Quinnen Williams got the Jets off to a great start Thursday night with strip sack of Trevor Lawrence, the defense was on its heels early against a balanced Jaguars offense attack in a 19-3 loss.
On the Jaguars third offensive play, Williams, named a Pro Bowler for the first time, ripped down Lawrence from behind for his 12th sack of season. As Lawrence went down, he rolled over Williams and the ball came loose. DE Carl Lawson recovered the fumble at the Jaguars' 16-yard line.
The takeaway – the Jets first since Week 12 against the Bears – led to a 37-yard field goal by K Greg Zuerlein. Later in the first quarter, Williams got in the passing lane on a screen and added a pass defense to his fast start.
"That is our standard of football," CB D.J. Reed said about Williams' performance. "I think he had a pass break-up too. He just creates a lot of havoc and just wrecks a lot of games. Quinnen is a phenomenal football player."
Saleh added of Williams: "He is a top-five player in football on defense. Whenever you get a chance to get a guy like that back, he's going to affect the game."
Following the Jets 15th takeaway of the season, the Jaguars offense found a groove for the remainder of the first half, retaining possession for 20:11 and registering 251 yards and 13 first downs. The Jets defense bent but did not break for the most part, limiting the damage to 13 points through two quarters.
The Jaguars found the end zone once on a 16-play 96-yard drive capped off on a 1-yard QB sneak by Lawrence. But outside of the long drive, Jacksonville settled for 3 field goals the remainder of the half as Lawrence completed 11 of 16 for 147 yards and the Jags totaled 115 yards on 24 carries.
DT Solomon Thomas had his best game of the season, delivering a tackle for loss on RB Travis Etienne that forced Jaguars into a 4th down in the second quarter. On the ensuing drive, the Stanford product had consecutive QB hits on Lawrence.
"That whole first half in all three phases, we just couldn't get the rhythm," HC Robert Saleh said. "That is unlike us. The 96-yard, 17-play drive or whatever it was, took up a whole lot of time and had the offensive on the bench. We couldn't get off the field."
In the second half, the defense allowed 115 of Jacksonville's 365 yards and two field goals. The Green & White finished with 6 QB hits including DL Micheal Clemons' thundering third-down pop on Lawrence and 4 TFL.
"Usually at halftime, we go over our corrections," Reed said. "We see what the offense did to be successful and make them do something else."
Saleh and several members of the defense were dissatisfied with the performance and expect to be better over the final two games of the regular season.
"The defense responded in the second half," Saleh said. "Gave up one touchdown on the day, but it still wasn't nearly good enough as a whole for what we feel like is our standard."
Thomas added: "We know how good we are. We know the talent that is in this room. We know the team with can be. But none of that matters if we cannot execute and go out and show it."