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Jets Have Another Game of Solid but Imperfect Defense vs. Seahawks

Sauce Gardner, Quinnen Williams Post Big Numbers but Damage Is Done by Seattle in Contest's First 16 Minutes


Let's say your Jets fan friend, an aficionado of front fours, back fours and forbidding NFL defense, happened to be out of the country, got back late Sunday night or early Monday, missed the entire game at Seattle, and asked what happened.

And you told him that Sauce Gardner had a career-high four pass defenses, Quinnen Williams racked up a career-high four QB hits, the Jets notched four sacks of Seattle's Geno Smith, and the Seahawks' dynamic receiving duo of DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett (albeit playing with a broken left index finger) were held to under four receptions combined. He then might ask if you were being forthcoming with him.

Of course you wouldn't have been because despite those fairly impressive achievements by the defense, the Jets fell to the 'Hawks, 23-6, and have been eliminated from grabbing a playoff berth. And that left the Jets defenders in various stages of being, well, forlorn.

"It hurts really bad," D-lineman Carl Lawson said. "Emotions are high right now, so I can't really give you the best answer. We just have to go back to the tape and continue to evaluate."

"Yeah, it's a little shocking, just because we want to dominate and play great," corner D.J. Reed told reporters about his team, which opened the season 7-4 and are now in the process of closing it at 1-5 only if the Jets finish with a road win over the Dolphins. "But it is what it is. ... I'm still processing it like you are. And I'm just going to learn from this tape and move on to Miami next week."

The tape will tell some tales, but head coach Robert Saleh was pretty sure he knew what it will show: another difficult start by the defense in giving up three big first-quarter plays, then tightening things up but still losing by 17 points.

Seattle's first big play came on the first offensive play of the game — rookie RB Kenneth Walker's 60-yard dash to the Jets 13 to set up the first of two Smith TD passes just 1:35 into the game.

"They punched us in the mouth," Reed said.

"It wasn't necessarily shocking," Saleh said. "It was disappointing because those are things we do in our sleep, basic fundamental football. ... Basic zone scheme, tackle for a 3-yard gain. Then the two explosives in the pass game."

Those explosives were a 29-yard throw from Smith to TE Noah Fant on Series No. 2 and an improvised 41-yard shovel pass from Smith to RB DeeJay Dallas on Series No. 3, setting up 10 more points. By the second play of the second quarter, the hosts had a 17-3 lead and more than enough points to withstand the Jets offense on this day.

Then the defense came around. In the first 16 minutes, Seattle had mounted a 17-point, 200-yard offense. For the final 44 minutes, the Seahawks managed six points and 146 yards.

Reed thought the problem might have been something Saleh had stressed over the past month.

"We just didn't play complementary football," Reed said. "You're not going to be able to win many games if everybody's not playing complementary football."

But the veteran half of the Jets' own terrific twosome at corner wasn't pinning it all on the offense.

"As a defense, we put that on us. We have to get the ball," he said. "We haven't done a good job of getting turnovers. We've been getting off the field a lot, but with the situation and how we're playing, we've got to get turnovers somehow."

See the best images from the Week 17 matchup between the Jets and Seahawks.

Gardner, who came close to snatching his third interception of the season that hit the ground in front of him, was in solid agreement on the topic.

"We like playing great football and getting takeaways," he said. "We didn't get takeaways today. We've got to turn that around. We've got the guys on defense, we fly around. The games we got takeaways, we won."

The rough trio of first-quarter plays combined with the Jets having one total TA during their five-game skid give an idea of why this game and this season went south.

But as Saleh said in trying to make sense of the 2022 campaign, "There are a lot of things to look at."

And as Sauce said, the answer at least for the final game of the season is simple. No looking backward. Only forward.

"We're extremely motivated. We don't like losing," Gardner said of the finale at Miami. then recalled a familiar point that DC Jeff Ulbrich stressed to his unit. "We've just got to execute more. As a defense, we try so hard, we don't like giving up plays. Coach Brick said the fatal flaw on defense is thinking you've got to be perfect. We've just got to be able to think 'next play' and move on."

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