Jets OLB Lorenzo Mauldin said he "blacked out for a second."
With the Jets up 28-20 in the fourth quarter, S Calvin Pryor delivered a crushing hit to Browns' RB Duke Johnson, causing the ball to pop up. The pigskin suspended long enough for Mauldin to locate the ball and secure the diving interception. The 6'4", 259-pounder's first career interception set up the decisive points in the Jets' 31-28 win in Week 8.
"It was a play where I pretty much had to stay inside and I didn't get to where I was supposed to be because of the center," Mauldin said. "Throughout the week [OLB] Coach [Mark Collins] was always telling us to run to the ball, if you run to the ball good things happen. And after McCown threw the ball, I saw Calvin Pryor hit Duke Johnson and the ball popped up. I kind of blacked out for a second and was like oh I'm close. I knew if I attempted to run I wouldn't have caught it so I just dove for it and it was a pop ball."
Mauldin's grab was more than his first professional interception— it's the only one to his name since buckling his chinstrap for the first time in 10th grade. He plans on putting the ball on his mantle after a pit stop in the equipment room where it will be touched up and decorated with his stats from the game.
For the second consecutive game, the Jets thrived off complementary football, especially in the second half. In the past two weeks, the defense has given up a total of 175 yards while creating four turnovers in the final two stanzas. Mauldin's interception was one of the defense's two takeaways against Cleveland as S Marcus Gilchrist picked off QB Josh McCown the previous possession.
"Mentally we know our assignments, but are we executing our assignments to the best of our ability physically?" Mauldin said. "We come to the sideline and see that they got a big run here, a big pass there so what can we do differently to prevent that. Then we go out and do it and they can't run that anymore because we know how to stop it. That gives the other coaches opportunities to change up what they do, but after a while that runs out. We came in the second half and pretty much stopped everything that they gave us."
Entering Week 7, the Green & White tallied two interceptions, a total that has been tripled in two weeks. The second-year player has received an increased workload in that span, playing an average of 85% of snaps. Last season, the former Cardinal was primarily used as a third-down pass rusher, registering 4.0 sacks.
"For the past two weeks I've been getting a lot more reps in practice and I've been telling myself that the coaches are starting to believe in me now," Mauldin said. "Now I have to do what I have to do to make them keep believing in me so that's setting the edge, making sure the ball doesn't get outside of me, getting into my drops faster, getting involved with the defense more and getting to the quarterback.
"It's a mentality thing and I have to understand that I can be a big part of this defense if I want to. It's all about want to. So if I go out there and do what I do, then Todd Bowles will keep me on the field."