The Jets, hoping to inch closer to the playoffs with a Sunday victory, instead took a giant leap toward the postseason with a loud 37-10 win over Kansas City. It may have been the most complete 60 minutes of football the Jets have played all season, and the timing was perfect.
"We're making our move at the right time," said OLB Calvin Pace. "This is when the teams that aren't 12-0 like Green Bay, this is when we make our move. I'm proud of everybody. It was a really good team win."
The slow start that has become a frustrating staple of games earlier this season was a non-factor in the blowout victory. Defensively, the Jets applied pressure from the first snap and didn't relent for the remainder of the game. The result was an impressive, dominating performance.
"It was just a better game," said Pace. "It's what we've been talking about for the last 12 or 13 weeks and it all came to form today, which is what we needed."
Pace finished the day with four tackles, a half sack, two tackles for loss and a pass deflection. As a team, the Jets finished with a season-high five sacks. The pressure was too much for first-year QB Tyler Palko.
"Up front, we took it upon ourselves this week to go out there, get penetration and see what happens," said DT Marcus Dixon. "That's what we focused on."
The dizzying defensive start suffocated the Chiefs, who limped into the locker room at halftime with a grand total of 4 offensive yards and a 28-3 deficit. Kansas City's day ended before it even got started, and while the visitors moved the ball better in the second half, the effort wasn't nearly enough.
"Watching their last couple of games, I think their whole mindset was just grinding it out and try to win at the end," said Pace. "As good as our offense came out today, it kind of forced their hand and they had to pass the ball a little more than they wanted to. It was easy for us."
While Pace and his defensive teammates enjoyed a relatively stress-free day at work, the Chiefs did all they could to help the Jets. They were penalized 11 times for 128 yards, the third-highest penalty yardage total in the NFL this season and the most against a Jets opponent since the Dolphins were flagged 10 times for 132 yards in the Jets' win at Miami in 1988.
Led by Pace's banner day, the Jets defensive front frustrated Palko and the Chiefs. Dixon enjoyed his best game of the season, tallying four tackles and splitting that sack with Pace. With veteran DT Mike DeVito sidelined for the second consecutive week with a knee injury, Dixon has seen increased playing time and is taking advantage of his opportunity.
"He might not be playing, but he's still in the game with us," said Dixon. "But we know how our group is. If one man goes down, we have to step up and not be the weakest link. That's what we do up front, and we can't wait until he gets back because we'll be even better."
In addition to Dixon, rookie DL Muhammad Wilkerson put up a season high with five tackles. The youthful line was anchored by veteran DT Sione Pouha, who is quietly putting together a Pro Bowl-caliber season. Pouha added to his résumé Sunday by recording his first sack of 2011.
"If he's not a Pro Bowler this year, I promise you I'm going to snap on somebody," joked Dixon. "He deserves to be there. That guy is a beast. He takes care of everything. I don't know what else you could ask from the guy."
Now at 8-5, the Jets are moving in the right direction at the right time. With only three games remaining on the schedule, the Green & White will continue to take their one-game-at-a-time approach. It has worked thus far, and as the old saying goes: "If it ain't broke, why fix it?"
"It's kind of falling into place," said Pace. "At this time of year, you never know what's going to happen. Everyone is fighting for their playoff livelihood. We can't really worry about anyone else. If we win, we're in. That's all we need to worry about."