Now a game over .500 for the first time since Week 5 and on a three-game winning streak, the Jets have gotten back to what was effective for them in the beginning of the season.
"We kind of fell into the trap early on about 'We can be two games up.' We just didn't get it done, so now we're in a situation where we have to get it done," defensive end Sean Ellis told reporters during a Monday morning conference call. "We just want to get back to the basics, play good defense, stop the run, run the football and complete some passes along the way."
That's what they did in their stifling 26-3 victory over the Buccaneers on Sunday — a defensive performance that left even the Jets defenders in disbelief and the kind of domination that safety Jim Leonhard hadn't remembered seeing since high school.
"We played some great games last year in Baltimore, but I don't know if we ever did that," said Leonhard. "It was kind of crazy. We had them dialed in pretty good. [Mike] Pettine and Rex [Ryan] were calling a great game. Guys were making plays.
"There weren't very many plays that you can look across that front four, front five, whoever was coming and you can say many of them got blocked. It was kind of amazing. Our corners, when they're playing as well as they are right now, it's going to be tough to move the ball on us."
The D set the tone early with a David Harris interception, and the group allowed minus-1 yard in the second quarter — the least yardage in one quarter by a Jets opponent since 2004 — and 15 yards in the first half — the least yardage in one half since 1995.
The Jets are the No. 1 team in the league at forcing three-and-outs with eight more at Tampa, and the Bucs didn't convert a single third down (0-for-14). In the last two games, the Bills and Bucs went a combined 1-for-25 on third down vs. the Green & White.
"I haven't been a part of this since I've been with the Jets," said Ellis, the longest tenured member of the Green & White. "I've been on some good defenses with the Jets but not anything like this."
They're pretty good on the other side of the ball, too — when it comes to running the ball, the Jets are ranked No. 1 in the league (169.1 yards per game). Even though teams know they're going to run the ball, they continue to impose their will.
They rushed for 175 yards against Tampa Bay, led by Thomas Jones' 99 yards and two TDs on 24 carries. The 10th-year NFL vet now has 1,167 rushing yards and 11 TDs this season.
"I just try to take advantage of my opportunities. I've always said that," Jones said. "Every day I come to work, I'm happy, I'm blessed. Every game I go out there, I know I'm blessed to be out there. It's a dream come true every time I can put the pads on and go out there and play a game I dreamed of playing since I was 5 years old."
Jones was sure to give his offensive line a big portion of the credit, saying, "Every one of these linemen deserve to go to the Pro Bowl." But currently only Alan Faneca is the only Jet among the top O-line vote-getters in the fans' online voting at nfl.com.
Left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson returned the compliments to TJ on behalf of the offensive line that's started 29 consecutive games together.
"He makes that job look easy, the way he hits the holes. He's such a big back, people have problems trying to tackle him," said Brick. "As an O-line, we just try to go out there and create holes. We're fortunate that we've had Alan and that we've played with these guys for a while now.
"We have really had a chance to mesh well as a group. I think Nick [Mangold] has done a great job directing traffic. Obviously the tackles, we try to protect the QBs as best as we can."
With three games left, the Jets have put themselves in a position where they have to win out. Sure, they need some teams to lose, but all they're focused on is taking care of business.
"We play Atlanta this week. That's our next opponent," Jones said. "If we don't beat Atlanta, then it doesn't really matter what happens the rest of the season. We just take it one game at a time."
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