It was a tale of two halves for the defense in the Jets' thrilling 27-21 victory over the visiting San Diego Chargers on Sunday afternoon. Entering the game, the Chargers boasted the league's best third-down offense, converting 56.5 per cent of their opportunities. The Jets came into Week 7 with the league's best third-down defense, allowing offenses to convert only 28.6 per cent of the time.
Something had to give.
In the first half, the Chargers imposed their will, earning first downs on six of seven opportunities. In the second half, they moved the chains just once in seven more third-down tries.
"We knew the tendencies they were running," said CB Antonio Cromartie. "We were disappointed in how we were playing in the first half and we wanted to change that. We felt if we could get a little pressure on Philip [Rivers], get him outside of the pocket, he's not an accurate passer."
Through the first two quarters, Rivers was steady, completing eight of 12 passes for 92 yards and a touchdown. After the Jets made their halftime adjustments to flush him from the pocket, he completed eight of 20 for 87 yards and two interceptions.
"We had to have a bigger sense of urgency on third downs," said CB Kyle Wilson, who picked off Rivers in the fourth quarter. "We took a lot of pride in that. In the second half, we went out there and did it."
It was Wilson's first career interception, and it came at a critical point. The Chargers were attempting to retake the lead after the third touchdown of the day by WR Plaxico Burress put the Jets ahead for the first time at 24-21.
"It just came down to me doing my job," said Wilson. "I was supposed to be under the receiver. There was motion, we communicated the coverage, and we did everything we were supposed to. Give that to Coach [Mike] Pettine. I was just doing my job out there."
The interception was a milestone for Wilson, but one that he knew was imminent. Before the game, fellow CB Darrelle Revis teased him about his lack of takeaways.
"I asked him, 'When are you going to get an interception?' " said Revis. "He said it was coming. I'm proud of him for stepping up, and he's going to continue to make plays."
No one on the Jets defense has made more plays than Revis himself. Week after week the ball is finding No. 24 as he's already piled up a team-leading four interceptions.
"Sometimes you go out there and the ball bounces your way," said Revis. "That's part of the game. You've got to keep on chucking, and keep working hard to make plays."
Revis had been chucking all day when he finally got his hands on a Rivers pass attempt in the fourth quarter. Down by four, and with the Chargers about to enter the red zone, Cromartie was locked up with WR Vincent Jackson, who couldn't find the handle, deflecting the ball into the chest of Revis.
"We showed man when it was really a zone," said Revis. "The receiver went underneath, Cro broke the play up, and the ball popped in the air. It was a great play on everybody's part."
Revis took the interception 64 yards in the other direction, setting up the go-ahead touchdown from Burress on the ensuing drive.
At the end of the day, the Jets improved their record to 4-3 and are a perfect 4-0 at MetLife Stadium. Heading into next week's bye, it was of utmost importance for them to get their record above .500.
Now, they wait.
"It's great for us," said Revis. "You never want to go into a bye week losing this last game. We get to enjoy the bye week, critique ourselves on our strengths and weaknesses, get ready for the rest of the season, and move on."