The Jets' 32-3 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday quickly turned into "the Cro Show." The athletic ability of CB Antonio Cromartie was on display as he returned two kickoffs, intercepted two Luke McCown passes, and was even involved on offense.
"I will say this," said head coach Rex Ryan. "It would be ridiculous if we don't comment on how good Cromartie was today as a kick returner and then with the two interceptions."
It was an important game for Cromartie, after being scored upon twice in the season opener against Dallas. He accepted and met Sunday's challenge, becoming a nuisance for the Jaguars' offensive and special teams units.
"We as players know what our standards are," said Cromartie. "We wanted to come out, have a great week of practice, and that's what we did."
His first interception came in the second quarter with the Jets leading, 12-3, and the Jaguars driving at the Jets' 28-yard line. McCown tried floating a pass to WR Mike Thomas toward the end zone, but Cromartie was there, catching the ball at the 3-yard line and returning it 37 yards the other way.
"They ended up running a double post," said Cromartie. "It was a formation we had seen from watching film. I knew it was a post. I just tried to jump on it."
The second time around, the Jets led, 22-3 and the Jaguars had the ball at their own 22. Cromartie again jumped a route by Thomas and nearly returned it all the way. Two plays later, RB Shonn Greene punched it in from a yard out and the Jets increased their lead.
"I was in man-to-man coverage," Cro said. "It was something like third-and-short, and I knew they were either going to try to go quick or hit us with a deep ball. We played to our technique and came away with a big play."
Overall, the Jets had four interceptions and held McCown to a final passer rating of 1.8.
"That's a New York Jet record," said head coach Rex Ryan. "It's not my personal record, but we're working on it. It was a big-time game for us."
Actually, it wasn't a Jets record, but it was close. The Bengals' Carson Palmer had a 1.7 rating in the 2009 regular-season finale and the Buccaneers' Trent Dilfer had a 0.0 in a 1997 game.
In the locker room, S Jim Leonhard talked about what, exactly, that feat means.
"It just means we executed all day," said Leonhard. "We put a complete 60 minutes together, which is what you try to do. It starts with the guys up front and moves all the way back. When our team is dialed in all week, this is what can happen."
In addition to Cromartie's two picks, S Eric Smith and LB Josh Mauga also intercepted McCown passes. The four interceptions matched the most for the Jets in the Rex Ryan era and led to 13 points for the Jets offense.
"A lot of guys have stepped up," said defensive captain Darrelle Revis. "The communication was great. I think the big thing was that we started off very fast, upbeat, up-tempo on both offense and defense."
In fact, the Jets scored an offensive TD on their first drive of the game. The score broke the streak of 16 consecutive games without a first-quarter offensive TD. It was all set up by Cromartie, who fielded the opening kickoff 4 yards deep in his end zone and returned it 39 yards to the 35.
"I'm just having fun," said Cromartie. "Running kicks back is something that can set the tempo for the game and get the offense going."
Cromartie finished with two kick returns for 85 yards. His interception returns netted another 63 yards. He accounted for 1 more yard and it came in an unlikely manner. Inserted at wide receiver, he took a reverse, tried turning the corner, but was stopped just after the line of scrimmage.
Cromartie truly was all over the field Sunday, and he made it look – and sound – so easy.
"I'm enjoying the game," he said. "The biggest thing is being prepared, knowing what you're doing and just having fun with it."