Jets' defense forced to confront 'quitters' label

Eric Smith and Nick Bellore head out on Eric Smith and Nick Bellore head out on the field in the fourth quarter of a game against the San Francisco 49ers. (Sept. 30, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- When the Jets' defense arrived for work on Wednesday, the players knew to expect a tough day after losing to San Francisco, 34-0, and allowing 245 yards rushing. But it turned out worse than imagined when they were confronted with comments from 49ers defensive back Carlos Rogers accusing them of quitting.

Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine revealed Friday that he put Rogers' critique on the projection screen, offered an introduction explaining the quotes and then sat back to let his players "soak it in."

Their reaction?

"Silence," Pettine said.

Jets coach Rex Ryan previously said the Jets showed fatigue because they were on defense for 36:56, but he saw no one quitting. Pettine generally agreed, but he felt it was important for his players to examine Rogers' comments and themselves before facing undefeated Houston on Monday night at MetLife Stadium.

"When it comes from a peer," Pettine said, "you've got to stop yourself and say, 'Wait a minute. If it's being perceived as this, then we've got to take action.' You could ask them how they felt about it, but we used it this week."

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Rogers said the Jets basically gave up after he returned a fumble by receiver Santonio Holmes for a touchdown that gave the 49ers a 24-0 lead. Holmes suffered a season-ending foot injury on the play.

"After that, it's like, man, these guys don't really want to play the game," Rogers was quoted as saying. "You know, it's pretty much over. You could see it happening. A lot of [49ers] were saying on the sideline, 'Oh, they don't want to tackle.'

"That's a Rex Ryan defense . . . His defense plays throughout, and that was the shocking point about it . . . It really kind of shocked me to see that them guys were ready to go get in the showers."

Pettine said he, too, gave Rogers' hurtful assessment his full consideration. "I didn't take them as anything malicious," Pettine said. "I think he was genuinely surprised.

"You're going to get all sorts of insults hurled at you in sports . . . but one of the worst ones that can get put on you is that you quit. Again, in watching the tape, there weren't that many [plays] where you could point out and say, 'He just flat gave up.' I don't think you could say anybody quit. I know we got worn down probably just as much emotionally as we were physically."

Pettine said his veterans know the defense hasn't performed to expectations in terms of execution and that it has to regain its trademark intensity against the Texans Monday night. "We have very high standards, and right now, we're not playing to those," Pettine said. "We need to get back to that."

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