Jets defense smothers Buccaneers
TAMPA, Fla. — When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the football yesterdaySunday, the Jets defense was as stingy as Scrooge on Christmas Eve.
They held the Bucs to 124 yards of total offense, just 43 of them on the ground. Fourteen times the Bucs tried to convert a third down, and 14 times they failed. In the entire first half, the Tampa Bay offense advanced the football a total of 45 feet.
The Jets held them to 2.2 yards per offensive play and only six first downs all day, and none at all until the third quarter was nearly halfway over.
And that is the one that sticks in their collective craw, because if it were not for Bart Scott, the number might have been five first downs. Or three. Or maybe, none at all. “Everybody did a great job but me, spoiling the shutout,” said Scott, the All-Pro linebacker who was brought here as a free agent to anchor new head coach Rex Ryan’s defense.
Instead, the anchor momentarily brought the Jets down to the level of the Bucs, turning what should have been a possession-ending sack of Josh Freeman by Donald Strickland on a third-and-2 into a first-and-10 by engaging in an altercation after the play with Bucs special teamer Niko Koutouvides that left Scott clutching Koutouvides’ helmet and the back judge throwing a flag.
That led to two more Tampa first downs and eventually, their only points of the afternoon, a 43-yard Connor Barth field goal.
“That was a rookie mistake by me,” Scott said. “I was talking to someone else and the guy pushes me and tells me to shut up. I let my temper get the better of me.”
“Bart plays with passion and he plays with heart,” Ryan said. “But he doesn’t have to play dumb. That play breathed new life into them.”
Scott’s play was the only false note sounded by a defense that once again played as if it belongs among the league’s best, where statistically it is.
For the third straight game, Darrelle Revis had at least one interception and could easily have had another, and Kerry Rhodes had his third in three games. Calvin Pace and James Ihedigbo had sacks — Ihedigbo executed a mocking “tap-in” putt while standing over Freeman — and the game began with David Harris stepping in front of Freeman’s first pass of the game to give the Jets the ball at the Tampa 25 after only eight seconds had elapsed.
“I read his eyes and they took me right to the ball,” Harris said of Freeman, who has thrown 13 interceptions in seven games, including five last week against the Panthers. “He threw it right into my chest. I had to catch it.”
That set the tone for a game in which the Jets defense was so dominant it allowed the Jets offense twice to go for it on fourth down, even with Kellen Clemens at quarterback, because it was obvious that Tampa Bay’s offense was going nowhere.
“It was a great performance by our defense,” Ryan said. “I think we’re starting to figure this thing out. By the end of the week we’ll probably have the number one defense in the league and the number one rushing attack and those are the things that win football games.”