Jamal Adams stood at his locker a few minutes after the Jets’ 42-34 win over the Colts, grinning broadly. Then he volunteered to describe his own performance in the game.
“I [stunk], man,” the second-year safety said. “But we created turnovers. If you get four turnovers in a game, your odds of winning go up. That definitely helped us come out victorious.”
On the very first play from scrimmage, Adams helped force Andrew Luck’s interception that was returned for a touchdown by cornerback Morris Claiborne. Adams also forced a key fumble in the second quarter that led to another touchdown.
He really thought he played badly?
“For me, my standards are very high,” Adams said. “There were two outstanding throws [Luck made in the first half]. I was in great position. I turned my head, but I just didn’t make a play on the ball. I [stunk], but we came out victorious, so I smile.”
Adams wasn’t the only defensive player with mixed emotions after the game. Just about every other one felt the same. Yes, it was great to get the win, but the performance on defense was unacceptable.
The fact is the Jets mostly struggled on defense through much of the game, and had it not been for the turnovers, Luck might well have pulled off a dramatic comeback. It was a scene reminiscent of several games last year, when the Jets were unable to close out the Patriots, Falcons and Dolphins because of poor defense down the stretch.
Credit them for not folding against the Colts, but don’t give them too much credit. At least not yet. After all, the Colts, now 1-5, were injury-riddled on the offensive line and at receiver, so Luck wasn’t dealing with a full arsenal.
“We should have won by a lot more,” linebacker Avery Williamson said. “Even myself on that first series, I wasn’t in the right position and I’ve got to make sure I get more disciplined. It’s something I’m going to fix in practice. Definitely thrilled that we won but know we could have played better defensively.”
It’s all well and good to be back at .500 with wins over the Broncos and Colts, but let’s not be under any illusions that the Jets are ready to be called playoff contenders. They’re only a game behind the Patriots and Dolphins in the AFC East, but if they plan on being within range of a postseason spot by December, they must be better on defense.
A lot better.
To hear Todd Bowles tell it, the problems on defense are relatively minor. It’s all “correctable,” as the coachspeak cliché goes.
“It’s a lot of little things,” Bowles said Monday after poring over the game film. “It’s fundamentals, different guys on different plays. It’s being on the same page.”
It helps that the Jets already have 15 takeaways, compared to just 20 all last season.
“It’s good to get them,” Bowles said. “Have to keep working at them. Turnovers are always big.”
But you’re not always going to get turnovers, so playing more soundly on defense is vitally important. That needs to start Sunday against the Vikings, who are at a different level than the Broncos and Colts.
Minnesota (3-2-1) is hitting its stride after a Week 3 clunker against the Bills, winning two of its last three and nearly upsetting the unbeaten Rams. Kirk Cousins, who spurned the Jets before signing with the Vikings, has 12 touchdown passes and just three interceptions, including five TD passes and one interception in his last three games.
It’s therefore incumbent upon the defense to show improvement – a tall order, given the injuries to cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson and Buster Skrine and the likely absence of safety Marcus Maye, who hurt his thumb against the Colts.
Good, not great simply isn’t good enough. Not with the schedule about to turn decidedly more challenging.