The calendar said it was another week closer to the 2018 NFL Draft. The mood in the happiest 2-2 locker room in the NFL confirmed that is the furthest thing from the minds of the 2017 Jets.
“I think we’ve shown that we’re competitors and we’re not going to sit there and let you come into our house and just roll us over,” linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. “We’re a team that’s ready to fight, and we’re going to fight all day.”
This was shortly after the Jets had won their second game in a row — barely — by beating the Jaguars, 23-20, on a 41-yard field goal by Chandler Catanzaro with 28 seconds left in overtime.
Did they mark the occasion with a bit of gloating? Yes, they did.
Did they deserve to? Yes, they did.
They entered the season expected to be among the worst teams in the NFL, with a shot at finishing 0-16 and securing the No. 1 overall draft pick and with it a promising young quarterback.
Instead, they are tied for second place in the AFC East — with the Patriots! — and bound for winless Cleveland next week.
“It’s hard not to hear it,” cornerback Morris Claiborne said. “You try not to hear, but playing football and being on this team you hear it, and believe me, we feed off of it. We take that on the field with us.
“Every time somebody’s breaking it down we’re like, ‘They’re already counting us out, so what do we have to lose?’ ”
Maybe these wins will hurt in the bigger picture. But that has been difficult to believe the past two weeks as coach Todd Bowles’ young defense dominated the Dolphins and Jaguars.
It should give the organization and its fans hope that if a quarterback savior arrives, there will be other pieces of a winner in place.
On Sunday the defense multi-tasked, doing everything from exhorting another smallish but spirited crowd at MetLife Stadium to saving the game when the offense derailed, especially with two disastrous fourth-quarter turnovers.
“The defense bailed us out,” center Wesley Johnson said.
The final save came in an overtime that seemed lost until a stop on third-and-3 from the Jets’ 43. Sure, it helped that Marqis Lee dropped a pass that likely would have set up the Jags for the winning field goal. But you make your own breaks in football, as in life.
“This is not the same Jets team it’s been in the past, I will say that,” said defensive lineman Kony Ealy, who has been a Jet since Aug. 27.
Ealy set up a field goal by tipping a Blake Bortles pass to himself, intercepting it and giving the offense the ball at the 7-yard line.
The defense insisted it did not allow the offense’s miscues to sidetrack it. “We’re a team,” rookie safety Marcus Maye said. “They’ve got our backs and we’ve got their backs.”
All of this came against a Jaguars team that scored 44 points against the Ravens in London last week.
Until two weeks ago, Josh McCown had been 2-22 in starts since 2014. Now he has won games in consecutive weeks for the first time since he led the Cardinals to a win over the Giants on Nov. 14, 2004.
How long ago was that? It was the last time an opposing quarterback started against a Giants quarterback other than Eli Manning.
“If anybody’s surprised it has to be all the naysayers who thought we were going to go 0-16 this year, but we knew what type of team we had,” Jenkins said.
“The more and more people talked about us going 0-16, the more and more of our family members and friends would hit us up and say, ‘Y’all are going to be trash this year; they’re saying you’re not going win a game.’ After a while it just sort of gets to be where enough is enough.”