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Jets focus on stopping the run entering matchup with Bills

Head coach Robert Saleh of the Jets looks

Head coach Robert Saleh of the Jets looks on in the first half against the Cincinnati Bengals at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021. Credit: Jim McIsaac

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — After a defensive performance against the Indianapolis Colts that coach Robert Saleh said left his players feeling embarrassed, the Jets are hoping to bounce back against the Buffalo Bills by going back to fundamentals, and maybe finally erasing the sting of 260 rushing yards.

"I’ve said it before, I’d rather see 500 yards passing than 250 yards rushing. It feels different," Saleh said Friday. "The run game is a matter of will, it’s mind over anything. It’s strain and it’s fighting for every gap, it’s fighting for every yard. I think our defensive guys take a lot of pride, the players throughout the NFL have a lot of pride. So to have that happen to them, I think they’re really excited to get back Sunday to get it fixed."

Particularly, they’ll have to do battle with Josh Allen, who poses a two-way threat as the Bills’ mobile quarterback, while also having to face the best defense in the league. Saleh said he hopes Nov. 4’s performance against the Colts was merely an anomaly, though one the Jets have to do their absolute best to learn from.

"It’s going to be a tremendous challenge on Sunday," Saleh said. "After the Cincinnati game, I think we were seventh in yards per rush allowed, so the run game had not been an issue … Then obviously we just got rocked with Indianapolis. It’s just a matter of just hunkering down, getting back to the fundamentals and doing what we had been doing for the whole year. It felt like it hadn’t been a problem and, obviously, Indianapolis did a great job."

Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said Thursday that the run game has been a point of intense focus, both their technique and play-calling. He called the Bills a team with no true weakness, though Allen does have a tendency to fall apart when pressured, something the Jets will absolutely have to establish from the beginning.

"I just think you got to find that right balance" of pressuring him and choosing, at times, to play more conservatively, Ulbrich said. "We got a huge emphasis right now to win the second play. The initial play, obviously, got to win that, but now the second play — second play being when he starts to scramble, the shallow routes go vertical, the vertical routes come back to you, having the discipline to keep your eyes on your man, don’t look at the quarterback and trust that our rush will contain him."

Quinnen Williams added that the mistakes against Indianapolis, along with the extra reflection time, have allowed them to learn more about what they have to do.

"There were a lot of things we did wrong that night," he said, "a lot of execution [issues] that we’ve learned from that game, [along with] the willingness and urgency to get correct fast … It goes back to executing and all 11 doing their job on defense and making plays."

Ulbrich seemed to echo that feeling. It isn’t so much that the Jets don’t have the personnel, it’s that they weren’t using it correctly.

"We have not played to our ability," he said. "I think we’re capable of being so much more and so much more consistent and it’s a prideful group. It’s the same as the way they responded from the New England week. They’ve done the same this week. It’s been good meetings, good practice, good walk-throughs, intent has been right, communication has been right and it’s just got to translate on Monday."

Notes & quotes: WR Corey Davis (hip), RB Tevin Coleman (hamstring), DL Shaq Lawson (hamstring) and LG Alijah Vera-Tucker (toe) all should be ready to play Sunday, Saleh said. WR Denzel Mims (COVID 19) will not play. DB Jason Pinnock, who originally tested positive for COVID, has tested negative on the PCR test. He’ll need another clean test to play.

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