Among non-quarterback Jets, no group was more maligned during the team’s 1-5 start than the defensive secondary, which has made a disturbing habit of giving up very long plays.
Even Darrelle Revis, the team’s star cornerback, had taken far more than his customary share of abuse.
But on Sunday, all was relatively well after a 24-16 victory over the Ravens in which the defensive backs made several game-turning plays.
Perhaps the biggest was a third-quarter interception by cornerback Buster Skrine, who had been benched during a penalty-marred mess of a performance last Monday against the Cardinals.
Skrine was targeted early in Sunday’s game as the Ravens mostly ignored Revis’ side. Then, with the Jets trailing 16-14, he stepped in front of a pass intended for Breshad Perriman and ran the ball back 51 yards to the Baltimore 3-yard line.
That set up the field goal that put the Jets ahead to stay.
“He did a good job getting the turnover,” coach Todd Bowles said. “[There are] some things we’re still working on and getting better at every week. He made a complete turnaround from last week.”
Skrine attributed his penalties last week to his aggressive style. As for the Ravens looking his way, he said: “It’s a passing league. A lot of times, when a team sees a corner have a bad game the week before, they will try and check to see if he still has his confidence.”
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco acknowledged that Baltimore had been “attacking” Skrine with speedy Mike Wallace. On the play in question, the matchup changed; Wallace was in the slot, drawing Revis.
“I made a decision pre-snap: I’ll go to the one-on-one on my left,” Flacco said. “I think he undercut the route.”
Flacco had not thrown an interception in his previous 176 pass attempts, a Ravens record.
On the Ravens’ next possession, Flacco was intercepted by Marcus Gilchrist, who returned it 25 yards to the Baltimore 24. Soon thereafter, the Jets scored a touchdown to make it 24-16.
It was a shocking turn of events for a team that entered the game with four takeaways all season — two fumble recoveries and two interceptions.
The secondary’s bounce-back game concluded with Marcus Williams getting a hand on a long, accurate pass from Flacco to Chris Moore down the right sideline on fourth-and-8 with about a minute left.
“One way to build confidence back there in the secondary is making plays and getting your hands on the ball a little bit, and that’s what we did today,” Revis said. “We did a great job of that.
“Yes, it went back and forth here and there, but at the same time, we still have to continue to finish games out strong, and I can say this game is where we played all four quarters.”
Said safety Calvin Pryor: “If we get turnovers, we get them in bunches. So hopefully, that was the start of something good today.”