FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - With two excruciating losses behind them and two critical games — maybe even season-deciding games — coming up in the next week, Demario Davis gathered his teammates on the field Wednesday for an impromptu discussion to hammer home his message.
This was no ordinary way to start practice. It’s almost always at the end when the team huddles up, and then it’s the coach who speaks. This time, it was one of the Jets’ most outspoken leaders, who thought it was the right time to set the right tone after squandering leads in losses to the Patriots and Dolphins.
“It’s no secret that the past two games we’ve dropped, we let two leads go,” the middle linebacker said. “It was just basically to have everybody understand where we’re at and what we have to do. Let’s just correct the little things that we need to correct, and stay together and keep pushing forward.”
It’s a critical time for a team that already has exceeded outside expectations by winning three games, but the Jets are bitterly disappointed at having wasted opportunities. They’re 3-4 heading into Sunday’s home game against the Falcons, which will be followed by another home game against Buffalo next Thursday night. But they think they’d be 5-2 if not for key mistakes against New England and Miami.
“We have a really good group, and when we click on all cylinders, we’re tough to beat,” said Davis, who leads the Jets in tackles (41) and sacks (2½). “We just want to stay in that spirit.’’
This is a second identity crisis of sorts for the Jets, who started with losses at Buffalo and Oakland but put together a three-game winning streak heading into the Patriots’ game. They had a 14-0 first-half lead against the defending Super Bowl champs but wound up losing, 24-17. They had a touchdown taken away on a controversial replay review, but refused to use the call as an excuse.
The loss to the Dolphins was even more painful. The offense looked magnificent for most of the game, and the Jets led 28-14 heading to the fourth quarter. But they surrendered 17 unanswered points, and Josh McCown’s interception in the final minute led to the deciding field goal in a 31-28 loss at Hard Rock Stadium.
McCown was morose afterward, beating himself up for the interception and taking responsibility for the loss. “Man, it makes you sick,” he said. By Wednesday, he had put it behind him and was jovial after practice. Moments before speaking to reporters, he imitated a Jets public relations representative and yelled, “Josh McCown to the podium. Josh McCown to the podium.”
It was clearly time to move on for McCown and his teammates, and Davis’ speech was a good reminder that there’s still time to turn things around, even after two dispiriting losses.
“It resonated with all of us,” McCown said. “The veteran leadership we have wants us to stay together and be resilient. “When (Davis) pulls us together, it’s just a good reminder that we all lost Sunday, not just this side of the ball or that side of the ball. We all lost and we all feel like crap after the game, but we’re all in this together.”
Said defensive tackle Mo Wilkerson, another veteran leader: “It’s guys staying together, all 11 guys out there on the field doing their job.”
The key will be responding the right way in crunch time.
“Two plays are usually the difference in games,” Davis said. “You just have to find ways to make those plays. Some teams, when the game is on the line, they find a way to make those plays. That’s what the good teams do.”
The Jets aren’t there yet, but Davis refuses to believe it can’t happen. He was asked whether he’s curious to see if the Jets can bounce back.
“I’m not curious to see,” he said. “I know how we respond to adversity, and we always respond to it in a positive way, so I’m just excited for the game.”