The Jets locker room was a noisy place Sunday.
In one area, some defensive linemen were laughing. Across from them, there was a mixture of players joking around. Toward the end of a wall of lockers sat the offensive linemen, smiling and sitting back in their chairs letting things soak in.
The Jets survived some wacky plays and took what defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers said the night before to heart as they beat the Jaguars, 23-20, in overtime Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
Rodgers, as soft-spoken as head coach Todd Bowles, told the team during a pregame speech Saturday night that they have to hate losing to mature as a team.
“We got to hate losing more than we love winning,” defensive tackle Steve McLendon said of Rodgers’ speech. “If you hate losing, you’re going to guarantee yourself a win. You want to be on that side. You don’t want to lose, if anything you want to be stingy when it comes to games like this.”
A game like this not only moved the Jets to .500 at 2-2, but into a second-place tie with the Patriots — yeah, those same Patriots, the defending Super Bowl champs — who visit MetLife Stadium in two weeks.
The Jets being 2-2 after four weeks was something very few thought would happen to a team that was projected to win three, maybe four games. Some fans were hoping for an even worse season so the Jets could guarantee themselves a top pick in next year’s draft and select a new quarterback.
“Did we surprise you? I’m thinking we surprised some of you guys, too,” cornerback Morris Claiborne told reporters. “After hearing a lot of things that people are saying, it’s hard not to hear it playing football and being on this team, you hear it. Believe me, we feed off it. We take it on the field with us every time somebody is breaking it down, they’re already counting us out. So what do we have to lose other than go out here and leave it all over the field?”
The Jets held a 20-10 lead going into the fourth quarter with a chance to close the game before a series of baffling plays helped the Jaguars force overtime.
Faced with first-and-10 at the Jags’ 10, Josh McCown threw a backward pass that bounced off Bilal Powell and into the hands of Myles Jack, who returned the fumble 81 yards for a score. The touchdown, confirmed by replay, cut the lead to 20-17 with 10:20 left.
After the teams traded possessions in the fourth, the Jets continued to run well. They gained a season-high 256 yards behind Powell, who started for Matt Forte (turf toe). Powell, who rushed for a career-high 163 yards, was involved in another crazy play.
On a third-and-6 from the Jets’ 34, McCown sent a short pass toward Powell. But the running back fell down during the throw and cornerback A.J. Bouye made a diving interception with 3:22 remaining. The turnover led to a game-tying 22-yard field goal by Jason Myers.
“Three weeks ago, we wouldn’t have recovered from this,” Bowles said. “Right now, they’re growing every week. They didn’t flinch. They stood up and made some plays at the end.”
With 1:50 left in overtime, the Jets forced the Jags to punt from their own end zone and Jeremy Kerley’s 7-yard return was aided by a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty against Paul Posluszny, who yelled at Dylan Donahue following a collision.
Four plays later, Chandler Catanzaro made a 41-yard field goal with 28 seconds left in overtime to win it.
“We had the game sealed away,” outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. “Then you have one mistake happen, another mistake happens. Those are the kinds of games people live for and you always want to be the one to overcome the adversity. This game — people grow up wishing they could play in it.”
For the Jets, they did just enough.
“Don’t just mark us off on your calendar as a win,” Claiborne said. “Believe me, we’re doing the same thing to you. We’re real ly working and not taking anything for granted. So don’t come in and think you’re going to push us over.”