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Jets Q&A: Did DC Rodgers' absence inspire the defense?

Leonard Williams shows off his sack-dance moves after

Leonard Williams shows off his sack-dance moves after bringing down Case Keenum during Jets' win over the Broncos.  Credit: James Escher

How much was Kacy Rodgers on the Jets’ minds?

A lot, especially the defense.

They were thinking about Rodgers, their defensive coordinator, who is not with the team while he deals with what coach Todd Bowles called a “serious” health issue. Jamal Adams addressed the defense before the game, and according to Leonard Williams, he said, “If you don’t have nothing else to play for, play for that man.”

The Jets’ defense played inspired football, holding the No. 2 rushing attack more than 50 yards below its average. Rodgers’ defensive players said they made him proud.

“Our message [was], ‘Let’s play for him,’  ” Adams said. “I know he’s smiling right now. He was excited with the way we played, and we can’t wait to get him back.”

Bowles took over the defensive play-calling duties for Rodgers and said it was not easy to handle both responsibilities.

“It was hard, but we do what we got to do to win,” Bowles said. “The coaches did a good job helping me out all day.”  

What kind of impact did the defensive players-only meeting that Adams arranged have?

It proved to be big. The Jets did improve their communication, which they had said was the No. 1 issue in last week’s loss in Jacksonville. They said they would continue doing it to make sure everyone understands where they should be and their role.

“One minute can make a difference in anything,” Adams said. “Just working at it. We got a step better by doing that. It’s going to continue, obviously. As long as we communicate and play fundamentally sound football, we can be a good defense.”   

Can Leonard Williams be expected to play this well every week?

He should be able to.

Defenses will throw double- teams at him, but Williams is quick and strong enough to do damage every week.

Williams had a dominant performance with two sacks, equaling his total for all of last season. He had one by himself and was in on two others, and also had another quarterback hit.

“I think it was important just because players feed off of each other,” Williams said. “It could have been anybody. But when big-time players are making big-time plays, it motivates the team.”   

What happened on the last play, when Marcus Maye had a chance for a 105-yard TD return?

He looked as if he got tired after running all over the field.

Maye picked off a ball tipped by Morris Claiborne in the Jets’ end zone and took it 104 yards before getting tackled at the 1-yard line as time expired. Maye cut back a couple of times and seemed to lose steam.

“I got to finish it,” he said. “I got to get it in the end zone.”

Maye’s 104-yard interception return is the longest in Jets history. It’s also the longest in NFL history that didn’t result in a touchdown.

Adams said Maye should have pitched it to him and that he had shouted it loud enough for his teammate to hear.

“He cuts back, I’m looking at him,” Adams said. “Usually in practice, we pitch the ball to each other to go score if we get tired, and Marcus Maye did not pitch the ball! He got caught on the 1-yard line. I think it was by a lineman.”

Maye shouted back, “It wasn’t by no damn lineman!”

It was Courtland Sutton, the intended receiver back in the other end zone, who ran 104 yards to bring Maye down.

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