Rex Ryan lifted up a piece of paper, complete with statistics ranking this year’s version of the Jets' defense with that of 2009.
“I’ve got all the stats and you guys can look at them,” Ryan said. “The only thing that we haven’t improved on at this time last year was red zone defense, which is important without question. It’s actually red zone defense and red zone offense. But everything else, we are ahead of at this point last year."
OK, now let’s be real here for a second: the Jets’ defense is playing nowhere close to the 2009 version. Sure, they are ranked seventh. But stats, as we know, don’t always tell the story and it certainly hasn’t with this squad.
The defense has served it up on a tee for opposing offenses over the last month-plus, getting bailed out by Mark Sanchez & Co. each week. To review:
? Week 6 at Denver: Jets were tied 17-17 with the Broncos with 8:36 left and allowed Denver to go 50 yards down field in nine plays to take a 20-17 lead on a Matt Prater 48-yard field goal with 3:55 to play. They eventually won 24-20 following LaDainian Tomlinson’s 2-yard touchdown run, which of course, was set up by Santonio Holmes drawing that pass interference penalty on Renaldo Hill.
? Week 9 at Detroit: Trailing 13-10 early in the fourth, the Jets surrendered a nine-play, 90-yard drive that was capped by QB Matthew Stafford’s 2-yard pass to WR Nate Burleson with 11:51 left. The Jets needed another furious rally on offense to pull it out, scoring the game’s final 10 points – including Nick Folk’s 30-yard game-winner set up by Holmes’ big 52-yard reception early in overtime.
? Week 10 at Cleveland: Just minutes after thinking they had sewed things up on Folk’s 25-yard field goal for a 20-13 lead with 2:42 remaining, the Jets yielded a 10-play, 59-yard drive to the Browns (who were featuring a rookie QB) to square things at 20-20 with 44 seconds remaining. Once again, they needed Holmes and the offense to bail them out, which happened with 16 seconds left in OT when Holmes caught that slant from QB Mark Sanchez and darted 37 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
? Yesterday vs. Texans: Despite holding a 23-7 cushion early in the fourth, the defense surrenders 20 unanswered points – six of those coming on a ridiculously easy 43-yard touchdown toss to TE Joel Dreessen, which Jason Taylor took the blame for since that was his man in coverage – and the Jets had to win it on Holmes’ 6-yard TD reception from Sanchez with 10 seconds to play.
But the Jets don't really want to hear about any of that.
"There’s been games we did pretty good as well," DE Shaun Ellis said. "I think we are still in the top five (actually top seven) so we’ll take it. We are getting wins, and we are going to get better. We are not going to continue to be this way, so there’s definitely room for improvement. We are just going to get out there and correct it and hope we can get it done by Thursday."
LB Jason Taylor said: “I think we’ve had good times and we’ve had some times where we haven’t played quite as well. But we’re 8-2, so I’ll take it.”
Perhaps, but it's time for the defense to crank it up a notch or two.
"We built this team to get better in December and January, so we’ll see who’s right and I know where my money is at," Ryan said. "I think we are going to improve as a football team. I've said that before, but we just have to go out and prove it."