TAMPA, Fla. - When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the football Sunday, the Jets' defense was as stingy as Scrooge on Christmas Eve.
They held the Bucs to 124 yards of total offense, only 43 of them on the ground. Fourteen times the Bucs tried to convert a third down and 14 times they failed. In the entire first half, the Tampa Bay offense advanced the football a total of 45 feet.
The Jets held the Bucs to 2.2 yards per offensive play and only six first downs all day, and none at all until the third quarter was nearly halfway over.
And that is the one that sticks in their collective craw, because if it were not for Bart Scott, the number might have been five first downs. Or three. Or maybe none at all.
"Everybody did a great job but me, spoiling the shutout," said Scott, the All-Pro linebacker brought here as a free agent to anchor Rex Ryan's defense.
Instead, the anchor momentarily brought the Jets down to the level of the Bucs. On a third-and-9 play, Scott turned what should have been Donald Strickland's possession-ending 2-yard sack of Josh Freeman into a first-and-10 by engaging in an altercation after the play with Bucs special-teamer Niko Koutouvides that left Scott clutching Koutouvides' helmet and the back judge throwing a flag.
That led to two more Bucs first downs and their only points of the afternoon, a 43-yard field goal by Connor Barth.
"That was a rookie mistake by me," Scott said. "I was talking to someone else and the guy pushes me and tells me to shut up. I let my temper get the better of me."
Said Ryan, "Bart plays with passion and he plays with heart, but he doesn't have to play dumb. That play breathed new life into them."
Scott's play was the only false note sounded by a defense that once again played as if it belongs among the league's best, where statistically it is.
For the third straight game, Darrelle Revis had at least one interception, and he easily could have had another. Kerry Rhodes had his third in three games. Calvin Pace and James Ihedigbo had sacks, with Ihedigbo executing a mocking "tap-in" putt while standing over Freeman. And on the first play from scrimmage, Freeman threw the ball right to David Harris to give the Jets the ball at the Tampa Bay 25 only 15 seconds into the game.
"I read his eyes and they took me right to the ball," Harris said of Freeman, who has thrown 13 interceptions in seven games, including five last week against the Panthers.
That set the tone for a game in which the Jets' defense was so dominant that it allowed the Jets' offense to go for it twice on fourth down, even with Kellen Clemens at quarterback, because it was obvious that Tampa Bay's offense was going nowhere.
"It was a great performance by our defense," Ryan said. "I think we're starting to figure this thing out.''