FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The takeaways just aren’t coming for Todd Bowles’ team.
“Yeah, it’s frustrating,” the Jets coach said Wednesday, when asked about his defense. “That’s the biggest difference between this year and last year, defensively: not many takeaways.”
Despite a 3-8 record and the defense’s propensity for late-game collapses, Bowles insisted he’s seen it make strides this season, even though it has not had a takeaway in the last three games. “For the most part, in a lot of areas we’ve got some improvement,” he said. “We still got some ways to go, but slowly but surely it’s getting better.”
Where exactly has he seen improvement?
“The big plays down the field haven’t been as substantial as the beginning of the season,” Bowles said. “The running gaps are tightening down a little, but everybody’s getting to know each other and play together.”
Yet takeaways remain elusive for the Jets, who have a minus-13 turnover differential, according to NFL.com. “There is a lot of different things that separate [a good defense from a bad one],” he said. “If you get turnovers, it gives the offense an extra possession, and that keeps you off of the field more. That’s a big thing for us that we try to harp on.”
The Jets, who face Indianapolis (5-6) Monday night at MetLife Stadium, last played the Colts on Sept. 21, 2015 and forced five turnovers in a 20-7 road win. Darrelle Revis had an interception and two fumble recoveries.
What a difference a year makes.
Revis, who doesn’t have an interception or fumble recovery this season, doesn’t resemble the shutdown corner he once was. The Jets have only 19 sacks, tied for third-worst in the league, and only six interceptions, none since Week 8.
“Obviously, it’s frustrating,” Bowles said, “especially because we’re losing because of those things. We have to keep grinding. You’ve got to keep harping on it. It’s the same guys as last year. Everybody’s got to tighten up a little bit.”
Their last opponent, however, had no problem generating turnovers. The Jets had three fumbles (one of which they recovered) in Sunday’s 22-17 loss to New England. After rookie Robby Anderson made a 25-yard catch near the sideline, cornerback Malcolm Butler poked the ball out and recovered it. New England scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive, tying the score at 10 with 6:29 to go in the first half. Then with 1:43 remaining in the game, Chris Long strip-sacked Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Patriots recovered to seal the victory.
“They come in bunches,’’ Bowles said. “We’re trying everything we can to get them, it’s just not falling our way right now.
“You practice takeaways, you practice strips, you practice turnover drills. And you can do all that stuff and you try to get them in games. We swipe at the ball, we just haven’t gotten them.”