Like his head coach, Muhammad Wilkerson still is lamenting the missed opportunities against the Steelers – namely, his near-safety on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. But Sunday is a clean slate for the Jets, who will face Tom Brady and the Patriots for the second time this season. But is their Week 7 matchup a must-win for the Jets?
“We always go in every week thinking we’re going to win the game,” Wilkerson said on WFAN. “This is a division game. And I’m not just saying this one is a must win. Every game is a must-win for us. But it just makes it that much more important because it’s a division opponent. That’s a great team, and coming off the loss to Pittsburgh, we can’t go back-to-back losses at home. So we’ve got to definitely make sure we hopefully get this win.”
The third-year defensive end said the Jets (3-3) likely would have a better record had it not been for self-inflicted wounds. “Right now, we’ve got to find ourselves and regroup,” he said, “and get ready for a tough team that’s coming in this week.”
Wilkerson touched on several topics during his weekly radio spot Tuesday, including the defense’s lack of turnovers, the overwhelming crowd noise from Steelers fans and the tough road ahead for the Jets.
Was there an emotional letdown vs PIT?
“At the end of the day, we didn’t get the job done. There were too many mistakes that we made. We’re not protecting the ball, we’re turning over the ball. And once we get those things corrected, we will start putting more wins in that column than losses.”
On the near-safety on Ben Roethlisberger...
“I made a move on a tackle and my eyes got a little big. Big Ben was looking away from me and at the last minute he turned his head and seen me coming. The quarterback that he is, he escaped my tackle. We talked about tackling him throughout the week. And at the end of the day, once it’s flying bullets, man, it’s different. He made a great play.”
On the lack of turnovers and interceptions by the defense?
“That’s what Rex preached to us last week and he’s preaching to us again. With running backs, we’ve got to strip and when the ball is going to the backend…it’s got to be ours. We’re going to keep practicing and trying our best to do what we’ve got to do to try and get turnovers and help out the team.
Did the defense play well enough to beat PIT?
“I think we had some miscommunication on the backend and that hurt us a little bit. But those things we can correct and we have to get correct quickly, otherwise our season can be affected by that.”
What happened on Emmanuel Sanders’ big TD...
“It was a third-and-1, I’m thinking run and going up ready for the run. They gave us a playaction. And like I said, I think there was just some miscommunication in the backend amongst the guys. Nobody’s perfect. It happened. The play is over. He scored and we’ve just got to learn from that and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Isn’t there a little extra motivation playing Pats?
“Like I said, every game’s a must-win. We know because they’re a division opponent…so we have to win this game. It’s a must-win for this one and everyone as well. We know the importance of this game. It’s good to get them out of the way, I guess. Everyone knows they’re at the top of our division.”
Does defense have confidence based on how well you played against Tom Brady in Week 2?
“That game, we also had some mistakes. So if those mistakes hadn’t occurred, who knows? Maybe we would have won that game. We lost that one, we’re just going to prepare and get ready for this week and make sure we have a great game plan and hopefully we execute and get the job done.”
Did you catch the end of Pats-Saints game?
“I didn’t, but I heard it was a tough one. Those are two elite quarterbacks. We’ve got Drew Brees coming to town in a couple weeks. Going up against Brady, you know he’s an elite quarterback, always making things happen. So we’ve just got to attack the Patriots and execute our game plan.”
On playing Pats twice in short span early in season...
“At the end of the day, it doesn’t even matter. It’s good to get them out of the way I guess. Everybody knows that’s one of the top opponents in our division, so it’s good to get them out of the way.”
On the tough road ahead vs. Pats, Bengals, Saints...
“We can’t look ahead. We know it’s a tough schedule coming up and we’ve got to execute and execute our game plan and believe. Keep on believing. That was a tough loss against Pittsburgh, but we can’t sulk on it. We’ve got to keep on moving forward and learn from what happen because that’s one we let slip away, I think.”
On the Jets’ confidence in their run defense...
“We have a ton of confidence on the D-line and in the front (seven) with the linebackers. At the end of the day, it’s a team effort and we’ve got to get on board and we have to get on board with the pass defense. We’ve got to do better and create more turnovers to help out the team.”
On opponents’ third-down conversions...
“We’ve got to do better and get off the field. Rex told us (the Steelers) went 6-for-16 -- that’s not the way we play Jets defense and we’re going to get on board and make sure we handle that. …Guys, myself included, missed some tackles and it was just bad technique on our part. We’ve got to fix that and get ready for this week, because it’s a tough opponent. And if we get them in third-and-long, we’ve got to make sure we execute and get Brady off the field.”
Did you hear the amount of Steelers fans at MetLife Stadium? Did it annoy you?
“Jets fans were loud in the beginning and toward the end, it got a little lopsided and it seemed like it was more Steelers fans. But at the end of the day, we can’t worry about that. We’ve got to focus on what’s going on on the field and do our job.”
Do the Jets seem themselves as a playoff team?
“Right now, being (3-3), if we didn’t have the mistakes we had from the start of the season, I think our record would be much better. But right now, being .500, I’m not going to say I’m OK with it. But it is what it is. I think we get on board together and keep believing and fix those mistakes that we keep making repeatedly each week and we’ll definitely have a good record at the end of the season.”