The Jets improved their record to 6-9 today with a victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Firmly in the role of spoiler, the Jets handed a loss to a Steelers team fighting for the final postseason spot in the AFC. Let’s discuss what happened.
Defense plays the role of hero
The undermanned Jets defense standing tall has been one of the stories of the season. It happened once again in this game. The Steelers might not have had much of an offense, but the Jets did their job holding Pittsburgh to under 4 yards per play.
We frequently discuss a Jets safety playing the role of hero of the game. That player is usually Jamal Adams. To be certain, Adams was an impact player in his return to the field from an ankle injury. He tied for the team lead with 8 tackles, including 2 for a loss. He also forced an early throw on an interception while blitzing.
I think the real hero of the game for the Jets was Marcus Maye, though. Adams’ partner had an end zone interception in the first half and then broke up a potential game-winning touchdown pass near the goal line late in the fourth quarter.
Tarell Basham had a really nice interception before Maye’s pick. He made a great break on a Devlin Hodges pass.
James Burgess was frequently around the ball, recording 8 tackles.
Quinnen Williams, Foley Fatukasi, Kyle Phillips, and Neville Hewitt recorded sacks for the Jets.
Offense does just enough despite ugly stretches
This was not a great offensive performance for the Jets by any stretch of the imagination. Sam Darnold started hot, seeing the field well in the first quarter. He distributed the ball quickly to combat Pittsburgh blitzes as the Jets scored 10 early points.
The offense stalled from that point forward. Darnold was under frequent pressure. He got away with a few dangerous passes. He also fumbled away the ball right before the half on a strip sack by T.J. Watt who beat Brandon Shell. That proved to be costly as the Steelers converted the turnover into a touchdown.
Darnold was able to engineer two field goal drives in the second half, the only scoring either team did in the final two quarters of the game.
I think the quality of the opponent has to be taken into consideration here. The Steelers have one of the best defenses in the league. This was always going to be a game where points came at a premium. The hot start by the offense prevented the Jets from chasing the game, and they put together drives when they were needed. This was a talent mismatch, and the offense squeezed enough production, even if it looked ugly.
The Jets weren’t great in any phase of the offense. Darnold was up and down. Le’Veon Bell had a poor game after a hot start. The offensive line lost its battles. The receivers didn’t do a lot of winning aside from an early Robby Anderson touchdown.
This wasn’t stalling for a half against Miami, though. This was manufacturing what it took to beat a quality opponent.
Special teams chips in
Jets special teams have been largely excellent this year. Sam Ficken has been an exception, but he had a perfect day. Ficken was 3 for 3 on field goal tries, including a 54 yarder. Braxton Berrios chipped in a 20 yard punt return.
The cornerback position was one of the few exceptions on the defense’s excellent day. Bless Austin and Arthur Maulet had previously put together strong games playing across from each other over the last two months. That was not the case today.
Austin had his second rough game in two weeks. He was beaten for a few completions in the first half. He eventually earned a halftime benching after getting burned for a 29 yard touchdown in the final 10 seconds of the second quarter. His only job on that play was to not get beaten deep. He got beaten deep.
Maulet wasn’t benched, but he was burned repeatedly.
It has been a tough year for the Jets, but I am very happy with this win. They beat a quality team that had a lot on the line. Nice moments like these help me get through down seasons.