But over by the far bank of lockers, where Darrelle Revis resides, there was a brief lecture given in Trash-Talking 101.
It was one thing that his coach, Rex Ryan, and the team’s defensive staff had challenged the unit to improve after a leaky game last week, to match expectation with performance. It was quite another for a Jaguars backup receiver, Jason Hill, to insinuate that Revis did not deserve his reputation as the best shutdown cornerback in football. Revis said he was “so sad, so sad, so sad” that Hill did not play Sunday because of a hip injury.
“I guess he got the New York Jets flu,” Revis said.
If so, Hill must have spread it among his teammates. The Jets’ defense, when it harasses, pesters and swarms as it did Sunday, has that effect on teams. It can make them sick. On a day when offset two touchdown passes with two interceptions, he looked like Joe Namath compared with his Jacksonville counterpart, Luke McCown, who was sacked for a safety and completed nearly as many passes to Jets defenders (four) as he did to his own players (six). McCown’s quarterback rating was 1.8 — the lowest ever against the Jets.
“That’s not my personal record, but we’re working on it,” Ryan said.
Next week, perhaps? Through two games, the Jets are 2-0, just as they expected, just as they planned, heading into a stretch of three difficult games away from MetLife Stadium — at Oakland, Baltimore and New England.
They are 2-0 despite a modest showing by Sanchez, who after throwing for 182 yards flogged himself for committing two more turnovers, and an ankle injury to the All-Pro center Nick Mangold, who hobbled around in a boot and on crutches. X-rays were negative, but a magnetic resonance imaging test is expected Monday.
“Just blocking, I got rolled up on,” said Mangold, who declined to speculate on his status. “And then, pain.”
When they review the game tape Monday, the Jets are bound to identify several trouble spots, among them Sanchez’s interceptions, their seven penalties and an offensive line that worked to gain continuity after Mangold was replaced in the first quarter by Colin Baxter.
But on first blush, Ryan said he was pleased, pleased that both areas that had been isolated for improvement — first-quarter efficiency and defense, as a whole — had rewarded him.
During their team meeting Saturday night, Ryan challenged his offense, which had not produced a first-quarter touchdown in 16 games. If the Jets won the coin toss, he said, he would defy his standard philosophy of deferring to the second half. We’re taking the ball, he told them.
“He mentioned it,” right guard Brandon Moore said, allowing a brief smile as he expressed an understatement.
So when the Jets, represented at midfield by the entire offensive line and fullback John Conner, as if to punctuate Ryan’s point, did win the toss, Sanchez responded by directing a 65-yard drive capped by Santonio Holmes’s leaping 17-yard catch in the end zone. On the play, Holmes beat Drew Coleman, who had about as good a day as the Jacksonville secondary’s other former Jet, Dwight Lowery, who later delivered a late hit on Sanchez.
Sanchez popped up then to continue that third-quarter drive, which ended with Dustin Keller’s 11-yard touchdown catch, but left with the score 32-3 after being struck on the hand by Matt Roth on his final pass attempt.
Sanchez bemoaned his failed conversions and missed opportunities, lamenting how the Jets should have scored more points — and more often — than the two second-quarter field goals by Nick Folk. But the Jets could afford to live with such inefficiency because of a defense that took exception to yielding 390 yards last week to Dallas and, to a lesser extent, being reminded all week of how Jacksonville manhandled it during the teams’ last meeting, in November 2009.
“Constantly,” said Calvin Pace, who added of Ryan: “He’s always hard on defense. Rex doesn’t really give us a lot of love. It’s always not enough. It keeps us in the right mind frame.”
Antonio Cromartie had two interceptions, nearly returning one for a touchdown, and also averaged 42.5 yards on two kickoff returns. Eric Smith settled for one interception, though he could have had three. Muhammad Wilkerson, two games into his Jets career, has already produced more sacks than Vernon Gholston, the team’s last first-round pick at defensive end. It was Wilkerson who in the first quarter grabbed McCown at the Jaguars’ 1 and tossed him into the end zone like a sandbag. The safety gave the Jets a 9-0 lead less than five minutes into the game.
“Obviously, at that point, you’ve got them on their heels,” safety Jim Leonhard said. “You can start getting more aggressive and coming after them, and that’s what we did. We didn’t let up today. With the talent that we have, if we execute the game well and don’t make mistakes, we can do this to teams.”
By Ryan’s convoluted math, conference games are worth a game and a quarter in the standings, and so their next nine games will carry extra importance. At times, they played sloppily on Sunday. At times, their offense sputtered, though it did gain 101 yards on the ground.
But an overmatched opponent is no match at all for the Jets, whose fans recognized as much. Pockets of empty seats began forming early in the second half, and grew bigger as the fourth quarter started. Those who did stick around ostensibly did so to revel in a blowout, as rare around these parts for the Jets as steak tartare. It tasted just as good, too.
“When we watch the film tomorrow,” Revis said, “it should be all hoorays.”