The New York Jets’ defense allowed the team to play Sunday spoiler, holding the desperate Pittsburgh Steelers to 260 yards.
With a new Star Wars movie opening nationwide this weekend, it was only appropriate that the New York Jets showcased the firepower of a fully armed and operational battle station.
The Jets welcomed back some missing mainstays to their defensive unit on Sunday in time for a chance to play spoiler against the Pittsburgh Steelers. They took full advantage to the tune of a 16-10 win that ripped control of playoff destiny out of the Steelers’ hands. Pittsburgh now needs a Week 17 win and a Tennessee Titans loss to return to the postseason.
Head coach Adam Gase foresaw the visit from the stingy Steelers as being a defensive struggle. He was pleased to see his defense prepared and rose for the occasion.
“We knew this was the kind of game it would be. It was going to be a one-score, low scoring game,” Gase said of the 16-10 final. “We talked about it on Wednesday, that it would have to be one of those games where we do a good job on offense. Don’t turn it over. Do a good job as far as field position. Our defense knew that they had to play a really good game.”
The Jets (6-9) limited the Steelers to 260 yards and 16 first downs. That latter mark was tied for Pittsburgh’s second-lowest output of the year. Pittsburgh also went 3-for-14 on third down.
New York received a pregame boost when it was confirmed that secondary standouts Jamal Adams and Brian Pool would return. The duo each made their first on-field appearances since the December 1 visit to Cincinnati. Each made their prescience felt. Adams led the team with eight tackles (two for a loss) while Poole added three more.
“(I’m) just so happy for this team. We came out and we battled,” Adams said. “We knew what type of game it was, we knew they were going to bring out the fans and we had a great outing from our fans. It was just like a playoff atmosphere. It was a great atmosphere to play in and we came out victorious.”
Sunday’s true first star was Marcus Maye, who terrorized a pair of Pittsburgh throwers with two official pass defenses and an interception. The turnover, which came in the end zone to negate a would-be Devlin Hodges touchdown pass, was Maye’s first since Week 11 of last season.
Maye’s biggest play, however, was one of those pass defenses. On the penultimate Pittsburgh play, Hodges’s deep throw to James Washington seem destined to set the Steelers up for one more chance at the win.
But Maye’s intervention, wrenching the ball out of Washington’s grasp, allowed the Jets to escape MetLife Stadium with their fifth win over the past seven games.
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“He balled, bro. He balled,” Adams declared. “I told him today, not even a pick, the best play he’s ever made that I’ve seen him make, was that last one where he ripped it out. That’s a phenomenal play. Marcus Maye doesn’t get a lot of credit, obviously, he’s very underrated. People don’t give him his respect, but he works his butt off each and every day. He comes out and he competes, so he knows how I feel about it.”
One last Hodges pass went through the hands of JuJu Smith-Schuster, forcing the turnover on downs. The Jers were then allowed to execute the necessary kneel-downs to secure the win.
Maye was only focused on the whole defense getting their due diligence. When asked to describe his third-down heroics, the most common word of his reply was “we”.
“We knew it was going to come down to us in the secondary. We knew they had to take a shot to get into scoring range,” he said. “We were prepared for the moment. We were ready for it.”
“I’m really proud of these guys. They’ve been playing well all year,” Maye further elaborated. “That front seven, anyone that steps in the secondary has been stepping up to the occasion. This defense, we pride ourselves on stopping the run, playing fast, playing physical and that’s what we’ve been doing all year and it just showed today.”
Other heroics on the strong defensive came from the antics of the linebackers. Brandon Copeland joined Maye with a pair of pass defenses, while Tarell Basham’s first-quarter interception of Hodges led to a Sam Ficken field goal that gave the Jets an early 10-0 lead. Neville Hewitt had a sack, as did rookie defensive linemen Quinnen Williams and Kyle Phillips.
The Jets return to action for their final game of the season next week against the Buffalo Bills (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS).