Marcus Maye, James Washington, Quinnen Williams, Jordan Jenkins
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

Gregg Williams’s defense was dominant in the New York Jets’ 16-10 upset victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. 

Michael Nania

The New York Jets have been forced to deal with countless injuries this season, wading through the majority of the year with third and fourth string options playing major roles at a variety of positions. Yet, here they stand, allowing the fifth-fewest yards per play (5.0) and 11th-fewest points per drive (1.85) in the NFL.

Playing at home against a sputtering Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense that entered the game ranked 30th in DVOA, the Jets had an opportunity to have one of their most dominant defensive performances of the season, and they took full advantage.

Gregg Williams’s consistently overachieving unit allowed just 10 points (second-fewest of the season) and 260 yards (third-fewest), smothering the Pittsburgh offense.

Who were the stars of the shutdown defensive performance?

Marcus Maye

Marcus Maye had one of his best games of the season against Pittsburgh. He made some great tackles in space to prevent good plays from becoming huge ones.

Most notably, he came up big with a couple of huge plays in coverage, showing great range to intercept a potential touchdown and breaking up another potential touchdown on Pittsburgh’s last-ditch attempt to win the game.

Maye has had a handful of signature performances this season, establishing himself as one of the better deep safeties in the game and a perfect complement to Jamal Adams. The duo has proven itself to be one of the best safety tandems the league has to offer.

Jamal Adams

The Jets had allowed under 300 yards in four consecutive games prior to Jamal Adams’s injury. After he went out of the lineup, the Jets allowed over 360 yards in back-to-back games.

Adams returns to action, and the Jets allow under 300 yards once again.

The best player on the team looked perfectly healthy and in peak form against Pittsburgh, making the versatile impact that we are now accustomed to seeing on a weekly basis. Adams stuffed runs at the line, flew underneath to make tackles short of the sticks in the passing game, and made his presence felt as a pass rusher.

While Adams did not progress towards breaking the sack record for safeties (Adams is at 6.5, 1.5 shy of Adrian Wilson’s record), his pressure on Devlin Hodges led to an interception by Tarell Basham.

Quinnen Williams

Quinnen Williams had been playing some of his best football prior to missing the Thursday Night Football contest in Baltimore. He beat up on Cincinnati and Miami’s terrible offensive fronts, making impact plays both as a run defender and pass rusher.

Pittsburgh would be a greater test for him, and he was up for it. Williams contributed to a season-best four run stops. He also hit 2.5 career sacks with a good finish on Hodges after being unblocked, showing off his plus speed (evidenced by his 97th-percentile speed score).

Folorunso Fatukasi

Foley Fatukasi was a force in the run game, helping the Jets limit the Steelers to only 75 rushing yards on 25 attempts (3.0 per-carry). In addition to creating valuable penetration throughout the afternoon, Fatukasi contributed to a season-best three run stops and has now made 25 tackles this season without missing a single one.

Fatukasi recorded the first sack of his career, cleaning up the mess after Hodges was forced to step up.

The progression of Fatukasi has been one of the most positive developments of the season. A non-factor as a rookie, Fatukasi has broken into the rotation and become one of the most impactful run defenders in the league.

With Fatukasi, Williams, Henry Anderson, Kyle Phillips and Steve McLendon (impending free agent) driving one of the league’s best run defenses in recent memory, the Jets are more than set on the defensive line. Besides bringing back McLendon, there is no need for Joe Douglas to make any major investments into this unit.

Thanks to the dominance of the defensive line, the table is set for Douglas to focus solely on finding upgrades at cornerback and edge rusher.