FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Bryan Thomas was in no mood to let loose and celebrate. Neither was the rest of the New York Jets defense.
Sure, the Jets escaped with another stunning comeback victory Sunday. The fact it even came to that gnawed at every player on defense.
“After the game, a lot of the defensive guys, we were happy about the win, but we weren’t happy like we’re supposed to be,” Thomas said Monday. “From here on out, we all have to be on the same page, communicate well and make it happen.”
Down by four points with 55 seconds left after watching a big lead crumble, the Jets’ offense bailed out the defense — again. Mark Sanchez’s touchdown toss to Santonio Holmes with 10 seconds remaining gave New York a 30-27 win over Houston.
“We can’t, every week, keep relying on Sanchez and Santonio,” Thomas said.
After two straight overtime victories on the road, it appeared the Jets were going to cruise past the Texans once they took a 23-7 lead early in the fourth quarter. Then, the defense — coach Rex Ryan’s pride and joy — short-circuited. New York allowed 20 straight points, failing to close out a desperate opponent coming off a heartbreaking loss.
“A team like that, when you’ve got them like that, you want to keep them down,” cornerback Darrelle Revis said. “They executed, made plays off our mistakes and did a good job.”
The same thing happened the previous week, when the Jets allowed the Cleveland Browns to tie it with 44 seconds left in regulation. New York’s offense pulled off a win in that one, too, after nearly five quarters of football.
“We can play better,” linebacker Jason Taylor said. “We need to put these games to bed a little earlier.”
The Jets defensive players gathered for their meeting Monday and hashed out what went wrong: blown coverages, miscommunications and missed opportunities. They all vowed to tighten things up in a hurry, especially with a game against the pass-happy Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday up next.
“We’re glad that we can fix it on a ‘W,’” defensive tackle Sione Pouha said. “But then again, every man walked away from the meeting today with a more determined attitude that, ‘OK, let’s get it fixed and roll on to the next one.’”
Revis will cover Terrell Owens on Thursday night, leaving Antonio Cromartie to defend against Chad Ochocinco in man-to-man coverage. Those two matchups might be the key to the game for the Jets, facing a Bengals team that has lost seven straight.
“They’ve got two great receivers, and we’ve got two great corners,” Revis said.
The defense is ranked seventh overall and fifth against the run, so a struggling Cedric Benson might be in for a tough night. New York held Houston’s Arian Foster, the league’s leading rusher to 84 yards, so there were certainly some bright spots Sunday. When it appeared the Texans were about to seal the victory, the Jets limited them to a field goal with just under a minute left — giving the offense a chance for a final drive.
“Our stats are better than they were last year,” Revis said.
But for a unit that ranked No. 1 a year ago and that Ryan insists will finish there again this season, the inability to close out games is cause for concern.
“Nobody is harder on the defense than I am because my expectations are so high for that unit and for this football team,” Ryan said. “That unit, in particular, I just expect so much from them.”
As does everyone else, mostly because Ryan has pumped up his defense so much. And, that isn’t stopping, even now.
“Sometimes guys make mistakes, but we’ve got to try to get them fixed, try to get those mistakes eliminated and tighten up our communication, our responsibilities,” Ryan said. “Myself, I’ve got to do a better job. I think when we do that, we’ll be where I said we’re going to be.”
In the meantime, the offense has been getting the job done with the game on the line three weeks in a row.
“I’ll still sign up for that, but, wow, it never had to be that close, obviously,” Ryan said. “The fact we came back might be better for our team in the long run.”
That’s because the Jets know the offense knows how to muster a comeback — with a minute left or in overtime. Now, it’s up to the defense to make sure those nerve-racking endings aren’t needed.
“Right now, things are a little bit shaky with the things on the field,” Revis said. “The crazy thing about it is we’re 8-2 and we still believe we haven’t played our best football.”
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.