NEW YORK (WFAN) — A lot has been made of the Jets’ consistently inconsistent ways — so much so that even head coach Rex Ryan took a playful jab at his team following their stellar victory over the high-powered New Orleans Saints on Sunday,
When asked why the Jets (5-4) have alternated wins and losses since Week 1, Ryan shook his head and joked that his team would likely lose during this week’s bye week.
Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson offered a different take during his weekly spot with WFAN’s Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts on Monday.
“Hopefully, we get two wins. We win in the bye week and then we come back and win against Buffalo,” Wilkerson said.
The Jets have been one of the surprise stories of the NFL this season. Picked by ESPN at the beginning of the season as the 32nd ranked team in the league and thought of as no more than a three- or four-win team by many others in the media, the Jets would be in the AFC playoffs if the season ended today.
Most experts also had them penciled in as 3-6 heading into their bye. The Jets obviously had other ideas, beating two of the three first-place teams they faced during the hardest part of their schedule.
“It’s one of them and I think we have many more to come,” Wilkerson said, when asked if the 26-20 win over New Orleans was the biggest of the season. “We just have to keep believing, keep fighting, keep working every day.”
When asked if his team will make the playoffs, Wilkerson took a very cautious approach.
“I’m not going to speak on that. All I’m going to say is the Jets … we will keep on fighting like we always do. Like Rex says, play fearless, not reckless,” Wilkerson said.
The Jets got off to a slow start Sunday, but seized momentum in the second quarter thanks to running back Chris Ivory and a defense spearheaded by Wilkerson, who finished with a sack and nearly an interception. As Ivory rumbled through big holes and the defense forced Saints quarterback Drew Brees into uncharacteristic mistakes, an eight-point deficit turned into a 20-14 lead over the quarter’s final eight minutes.
Ivory, who averaged more than 5 yards per carry over parts of three seasons with the Saints, finished with 139 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Wilkerson said while Ivory never made it a point to say the matchup with New Orleans was personal, he sure played like it was.
“When I talk to Chris in the locker room and the building he’s always just cool and calm and laid back, but at the end of the day I definitely think he had a little bit of something behind him in his game,” Wilkerson said. “It meant something to him and he did a great job.”
Though the Jets led the entire second half, the turning point in the game came with 7:54 remaining. Quinton Coples, who has struggled a bit adapting to outside linebacker, stuffed Josh Hill on a reverse on a 4th-and-1 from the Jets’ 36. Wilkerson said that eight-yard loss erased any momentum the Saints had and paved the way for the Jets to complete the upset.
“Quinton did a great job of setting the edge. We knew they have some great running backs. And you got to be aware of the fakes. We knew they like to use some trick plays in their playbook. Qunton did a great job of being responsible and being on the edge and he made a great play for us,” Wilkerson said.
Wilkerson said Coples’ emergence will only help a defense that features one of the best lines in the sport.
“We expect that from Quinton and he knows that. And he has the mindset … he wants to get better every day and he’s going to do that and continue to have performances like yesterday,” Wilkerson said.
The Jets got contributions from all over their roster — literally. With receiver Santonio Holmes and tight end Jeff Cumberland out and receiver Jeremy Kerley suffering a nasty elbow injury early in the game, players like Greg Salas and Zach Sudfeld stepped up, catching a combined four passes for 103 yards.
“At the end of the day, this league and this business is about the next man up, the guys stepping up and making plays, and we need them to continue doing that for the rest of the season,” Wilkerson said.
The Jets return to action on Nov. 17 at Buffalo.
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