EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Jamal Adams gathered the New York Jets’ defensive players before their game against the Denver Broncos and spoke from the heart.
They were about to take the field without Kacy Rodgers, the defensive coordinator sidelined with what coach Todd Bowles says is a “serious” illness.
“Jamal gave a great pregame speech to the defense,” defensive end Leonard Williams said. “He said if you didn’t have enough to play for, play for that man. I think he’s proud right now.”
Bowles and the Jets have not detailed the nature of the 49-year-old Rodgers’ illness. It also is unclear when he might be able to return to the team.
In the meantime, Bowles called the defensive plays in New York’s 34-16 victory over the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
“Obviously, to have that guy missing, there’s a big hole on the defensive side of the football,” Bowles said. “He’s in the room every day working with those guys. I’m sure they played a lot for them, and they played for him as well.”
The defense — which also met as a unit Friday to be sure all the players were on the same page — was solid for most of the game, keeping Case Keenum and the Broncos’ offense off balance. Williams had two sacks, Jeremiah Attaochu had one and Marcus Maye and Jordan Jenkins shared one.
Denver converted just four of 14 third-down opportunities, and scored only once in four trips into the red zone.
To a man, the players on defense said they drew added inspiration from Rodgers, and hoping he was happy with their performance.
“Life is first,” Maye said. “Coach Kacy is dealing with that issue, so we all just stepped up for him and did the best that we can for him because we know that he would love to be here.”
Cornerback Morris Claiborne said he texted Rodgers on Saturday night and again before the game.
“It was just to let him know I was thinking about him,” Claiborne said. “It felt different without having him around that the time. We’re praying for him.”
Here are some other things to know from the Broncos-Jets game:
AS THE CROW FLIES
Isaiah Crowell ran for a Jets franchise-record 219 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown, on 15 carries.
He broke the team record of 210 yards rushing set by Thomas Jones in 2009 against Buffalo. His 14.6 yards per carry also set an NFL record for a player with at least 15 attempts, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
“It means a lot to me,” Crowell said. “I’ve got to give all the credit to my O-line. I can’t really take the credit. Really, it was all them. I mean, the holes were open. Anybody could’ve run through them. It just happened to be me. They really set the record.”
He simply dropped the ball in the end zone, a much tamer celebration than the one in Cleveland two weeks ago when he wiped his rear end with the football and fired it into the stands. Crowell was fined $13,369 by the NFL for the gesture and got a stern lecture from Bowles — and the running back promised it would never happen again.
The Broncos were frustrated with themselves after the game, particularly with allowing so many big plays.
In addition to Crowell’s long run, Robby Anderson also caught a 76-yard TD pass from Sam Darnold. It was the first time the Jets have had multiple TDs on offense of 75 yards or more in the same game since Sept. 24, 1972, against the Baltimore Colts. New York finished with 512 total yards, including 323 on the ground.
“We’re usually a pretty stout defense,” linebacker Von Miller said. “Today, we weren’t. We got gashed over the top two or three times today. Yeah, it was a rough one.”
Maye ended the game by intercepting Case Keenum’s throw in the end zone and then taking it 104 yards before being tackled at the 1 by Broncos receiver Courtland Sutton.
It was the longest interception return in Jets history — and the longest non-touchdown on an INT, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Of course, Maye took some razzing from his teammates, but he just returned last week from ankle and foot ailments that kept him sidelined for most of the summer and the first three games.
“Yeah, they’ve been getting on me,” Maye said. “I just have to get in shape and I have to finish.”
ON THE CASE
Keenum finished with two touchdown passes — to Sutton and Demaryius Thomas — his first two since the Broncos’ season-opening win against Seattle.
He was 35 of 51 for 377 yards, setting single-game career highs in completions, yards passing and passing first downs (19). Sutton caught the first touchdown pass of his career, and DaeSean Hamilton had his first three NFL receptions. But, the Broncos couldn’t get much going consistently.
“We have to do better on first and second down, and not put our defense in bad situations,” Keenum said. “It’s a tough day.”
Darnold finished 10 of 22 for 198 yards with an interception and three touchdowns — two to Anderson and one to Terrelle Pryor — as the Jets’ offense had one of its most balanced and productive days ever.
“It’s amazing to see the way our runners ran,” Darnold said. “Our offensive line played outstanding today and I can’t say enough about their efforts.”
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)