The Jets defense has had nearly 10 days without a game to stew over the putrid performance it put out in a humiliating 45-30 loss to the Colts in front of a Thursday night national television audience.
The Jets’ defensive players have been reminded over and over about the unthinkable 260 rushing yards they gave up to the Colts and are seemingly are salivating at the chance to play the Bills (5-3) on Sunday at MetLife Stadium to put that performance behind them.
When asked Friday if he saw his players “angry’’ about how they were gashed by the Colts, Jets head coach Robert Saleh said, “It’s more embarrassment.’’
“I’d rather see 500 yards passing than 250 yards rushing,’’ Saleh said. “It feels different. The run game is a matter of will — it’s mind over anything. It’s strain and it’s fighting for every gap, it’s fighting for every yard. I think our defensive guys take a lot of pride, so, to have that happen to them I think they’re really excited to get back Sunday to get it fixed.’’
The next challenge is a Buffalo team that likes to run the ball — with its running backs and elusive quarterback Josh Allen. Devin Singletary leads the Bills with 355 rushing yards and a 4.9-yard average. Zack Moss, who’s questionable for Sunday with a concussion, has 233 yards and three TDs. And Allen has 319 rushing yards and three TDs.
The Bills are coming off their worst offensive performance in memory — a 9-6 upset loss at Jacksonville last Sunday. In that game, the Jaguars’ defense flustered the Bills by using a lot of nickel and dime looks and increasing the number of blitzes from the secondary.
The Jaguars also used a lot of zone, deploying two-high safety looks in an effort to corral Allen and not let the receivers get behind them.
The NFL, of course, is a copycat league and Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is one of the best offensive minds in the game, so to think the Jets can use the exact same strategy and have the same success is fool’s gold.
Daboll is sure to adjust.
Saleh recalled playing the Bills on a Monday night last season when he was the 49ers’ defensive coordinator and his team never could figure out a way to stop Allen.
“He’s a special young man because he can play quarterback and by that, I mean get the ball where it needs to go quickly, and then he can play off schedule,’’ Saleh said. “The challenge in playing Josh is the fact that you have to defend two plays in one. We have to be great in the back end with regards to plaster and staying connected to our coverage and understand that you’re not defending three plays, you’re not defending three seconds, you’re defending upwards around 10. You have to strain.’’
The Jets’ defense didn’t handle the strain very well in Indianapolis nine days ago.
“It’s about executing,’’ Jets defensive lineman Quinnen Williams said Friday.
“It’s just a matter of just hunkering down, getting back to the fundamentals,’’ Saleh said. “Buffalo presents a whole different type of issue now that you’ve got a running quarterback. You’ve got two backs that can run the ball. They’ve got a good offensive line that can create lanes. We have to get ready to defend everything. It’s going to be a tremendous challenge on Sunday.’’
Saleh called the balance between sending some blitzers after Allen and staying back and almost spying on him in case of a run a “cat and mouse game.’’
Saleh — any defensive coach, really — would rather rush with only four, but statistics show that Allen has ripped apart teams when they’ve rushed only four.
“Last year, we sent five a lot with San Fran and he still beat the crap out of us,’’ Saleh said with a laugh.
The Jets (2-6) are double-digit underdogs against a deeper, more talented and more experienced Bills team that’s supposed to win this game. That, of course, is no laughing matter.
The Jets expect to have several key players back from injury Sunday, including WR Corey Davis (hip), RB Tevin Coleman (hamstring), G Alijah Vera-Tucker and DL Shaq Lawson. All four players are listed as questionable, but practiced in full on Friday.
“It looks good for Sunday,’’ Saleh said. “I don’t want to jinx anything, but everything looks good.’’
The Jets will be without WR Denzel Mims, who tested positive for COVID-19 this week and has had symptoms, which means he cannot be cleared to play.
“When you show symptoms, it becomes a 10-day protocol,’’ Saleh said. “Hopefully we can get him back for next week.’’
Another player who tested positive this week is DB Jason Pinnock. He was put on the reserve COVID list, but he has had no symptoms and had a negative PCR test Friday morning. If he gets another negative test Saturday, he can play Sunday.
The Bills will be without LB Tremaine Edmunds (hamstring) and Moss(concussion) is listed as questionable.