EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Jets played another horrible defensive game Sunday in their 45-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium, creating new marks for futility and roiling emotions in the locker room.
“Every man should be embarrassed,” Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said. “Every man should be angry.”
The Jets (2-7), young and rebuilding on both sides of the ball, expected growing pains in 2021. But their defense has performed at a historically bad level. Consider:
The Jets have allowed 175 points in their past four games, the second most allowed in a four-game span by any team since the 1970 AFL/NFL merger.
They’re the first team to allow at least 45 points three times in a four-game span since the 1966 New York Giants.
They have surrendered 1,890 total yards during the abysmal stretch, the worst four-game period in franchise history.
Coach Robert Saleh, who built his reputation in the league on defense, seemed at a loss to explain the latest embarrassment.
“Our system prides itself on being able to get better as the year goes on,” Saleh said. “Clearly, it’s not happening.”
In the past four games, the Jets have allowed 54, 31, 45 and 45 points. They managed to beat the Cincinnati Bengals 34-31 behind quarterback Mike White, who threw four interceptions Sunday in what might have been his last start. Zach Wilson (knee) could be ready to return to the lineup.
The Jets were vulnerable in the secondary without safety Marcus Maye, who suffered a season-ending Achilles injury last week. He was replaced by Jarrod Wilson, who has bounced between the practice squad and the 53-man roster.
They were no match for quarterback Josh Allen, who completed 21 of 28 passes for 366 yards and two touchdowns. The Jets had no answer for wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who caught eight passes for 162 yards and one touchdown. Diggs burned rookie cornerback Brandin Echols and second-year corner Javelin Guidry, who replaced Echols (thigh injury).
Surprisingly, the Jets often left their corners in man-to-man coverage with a single-high safety. Saleh said they have coverages designed for Diggs, but “you’re going to get caught in certain one-on-one situations.”
Second-year safety Ashtyn Davis, often the deep safety, took some of the blame.
“We harp on three seconds of discipline and I don’t think we did that out there today,” he said. “It starts with me.”
Other than Maye and defensive end Carl Lawson, who had a season-ending Achilles injury in the preseason, the Jets are playing with their primary starters. But no position group has played well, not even the front four, which has cooled off after a seven-sack game in a Week 4 upset of the Tennessee Titans.
“Our job is to go out there and stop people, and we haven’t done it to an even average clip over the last few outings,” Rankins said. “For us, yeah, we’re embarrassed because it’s not our standard.”
Defensive tackle Folorunso Fatukasi delivered a fiery speech in the locker room after the game, players said. He implored teammates to “look within,” saying players will get replaced if they don’t perform, according to Rankins. Saleh echoed that message in his postgame address to the team, Rankins said.
“It just hasn’t been good enough ever since that Tennessee game,” Saleh said. “We played Atlanta all right, but ever since that bye week, we haven’t been nearly as good as we’ve wanted to be. We have eight games left, and from coaches to players, we have to find a way to get better every day. Otherwise, you’re selling yourself short.”
Linebacker C.J. Mosley, a captain, called Sunday a pivotal moment for the Jets, a “character-building moment … We’re going to really see what our foundation is like, and is it going to crack or not.”
Rankins said he’s confident the team will respond positively, calling Sunday a rock-bottom moment.
“It can only go up from here,” he said. “We’ve played overall about as bad as we could possibly play at times, so it can only go up from here.”