defense grabbed two interceptions during New York's 26-20 win over New Orleans. (Al Bello/Getty Images)
The New York Jets may not be all that consistent (unless the phrase "consistently inconsistent" holds water), but they certainly are resilient.
Rex Ryan's bunch was dismantled by a 49-9 count in Cincinnati last week, only to turn around and stun the Saints on Sunday 26-20. The Jets have now alternated wins and losses for the first nine weeks of the season.
Perhaps we all should have seen this one coming. Ryan was, after all, 4-0 in previous coaching matchups against his brother, Rob. Rex got the best of the showdown again, and he did it the only way he really knows: with defense. New York picked off a pair of Drew Brees passes, sacked the Saints' QB twice and harassed him right down to his final play -- a 4th-and-19 on which he barely was able to get the ball out of his hands before the pass rush surrounded him.
That rookie Jets quarterback, Geno Smith, completed just 8-of-19 passes for a measly 115 yards (267 fewer than Brees threw for) hardly mattered in the end. Smith avoided any costly mistakes, while ex-Saint Chris Ivory rushed for 139 yards. The offensive balance provided New York with just enough offense -- both Ivory and Smith had rushing touchdowns, and Nick Folk booted four field goals.
The surprising 26-point output against a Saints D ranked fourth in the NFL left New York in position to lean on its own defense late. By that point, Rex Ryan's attack was so deep into the head of Saints head coach/play caller Sean Payton that Payton actually helped dig his own grave.
The Saints trailed by nine at about the halfway point of the fourth quarter when they marched inside the Jets' 40. But on a short 3rd-and-1, Payton called for a pass (which fell incomplete) and followed that up with a confounding end-around to tight end Josh Hill that Quinton Coples snuffed out for an eight-yard loss.
New Orleans did manage to kick a field goal later, then had possession with 1:58 left and a chance to win the game. A holding penalty from Brian de la Puente and four straight incompletions ended the drama.
"It was just a great team effort," Rex Ryan said afterward. "We kept hanging in there and found a way."
Because of that performance, the Jets, believe it or not, head into their bye week at 5-4 and in wild-card position in the AFC. That's a remarkable turnaround from preseason expectations, when Ryan looked to be a dead coach walking after back-to-back seasons without a playoff berth.
Ryan admitted following a blowout preseason loss in Detroit that he barely watched his team's offense so he could focus on the defense. Then, it provided another chance to question Ryan's methods; now, it seems as if the approach paid off, with the Jets' defense leading the way Sunday.
Ryan left the offense in the hands of Marty Mornhinweg, who has mustered at least enough production out of it to be above .500 in early November.
"Marty Mornhinweg should be offensive coach of the year. That's obvious," Ryan said Sunday, not at all facetiously.
Mornhinweg likely will get less consideration for that than Ryan may for Coach of the Year if the Jets continue on this current trajectory. To finish better than 8-8, of course, Ryan will have to figure out a way to snap the team's trend of alternating wins and losses.
But off of that crushing loss to Cincinnati, simply avoiding a two-game losing skid was impressive enough. Doing so by stymieing Brees and the Saints' potent offense is just the latest step forward for a surprisingly competitive Jets team.