FOXBORO, Mass. — Most NFL fans did not expect the New York Jets to be particularly good this season, making their current 3-2 record through five weeks one of the league’s biggest surprises.
Though many believed this would be a de facto tank season for the Jets, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick has been thoroughly impressed with the level of competitiveness they have displayed. Anyone who isn’t, Belichick said, simply hasn’t been paying attention.
“Whoever’s saying that, I don’t know what games they’re watching,” Belichick said, whose team will visit the Jets on Sunday. “Maybe it’s fantasy football or some garbage. I don’t know. I don’t know how you can watch that team play and not think they’re one of the most competitive teams we’ve played.”
The Jets have won each of their last three games despite not scoring more than 23 points in any of them. Their quality of competition hasn’t been great — those three wins were over the Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars (in overtime) and Cleveland Browns — but Belichick pointed to specific plays in each game to illustrate how hard the Jets have competed.
“I mean, you look at the play in the Miami game,” Belichick said. “That’s a great example right there where (quarterback Josh) McCown goes back to pass, (Cameron) Wake kind of flushes him up in the pocket, (Ndamukong) Suh hits him as he’s throwing the ball, the ball goes sideways off to the right.
Is it a fumble? Is it an incomplete pass? Miami’s got one guy running to the ball. The Jets have four guys running to the ball, and ultimately McCown ends up recovering a fumble 25 yards off to the side of the play, and they’ve got four guys right there. He came up with it, but it could have been one of the other three guys, too. Miami’s got one guy there.
“I think that’s a good example of their competitiveness as a team.”
Even in the Jets’ two losses — 21-12 to the Buffalo Bills in Week 1 and 45-20 to the Oakland Raiders in Week 2 — Belichick saw reasons for optimism.
“The other teams had as good a chance to win as they did,” the Patriots coach said. “I’d say they outcompeted them, outexecuted them, outperformed them in critical situations. I mean, look, it’s a two-point play against Buffalo to tie the game at the end of the third quarter. That was a very competitive game, too.
“Even, I would say, in the Oakland game. They didn’t win that game — they fell behind at halftime — but I thought they competed very hard through the end of the game. … They’ve played good in critical situations. They’ve played good at the end of games. They’ve played good for 60 minutes. They play hard.”
Belichick has spent all week pumping the Jets’ tires, heaping praise on the team that currently is tied with the Patriots and Bills for first place in the AFC East. His message has been clear: The Patriots, who have begun to right the ship following their disappointing start to the season, had better not take their longtime rivals lightly.
Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images