It was like old times, back during the first five games of the NFL 2015-16 season, when the New York Jets were winning games. There was a new sense of optimism then as new as the hiring of their head coach, Todd Bowles, and their general manager, Mike Macagnan, about six months before. It would be lost over the next five games, with only one win occuring during that period of time.
“We’ve got back to the kind of football that we played the first five weeks,” said Bowles. “We played hard. We just didn’t play smart the last couple of weeks. We went back to basics a little bit, and we just did the things that we knew how to do.”
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, in his 100th career start, did what he knew how to do. Receiver Brandon Marshall, the Jets’ go-to guy, did what he knew how to do. So did running back Chris Ivory, whose speed and strength allowed him to break multiple tackles and hot-foot it 31 yards to the end zone. Corner back Antonio Cromartie’s play was one of his best performances this season. Even Jets’ rookie receiver Devin Smith scored a touchdown, his first as a pro, on a 16-yard, mid-field reception, closing out the half one week after dropping a catchable, 46-yard TD pass that would have kept the Jets in the Houston Texans game.
“He put it right there on the money, and I just had to make the play,” said Smith, referring to his first touchdown catch.
When asked about the difficulties he’s experienced thus far in becoming acclimated, Smith quickly acknowledged the support of his teammates, especially receiver Eric Decker and Marshall.
“They just told me to keep working. My time was going to come. I listened to them and just kept working hard,” said Smith.
With their playoff hopes still alive, the 6-5 Jets prepare for this Sunday’s game against that other New York team, the Giants, at MetLife Stadium. Though there’s a bit more attention to this rivalry game, Fitzpatrick is keeping it in perspective.
“There’s not a lot of room for error. Each one of these games, as we continue to win, become more and more significant in terms of putting ourselves in a position to make the playoffs,” Fitzpatrick said. “There’s a huge focus on one game at a time.”