FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) The ball dropped out of Frank Gore’s hands and Calvin Pace could hardly believe his eyes.
The New York Jets pounced on the ball and turned what appeared to be a certain score against them into a momentum-swinging turnover in their favor Monday night in a 20-7 victory at Indianapolis.
That’s how it’s gone for Todd Bowles’ bunch with an NFL-best 10 takeaways in two games – just three off the Jets’ total for all of last season.
”We’ve gotten lucky,” linebacker Calvin Pace said. ”The Frank Gore one, to be honest with you, I’ve played against Frank for years and I’ve never seen him fumble. Just happened to be in the right place at the right time, and we’ve got to keep it going.”
The Jets lead the league with six fumble recoveries and are tied for tops with four interceptions. New York is also No. 1 with 31 points off turnovers and a plus-8 margin.
”We just want to get one,” defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers said. ”Right now, it’s something that we stress and that the guys, from the first time we got together, that’s just something that, one, helps win games in this league, everybody knows.
”And, right now, the ball is just bouncing our way and I hope it keeps bouncing to us.”
Cornerback Darrelle Revis recovered the ball that Gore – without anyone touching him – fumbled near the goal line. He also had another fumble recovery, giving him an NFL-leading three on the season, and an interception.
”We dissect the opponent,” Revis said, ”and we go through the game plan and we try to figure out ways to create turnovers.”
Revis is hardly the only one benefiting from the early season turnover party. Calvin Pryor, Marcus Gilchrist and Marcus Williams also have interceptions, and Quinton Coples and Antonio Cromartie have recovered fumbles.
Even wide receiver Brandon Marshall has gotten into the action, ripping the ball out of the hands of Cleveland’s Tashaun Gipson in the opener, turning an interception into a fumble recovery for New York.
”You don’t explain how you get them, you just get them,” Bowles said. ”We try to emphasize it, but I’m not going to sit here and say everything we got we earned. They give you some when they make mistakes, too.”
A little luck? Sure. But being aggressive on defense has turned the Jets into an opportunistic group. It has New York at 2-0 for the first time since 2011 and looking for its first 3-0 mark to start a season since 2009.
The lack of turnovers was a weak spot all last season under Rex Ryan. The Jets finished last in the league in the category, and their first interception didn’t come until Week 5 when Phillip Adams had one in a 31-0 loss at San Diego.
”When you can’t get turnovers in this league, no matter how good you are,” nose tackle Damon Harrison said, ”if you can’t put your offense in a better position, it’s going to be tough to win.”
Pace attributes the Jets’ success to a ballhawking secondary, solid tackling and miscues by opponents. Tip drills, punching the ball out and simply knowing where the ball is at all times have all been factors, too.
”Obviously, offenses are going to be a little bit more aware that we are trying to get turnovers,” Pace said. ”So, they’re going to try to be more cautious and take care of the ball.”
That will surely be on the minds of the Philadelphia Eagles, who come into MetLife Stadium on Sunday with an offense that has gotten off to a slower start than expected – especially with Chip Kelly’s up-tempo approach.
The Eagles have turned the ball over five times in two games, including four interceptions by Sam Bradford.
”They’re pretty multiple in their looks, especially on third down, changing personnel groupings, changing the front looks, changing their blitz patterns,” Bradford said.
The Jets have just three sacks, a number that ranks them in the bottom half of the league. But they’re OK with that, as long as they’re putting pressure on quarterbacks regularly.
”The turnovers have kind of picked up that slack for us there,” Pace said. ”As long as we’re winning, that’s all that matters. (Sacks) are going to come, though. They come in bunches.”
As do turnovers, apparently. At least for the Jets.
”I can’t guarantee five a game,” Pace said, smiling, ”but two or three, that’s where we need to be at.”
So, is Pace predicting two or three a game?
”I can’t guarantee that, either,” he said, ”but that’s what we’re shooting for.”
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