FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Third down has been a big letdown against the New York Jets lately.
Third-and-short? Third-and-long? Well, better get ready for fourth down.
Opposing offenses have been stopped 18 straight times in third-down situations, the Jets’ longest streak of stinginess since 2010, when they had 21 in a row.
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”It’s impressive,” linebacker Calvin Pace said flatly.
Sure is. And, it’s also the NFL’s best run since the Denver Broncos had 26 consecutive third-down stops in 2012, according to STATS.
”Oh, yeah, it’s cool, but we’re aiming for a lot more than just that,” linebacker Quinton Coples said of the 18 straight. ”I guess it’s a good number to start with, but we’re definitely looking forward to that number increasing each and every week.”
In New York’s last game in London two weeks ago, Miami went 0 for 12 on third-down attempts. The streak includes Philadelphia’s last six conversion tries three weeks ago.
”That’s one of the emphases we try to place on every week when we’re breaking down a team, what they like to do on third down,” defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers said. ”That’s really the way to try to disrupt the offense, if you don’t let them get a rhythm and get going.”
It’s been nearly a month, helped, of course, by the bye-week break, since the Jets allowed a third-down conversion.
They have played eight full quarters this season without allowing a first down in that scenario, including the four against the Dolphins, the second half against the Eagles and the first half against Indianapolis on Sept. 21.
”You get a team off the field on third downs, it gives our offense more opportunities and you can increase your chances of winning,” Coples said. ”That’s pretty much it.”
While the home crowd might get extra-amped up with the Jets’ defense on the field with an opponent facing a third-down opportunity, the players insist it’s business as usual – no matter the down.
”Nah, we just play football,” Coples said. ”I mean, every down is important. It’s not like we’re like, `Oh, yeah, it’s third down! Let’s get going!’ It’s just like any other down and distance in football. We’ve just got to go out there and turn up.”
The success can be attributed in part to Rodgers and coach Todd Bowles dialing up the blitz on third downs. But the Jets regularly put pressure on quarterbacks to get teams into third-and-long situations.
They used an eye-popping 22 blitzes with defensive backs, many of them with cornerback Buster Skrine, in various situations against the Dolphins.
”There’s no science to it,” Bowles said. ”A couple plays, we got lucky on. It wasn’t all us. Sometimes it was them. A lot of times, we made a bunch of plays, whether the ball was tipped or sacked or they threw incompletions. We just find (that) we want to keep it going and build momentum and hopefully we can keep it up.”
Washington will be the next opponent looking to end New York’s streak on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
The Redskins have converted 44.6 percent (33 of 74) of their third-down opportunities, ranking them sixth in the NFL, just slightly behind Oakland. The 33 conversions are good for fourth in the league.
”It’s going to be a chess match,” Pace said, ”a challenge right there.”
Except for the fact that the Redskins will be without Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams and center Kory Lichtensteiger. Williams has a concussion and will be replaced by Ty Nsekhe, who’ll make his first NFL start. Lichtensteiger has shoulder and finger injuries, and Josh LeRibeus will play in his place while making his second start.
Add in the fact that the Jets’ already stout defensive line is getting Sheldon Richardson back from a four-game suspension, and it could make for a long day for the Redskins.
”Oh, man, their front four is amazing, man,” Redskins running back Matt Jones said. ”They’re big, stout, hard to move. They play a great Bear (46 formation) defense. Their linebackers can run. And definitely you’ve got some amazing DBs out there.”
Not that New York is necessarily expecting an easy afternoon filled with sacks and third-down stops.
”I think when you try to take people lightly,” Bowles said, ”they’re gonna kick your butt.”
NOTES: The Jets announced that their honorary captains Sunday will be five breast cancer survivors representing the American Cancer Society as part of the NFL’s Breast Cancer Awareness month. … In an interview with CBS’ ”60 Minutes” airing Sunday, CB Darrelle Revis was asked to describe what ”Revis Island” is. ”It’s some place that receivers do not want to go,” he said. ”We bring you over. We boat you back, too. It’s a vacation.”
AP freelance writer Ian Quillen in Ashburn, Virginia, contributed to this story.
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