Calvin Pace walked off the field angry and disgusted after the New York Jets lost to the Miami Dolphins three weeks ago.
He was still fuming when reporters gathered around him a few minutes after the Dolphins scored with 6 seconds left to win 31-27 in front of a national television audience.
“It was a situation where I was upset with how I played and how we played as a defense,” Pace said on Friday. “We felt like we let everybody else down.”
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Unable to contain his frustration, the veteran linebacker let loose. Pace called Miami’s wildcat formation “nonsense” and “gimmicky,” and he said Dolphins starting quarterback Chad Henne was a “clown quarterback.”
“I said some things, meant them, but normally I keep that stuff to myself,” Pace said. “I’m not much of a talker. You guys ask me questions and I say what I think. The fact remains that they beat us and they did what they wanted to do at will. I can’t lie about that and I’ve got to respect that.”
Pace’s brash comments drew the ire of the Dolphins, and have been brought up all week as the teams prepare to play for the second time in 20 days.
“I respect what they do, man,” Pace said. “Every team goes about it a different way. That aside, we’ve just got to find a way to get this win.”
Pace’s teammates call him a mostly quiet and humble guy. They were surprised he lashed out the way he did, but supported him.
“That can happen, especially after a tough loss like that,” defensive end Mike DeVito said. “It’s hard to come into the locker room right after and not be frustrated and say some things. Calvin knows what he said and he sticks behind it, and I stick behind him.”
Pace and the Jets defense have the opportunity to erase the feelings of embarrassment Sunday against a rushing offense that ranks second only to New York’s.
“The key for us this game is to get stops, get them in third-and-long and get the ball back to the offense,” Pace said.
Pace is coming off a terrific game against Oakland in which he had a career-best three sacks, two of which caused fumbles, and set the tone in a 38-0 victory.
“He’s a beast, really,” defensive end Shaun Ellis said. “He just makes plays for us.”
On the Raiders‘ first play from scrimmage, Pace had a diving sack of JaMarcus Russell that knocked the ball out of the quarterback’s hand. Marques Douglas jumped on it, and the Jets scored four plays later.
“Actually, I got kicked in the air,” said Pace, who had seven tackles. “I thought I jumped when it happened, but watching it I saw he kicked me. Hey, as long as you get there.”
In the third quarter, Pace got there again, taking down Bruce Gradkowski and causing another fumble that the Jets recovered. New York converted it into a touchdown a few minutes later.
“I don’t know if he can have that impact every week, but I’ll sign up for it,” coach Rex Ryan said. “He really is a tremendous player. I think we saw that in the preseason as well. He was consistently making plays and pressuring the quarterback. We think he’s that kind of player.”
When Ryan brought his aggressive 3-4 defensive scheme to New York from Baltimore, he envisioned Pace being a pass-rushing powerhouse after getting a career-high seven sacks last season.
Ryan and the Jets had to wait a few weeks to see their plan materialize, though. Pace, in his second season with the Jets, was suspended for the first four weeks for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. After two mostly quiet games, Pace broke out against Oakland.
“To be honest, man, I think I need to step my game up,” he said. “I always feel like I could do more and I feel like there were still some plays I could’ve made that I left out there Sunday.”
Despite having played just three games, Pace leads the team in sacks and forced fumbles and is tied for second with four tackles for losses. He is also averaging eight total tackles a game.
“Calvin’s just an amazing football player,” DeVito said. “I mean, he’s just got everything it takes: He’s tall, he’s strong, he’s fast and he shows up every week. It adds an extra level of confidence knowing that he’s out there.”
NOTES: Dolphins LB Joey Porter took exception to Ryan’s comments earlier in the week about Miami CB Will Allen‘s season-ending injury when the Jets coach said, “We lost a Pro Bowl nose tackle and a Pro Bowl running back, so boo hoo hoo.” Porter said, “We’ll see if it’s a joke on Sunday, because there’s nothing the coach can do about it.” When asked about Porter’s comments, Ryan said he “doesn’t feel sorry for them” since the Jets are without Kris Jenkins and Leon Washington. “No disrespect to Will Allen,” Ryan said, “but I don’t think he’s going to make a Pro Bowl anytime soon. He’s a decent player, but whatever.”