November 28, 2022

Robert Saleh put an emphasis on winning divisional games and Jets delivered

Robert Saleh greets old pal Mike McDaniel after the Jets finally nab a division win. (Adam Hunger/AP)

Earlier this year, while speaking to his team, Robert Saleh talked to his team about how the Jets were 0-12 during the last two years in AFC East games.

He also told the players they were outscored 358-158 in those 12 games and how that streak would end this year.

Mission accomplished as the Jets routed the AFC East-leading first-place Miami Dolphins 40-17. Sunday wasn’t just about Gang Green winning its second consecutive game for the first time since 2020 and the first time under coach Robert Saleh, it is about so much more than that.

New York hadn’t won a game against either the Dolphins, Patriots, or Bills since Dec. 30, 2019. After the end of last season, Saleh stressed the importance of closing the gap within the division. Now, the Jets are in second place in the division more than a quarter into the season.

“Just winning, in general, feels good,” Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams said. “We haven’t won this many games this early.

“To go out there and execute and you see the hard work you put in and the guys Joe Douglas and everyone else brought in and the communication skills and the different things that we do up front.”

The Jets didn’t just win against the Dolphins, they made a statement in the process. Gang Green held arguably the best receiver in the NFL, Tyreek Hill to seven catches and 47 yards on the day. Jaylen Waddle, who also ranks in the top 10 in receiving yards, was held to three catches and 23 yards.

Sure, the Dolphins were without Tua Tagovailoa and Teddy Bridgewater also suffered a head and elbow injury on the first play of the game, but these are the type of games the Jets didn’t win even a year ago.

Gang Green has relied on its young talent this season. Not only did Zach Wilson have an efficient game as he completed 14 of 21 passes for 210 yards, but the Jets relied on their one-two punch in the backfield.

Breece Hall had his best game as a pro as he rushed for 97 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown. He also caught two passes for 100 yards receiving. From a statistical standpoint, Michael Carter didn’t contribute much in the yards category, but he recorded two touchdowns.

Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner has been one of the best corners in the NFL through five games as he recorded the first interception of his career against the Dolphins. Wide receiver Garrett Wilson and defensive end Jermaine Johnson have also provided instant dividends for this group.

“Anyone that watches our tape knows that we have a really cool nucleus of young men,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said. “They’re only going to get better as time goes.

“They have a chance to be a really explosive group. Obviously, this is one game and we have to go to Lambeau Field and I’m sure they’re going to be pissed off next week. The challenges for this group do not stop, but it’s fun to watch, especially when they play so freely.

“There are still some things they gotta get corrected.”

Now the Jets are 3-2 heading to Green Bay next week to play a Packers team that lost 27-22 to the Giants in London Sunday morning. The Jets will also travel to Denver to take on the Broncos before returning home and re-entering the division against the Patriots and the Bills before their bye week.

The Jets have checked off winning back-to-back games, beat the Dolphins for the first time since 2019, won a divisional game for the first time in more than two years and now winning at home for the first time all season. In the AFC, the Jets will undoubtedly have a chance to contend for a playoff spot, depending on what happens during the next four weeks.

The Bills are on top of the AFC East after the Dolphins’ loss to the Jets. With three wild card spots available in the conference, maybe there’s a path for Gang Green to at least contend for a playoff spot heading into late December into the season finale in January, which will be in Miami against the Dolphins.

“Every game is a new game, every week is a new week and has a life of its own,” Carter said. Last week is not going to win this week, so we have to get back to work.

“It is hard not to hype it up as it hasn’t been done in a while. It feels good to get two in a row, especially for a fan base like this. I just found out that we play Green Bay next week, so it will be cool to go against a good group that lost today at home and they never really lose at home.

“So it will be a great challenge.”