It was oh-so predictable of this unpredictable year.
The Jets were without star defensive lineman Quinnen Williams. The 10-win Browns were in town coming off five wins in six games with the league’s third-ranked rushing attack.
So, naturally, in typical 2020 form the Jets’ front seven played like the best unit in the league.
It held the Browns, who were without their top four receivers due to COVID-19 protocols, to 45 rushing yards on 18 carries. It sacked Baker Mayfield four times, equaling a season high. Nick Chubb was held to a season-low 28 yards. With the game in the balance, it forced turnovers on Cleveland’s last two possessions and produced three altogether.
“It proves that we don’t quit, that we’re still approaching every week to win,” outside linebacker Tarell Basham after Gang Green won their second straight, 23-16, over the Browns at fan-less MetLife Stadium on Sunday afternoon. “Great game plan. Our coaches put us in position to make plays and we showed up today to make plays. We played with energy, enthusiasm, and flew around, got to the ball.”
John Franklyn-Myers, Frankie Luvu, Nathan Shepherd and Basham each had sacks. Basham forced two fumbles and Luvu created another. Franklyn-Myers and Folorunso Fatukasi each recovered one.
Basham was the big star, coming up big in the final minutes. With the Jets nursing a four-point lead late in the fourth quarter, he hit Mayfield from behind, jarring the ball loose. It led to a Jets field goal and a seven-point lead.
But the Browns had one last chance and drove to the Jets’ 16-yard-line. On fourth-and-1, Mayfield kept it. But as he spun trying to gain extra yards, Basham again stripped him of the ball, sealing the victory with 1:25 left.
“We got so much knock-back on the inside,” Basham said, spreading out the credit. “We got so much knock-back on the inside Baker had nowhere else to go, forcing him to slide out my way.”
“Blessed, honestly, blessed to be able to make such a play as a team in such a critical moment in the game,” he added.
The Jets defense was torched by the Seahawks for 41 points and 410 total yards on Dec. 13. The previous week, it allowed the Raiders to prevail on a long pass with five seconds left. But the past two weeks, the unit came up big against the Rams and Browns, outplayed a pair of potential playoff teams after allowing at least 30 points in five of its previous six games.
“Guys continue to fight. It means a lot to us as players to come to play to win, and actually win a game and not just continue to go home losers,” Basham said. “We’ve got children. That’s the last thing you want, to go home and explain to your kids every week you’re a loser.
“You want them to be winners, but you can’t seem to win. So this is big for us as players.”
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