For the Middle Two Quarters, Veteran LB & Defensive Mates Kept Green & White in Position Against Bills Randy Lange
Some people might have listened to C.J. Mosley's impassioned remarks following the Jets' season-closing 27-10 loss at Buffalo on Sunday and wondered what he was smoking or drinking. Thankful? Happy? Fortunate?
But Mosley doesn't care if you don't believe. He does, and showed why he is the captain of the Jets defense and one of the unquestioned leaders of the Green & White as they move into year two of the regime of head coach Robert Saleh.
"Thankful. That's the best way I can put it," Mosley said of the mood after the game in the entrails of Highmark Stadium. "Through the ups and downs of this season, the losing record, the injuries, COVID and all the things that happened, at the end of the day you just want to be the best and to be the best for your brother.
"And that's what the message was in the locker room. Everybody was appreciative of no flinching, no one quitting, no one making excuses and pointing fingers, everyone just going to work every single day. Even the way this game started going toward the end, no one started complaining. We were all just happy and fortunate and blessed to be in this situation, to be on the field with each other."
Fellow LB Quincy Williams had a way to describe the defense's collective mood during the ebb and flow of the game.
"We came into this game with a till-the-wheels-fall-off mentality," Williams said. "Literally, we went down to the wire, till the wheels fell off. Injuries - actually there was a lot of blood, a lot of cuts. The turf was kind of rough, especially because it was cold. So really, not quitting, that's the main thing. The main thing was just doing our job and keeping it moving until the wheels fell off."
Saleh and Mosley knew the full game stats wouldn't support the notion of a defense that had lost every tire and was happy about it after notching no sacks of Josh Allen and yielding 424 yards and 25 first downs to the repeat AFC East champions. But C.J. was also again in the middle of the maelstrom, posting a game-high 13 tackles to finalize his season career high at 168 tackles. And he knew there was a deeper story to the Green & White D.
"They had that first run and got out on us," Mosley said of Buffalo's 10-0 lead through their first two possessions. "Honestly, after that I felt we did a pretty good job of owning the moment, getting off the field on third downs, getting the pressures. We did a pretty good job in the run game before they really tried to pick it up once they got the lead."
It was indeed a game of two halves for the defense, but not the usual first and second halves. This split was between the outer and inner quarters, and this chart hints at how it was possible for the Jets to trail by only 13-10 entering the fourth period:
Again, Mosley may have sounded loopy, but he talked about basking in the glow of the playoff ambiance, even if virtually none of the almost 65,000 in attendance were cheering for the Jets.
"That was a playoff atmosphere. The weather was playoff weather, the fans were ready for the playoffs, the Bills were ready," he said. "For me it was fun to be a part of it, playing in a primetime game [actually a national-TV game flexed from a 1 p.m. to a 4:25 p.m. ET start], playing at their place, everybody's on their side, everybody's against you, and all you have is your brothers on your sideline and your coaches. So that environment is something we're going to have to be ready for and be able to win in in order to get where we want to get."
And that's one more statement Mosley made Sunday that had listeners debating whether he was crazy as a loon or like a fox. He's spoken all year about his hopes and expectations for the Jets, and he kept it up after the game. He explained what was ahead for him and his teammates in the coming months to realize his and their goals for these Jets.
"We can't go to the playoffs, we can't get anywhere unless we win in our division, so that's where it starts," he said, well aware the Jets are 0-12 in the AFC East the last two years. "We didn't have the answers this year, but that's what the offseason's for. And so guys have just got to get their bodies right, get their minds right, take the time they need to get away from football.
"And when whoever comes back, whoever's fortunate enough to be back with us, we've got to go back to work. Because we've laid the foundation and we've seen the things that need to be done in order for us to be great. So that's just something we have to address once the time comes."
That's a plan that sounds so crazy, it just might work. C.J. Mosley certainly believes.