The noise hasn’t lessened around the Jets, and they’ll remain in focus this week when they host the defending Super Bowl champion, the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday night in prime time. When the season kicked off less than three weeks ago, the Jets were thought of as a team destined to challenge teams like the Chiefs in January. But after losing QB Aaron Rodgers to a season-ending Achilles tendon injury in Week 1 and dropping consecutive games, to the Cowboys and Patriots, where the Jets combined to score a total of 20 points, the external narrative has changed for a team that hopes to get back to .500.
“Noise is noise,” said HC Robert Saleh. “It’s like a double-edged sword. It’s part of why this game is so great, is there’s so much attention, whether it’s positive or negative. I’ve said it before — we’ve got a great locker room. Locker room is locked in. Is there frustration? Of course, there is. Any time you lose two in a row, there’s going to be frustration. It’s the NFL. When you lose, it feels like the world is caving in. When you win, everyone puts you on a pedestal, but there’s still a lot of confidence in the locker room.”
Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, who matched a career high with 7 QB pressures against the Patriots, talked this week about turning things around swiftly.
“I think it’s a lot of urgency, trying to get things corrected, trying to get things on the right path, trying to get things to the way we know we can be as a team,” Williams said. “We know what we can be as a defense. I think it’s very not stressed, not panicked, not frustration, but urgency to get everything right so we can win football games, because we put our uniform on every single week to dominate, to win football games, and that’s the main objective.”
For the second time in three weeks, oddsmakers have made the Jets more than a touchdown underdog. The Chiefs have appeared in three of the past four Super Bowls, winning two including last February’s thrilling 38-35 triumph over the Philadelphia Eagles. They are led by future Hall of Famers at HC in Andy Reid, QB in Patrick Mahomes, TE in Travis Kelce and DT Chris Jones, who has racked up 17.5 sacks in the last 19 regular-season games he’s appeared in.
“What jumps out to everybody?” Williams said. “They have a quarterback, have an amazing tight end, an amazing offensive line, have a great guy on the opposite side of the ball like Chris Jones. Just the whole team in general. They’ve been to the Super Bowl multiple years and a team that has everything in order, got everything where they want to go, and they’re going to be a great challenge.”
Although the Chiefs are 2-1, they’re opening-night loss comes with a big asterisk as both Kelce and Jones didn’t suit up in a 21-20 loss to the Detroit Lions. Kelce, who has struck up a relationship with pop star Taylor Swift, has the Jets’ attention for other reasons. He leads the Chiefs with 11 receptions and 2 receiving TDs and he and Mahomes have combined for 48 pass TDs since 2018, which is the most by any QB-receiver duo.
“No matter where he is they are going to try and get him the ball,” said Jets LB Quincy Williams. “If you cover him on the deep ball, you might have to take it vertical or he might run a comeback. You just have to keep on going. Like I said, you can’t have a mental clock in your head because you both might run to the top of the numbers and then he starts running a different route. And we know for a fact they are going to try and find Kelce. Don’t give up on the play.”
Mahomes, who needs 1 TD pass to reach 200 for his career, has 35 career games with 250-plus pass yards and 3-plus pass TDs. While his favorite target is Kelce, the Chiefs lead the league with 14 different players having receptions. Mahomes is painstakingly patient, having the ability to extend plays and has already run for 8 first downs this season.
“With him, you have to do right longer,” said Quincy Williams. “You can’t have a mental clock in your head that thinks the ball should be out or he should be sacked by now — you can’t have that mindset. You have to do right longer. Continue plastering the guy that is in your zone and grabbing him.”
While the Jets hope to contain an explosive Chiefs offense, they’ll need their offense to pick up steam against what has become one of the NFL’s better defensive units. Zach Wilson’s 25th career start will come under the bright lights as he’ll take aim at a defense that ranks fifth in yards per play (4.55 yds). In addition to getting young playmakers WR Garrett Wilson and RB Breece Hall the ball, the Jets would benefit from more consistency in the run game and improved third-down efficiency.
“With regard to Z (Zach), we all acknowledge he has to play better,” Saleh said. “We all acknowledge that. He acknowledges it, teammates acknowledge it, he acknowledges it himself, but the key is to have confidence in yourself. You have to. And you have to continually stack good days. You go out and you own your moments.”
These Jets are going to march to their own beat and they’re ready for their moment against the defending champs.
“Nobody’s on this team and nobody knows what really goes on in this locker room but us,” said Quinnen Williams. “Handling it our way, keeping everything in, ignoring the outside noise is our main focus, and focusing on each other, because this is a team. We’re a family, so we have to have each other’s back no matter what.”
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