After a true and prodigious walloping of the Lions, the Jets defense said they knew exactly what was coming. And while that’s the sort of thing defenses like to say, there were plays in Monday night’s 48-17 chucklefest that didn’t look like they could’ve happened any other way.
Take linebacker Darron Lee’s pick-six in the third quarter, which broke the Jets’ NFL-record streak of 74 games without a defensive touchdown. As Golden Tate, lined out wide to Matthew Stafford’s left, took a few steps in toward the ball, the Jets defenders started communicating. Lee pointed at CB Morris Claiborne, who was on Tate; Claiborne motioned to the center of the field and yelled something. According to an NFL.com report, it was “screen!”
The Lions were running what was supposed to be a pick play, with Tate jamming Lee to clear room for a short completion to RB Theo Riddick to convert the third-and-1. But it didn’t work that way. Lee jumped the route and intercepted Stafford, and he was off to the races.
“We were calling out their plays as he [Stafford] was getting up to the line,” said Lee, who was credited with three of the Jets’ 12 pass breakups Monday. “We knew his signals. We knew everything. … It just seemed like we were in his head as a defense.”
Not cheating, said the Jets, not stealing signals, but good old-fashioned film study—and Jim Bob Cooter’s predictable offense, and the Lions apparently just not changing their signals.
“We was able to just take advantage of plays and stuff that we knew that they run a lot of,” Claiborne said. “Our film study this week was great. It was probably one of the best I’ve been around as far as preparing for the game. And one of the big things, us as a defense, we want to talk, and we was out on the field, certain guys were seeing certain things that showed up in reports and they’re calling it out and get everybody on the same page, so at least we have an idea of what’s about to happen or where they’re trying to beat us or how they’re trying to hurt us.”
One game is one game, and the Jets defense really is very good. But this was a nightmare game for the Lions, and it was a nightmare in all the sorts of the ways that can portend a nightmare season.