Robert Saleh, Zac Taylor, Jets, Bengals
Robert Saleh, Zac Taylor, New York Jets, Getty Images

An unexpected New York Jets defensive play might’ve made the difference on Sunday

The New York Jets made several Halloween memories on Sunday afternoon against the Cincinnati Bengals. Few will forget, for example, the first interception of Shaq Lawson’s career, one that set up backup quarterback Mike White’s game-winning touchdown pass to Tyler Kroft.

Naturally, one of Robert Saleh‘s favorite plays was … a White interception.

Speaking publicly on Monday after the Jets’ improbable 34-31 victory over the AFC North leaders, Saleh was asked by Brian Costello of the New York Post about one of the game’s more underrated moments.

The Jets owned a 7-0 lead in the latter stages of the first quarter when a White pass bounced off the hands of Jamison Crowder and into the arms of Bengals defender Jessie Bates. Blessed with blocking help in front of him, Bates seemed destined for six points – but unlikely defensive heroes rose to the occasion.

Bates was less than five yards away from his second career touchdown when he was stopped by pursuing receiver Elijah Moore. The defender tried to push forward but tackling assistance arrived in the form of Denzel Mims, who ran from the other side of the field to help Moore finish off the tackle.

At first, Moore and Mims’ efforts appeared to merely delay an inevitable touchdown, as Cincinnati was one yard away from pay-turf. But after two Joe Mixon rushes lost a combined two yards (Foley Fatukasi was involved in both tackles) and Joe Burrow failed to connect with Ja’Marr Chase, the Bengals faced fourth-and-goal three yards away from the end zone.

Quinnen Williams helped the Jets complete the red zone resistance with a 12-yard sack of Burrow that led to a turnover on downs.




Though Cincinnati would recover to score 17 straight, Saleh believed that the fateful shared takedown by Moore and Mims might’ve changed the course of Sunday’s game, referring to their refusal to quit on the play as “a big deal” and “pretty cool to see.”

“We always talk about the importance of one-yard and how that one-yard is everything, everything. (The) defense talks about, “Give us a blade of grass, and we’ll protect it’.” Saleh said, per notes from the Jets. “I know they’re working their tails off to protect that blade of grass. Elijah Moore, Denzel Mims, especially, how far he’s come this season, credit to those guys that just work their tails off.”

“To get to do it on the ground, to give us a chance to play defense and protect that inch. It’s such a big deal. There are plays within a game that go unnoticed, but they’re everything. Without that play, we don’t get that goal-line stand and who knows what happens, but a yard is everything.”

The Jets’ Twitter account shared the blistering top speeds reached by the two wideouts on the play: Mims hit 21.35 mph while Moore hit 20.15 mph.

Saleh hinted that the resilient stand at the cusp of their end zone foreshadowed the game’s ending: facing a one-yard third down with 100 seconds remaining and Cincinnati down to its last timeout, a strong push from White and the offensive line allowed the Jets to gain the final necessary yard to officially commence the countdown to victory.

Time will tell if Saleh rewards Moore and Mims’ resiliency with further opportunities, especially if the Jets are further denied the services of top receiver Corey Davis (hip). The two made the most of their opportunities in their regular offensive duties against the Bengals. Moore caught all six of his targets from White, totaling 67 yards, while Mims tallied 30 yards on a pair of receptions.

The Jets (2-5) return to action on Thursday night against the Indianapolis Colts in prime time (8:20 p.m. ET, Fox/NFL Network).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJags

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Geoff Magliocchetti is a veteran football writer with years of credentialed experience with the Jets and Giants. Email:
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