Gregg Williams saw the potential for domination on Sunday — not of his defense, but by it.
Where others witnessed the Jets unit getting overwhelmed most of the afternoon, allowing 404 yards of total offense, getting gashed by Josh Allen for a career-high 312 yards through the air, being unable to get off the field on third down, the team’s defensive coordinator saw promise in the lopsided loss to the Bills.
“What could have been a dominant game — had we controlled the pocket — what could have been a dominant game, turned into production by the other team,” he said Friday following practice, forgetting the two gift fumbles by Allen and two missed field goals by the Bills. “[It] turned into extended plays, and if you go back and take a look at those things, it would have been a very dominant game could we have finished the pocket on the quarterback.”
Of course, you can throw an “if” in front of a lot of statements and that could change the result. If the Mets had more pitching, they would be a playoff team. If the Knicks had better luck, they wouldn’t be in this drought of one playoff series victory across the last two decades. If Mike Maccagnan had drafted better, he still would be the Jets’ general manager.
Williams said he felt his players were prepared for everything the Bills threw at them, but they just didn’t execute at key junctures. By missing Allen on a number of blitzes and rushes, it led to several big plays.
“That was it,” he said, of his unit’s shortcomings.
But that doesn’t account for the Jets being unable to cover Bills receivers John Brown and Stefon Diggs, who combined to catch 14 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown. It doesn’t account for a lack of a pass rush — Allen had an average of 3.08 seconds per throw, the longest of any quarterback per NFL Next Gen Stats. It doesn’t account for starting No. 1 cornerback Pierre Desir getting benched for poor play. The tackling was shoddy, which even Williams admitted was a focus this week.
“We were very critical on our tackling and we have to do a better job of that, especially at that position,” Williams said, referring to the quarterback.
Now, there were bright spots in the performance. Safety Marcus Maye turned in the best effort of his career, registering 12 tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss, two passes defensed and a forced fumble. The defense allowed just 10 points in the second half after getting soundly outplayed over the final 30 minutes. Cornerback Nate Hairston held up fairly well in place of Desir.
“I definitely feel like we played better than the numbers showed,” defensive lineman Quinnen Williams said. “It could’ve been a lot better and it would’ve been a lot better if we finished plays.
“We were there. We wrap them up and tackle them, the play would’ve been made.”
This week will present a very different challenge. 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo won’t run nearly as frequently as Allen, and he won’t have his top target, tight end George Kittle (knee), available either. Instead, San Francisco will rely upon running backs Raheem Mostert, Jerick McKinnon and Tevin Coleman through the air and on the ground.
But, according to the Jets’ two Williamses, Gregg and Quinnen, it will come down to the same basic principle for the defense: Finishing off plays.
If they can do that, Gregg Williams sees big possibilities for this defense. Then again, that’s no small feat.
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