- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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1. J.J. was dyn-o-mite! Safety Jaiquawn Jarrett produced more big plays in a 14-play span, covering the late first to early-second quarter, than rookie Calvin Pryor did in the first nine games. That's not an opinion, it's a fact. In the end, Jarrett became the first Jets player to finish with two interceptions and a sack in one game (dating to 1982, when sacks became an official statistic). It allowed Rex Ryan to spin the safety swap as a promotion for Jarrett instead of a demotion for Pryor, whose tardiness for meetings had become a source of frustration within the organization.
Jarrett played every snap, didn't allow a completion and didn't miss any tackles. This is highly subjective, but Pro Football Focus, which evaluates every play, gave Jarrett the third-highest grade ever awarded to a safety.
Let's take a closer look at Jarrett's big plays:
The sack: On a third-and-15, the Jets were aggressive and rushed seven, including Jarrett, who came on a delayed blitz. Jarrett recognized that his man, tight end Heath Miller, stayed in to block, so he took the opportunity to rush Ben Roethlisberger.
The fumble recovery: On the first play of the Steelers' ensuing drive, Muhammad Wilkerson made a great play, stripping Antonio Brown on a bubble screen. Jarrett, providing over-the-top help on Brown, happened to be in the first place at the right time.
The first interception: On a second down from their 10, the Jets dropped eight into coverage, showing a two-deep safety look. Roethlisberger threw quickly to Martavis Bryant, but the pass was deflected by Marcus Williams, who made a nice reach-in. Jarrett reacted quickly, made a diving catch, jumped to his feet and returned it nine yards.
The second interception: Roethlisberger will get the blame for a terrible pass (and it was), but a look at the all-22 tape reveals that Jarrett showed terrrific instincts on the play. The Jets showed a Cover-2 look (more on that a little later), with Jarrett providing deep help for cornerback Phillip Adams. Jarrett, responsible for a deep half, was at the numbers on the left side of the defense. He read Roethlisberger's eyes and worked his way back to the middle, where Big Ben threw the ball to Markus Wheaton -- or shall we say "floated" the ball? Jarrett was there for the interception, but this wasn't another case of right-place, right-time. He got there because of his field awareness.
2. Rex reinvents his defense: This hasn't garnered much press (who can report on schemes when planes are circling the practice field?), but it's interesting to see how Ryan and defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman have revamped the defensive scheme because of their shortcomings at cornerback. Before this season, the Jets were predominantly a single-high safety defense, relying on press-man coverage. Not anymore. They're playing more zone than ever, according to Ryan, also employing a heavy dose of two-high safety alignments. Previously, Ryan considered it an act of heresy, but he adapted to help his corners and to prevent big plays.
They used Jarrett and Dawan Landry in a two-deep look for a good portion of the game, limiting the Steelers' prolific passing attack to only one completion over 16 yards. That was Bryant's 80-yard touchdown late in the game, which, perhaps not coincidentally, came on a play in which the Jets had no safety in the deep post.
3. Odds and ends: The Jets allowed four sacks, but that's not reflective of the offensive line. Its pass protection was superb, as it allowed only three pressures, per Pro Football Focus. Vick contributed to the sacks by holding the ball and scrambling around. ... The offense went into a shell after a promising start. It produced 139 total yards on the first two drives, but only 136 after that. ... Vick's 67-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Graham traveled 56 air yards, from release to catch. It was a good call by coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who fooled the Steelers with a run look -- three tight ends and a play-fake to Chris Ivory. ... Adams allowed 174 of the Steelers' 343 passing yards, per PFF. ... Jeff Cumberland's receiving numbers have dropped, but he continued his solid play as a pass protector. ... Calvin Pace, Quinton Coples and Jason Babin combined for only one quarterback pressure in 54 snaps. ... On Jace Amaro's 5-yard touchdown catch, the Steelers dropped eight into coverage, including seven defenders in the end zone -- and managed to lose sight of Amaro.