Mike Pettine challenges Jets' defense

Updated: October 5, 2012, 8:26 PM ET
By Jane McManus | ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine issued a challenge Wednesday morning to his unit in the form of a quote.

He passed out the comments of San Francisco 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers saying the Jets quit during their game last Sunday.

"Just let them read it and soak it in," Pettine said.

Then he put the quote on the projection screen, and the response said a lot.

"Silence," Pettine said.

If the accusation had come from an angry fan, a sports columnist, even one of the talking heads on radio, it wouldn't have been as impactful. But Rogers was a peer -- Pettine's word -- and the coordinator didn't get the sense the cornerback was just trying to further humiliate the team. Rather, he thought Rogers was just surprised by what happened on the field.

"I don't think you could say that anybody quit," Pettine said. "I know we got worn down, probably just as much emotionally as we were physically."

But whatever the motive, the accusation stung.

"You're going to get all sorts of insults hurled at you in sports. 'You're too slow, you're dumb, you're this, you're that,' " Pettine said. "But one of the worst ones that can get put on you is that you quit."

The Jets had, according to coach Rex Ryan after watching tape of the game, 17 missed tackles.

"I never saw it as an effort thing; sometimes it was a technique," Pettine said.

He pointed out that defensive end Mike DeVito had a good game, not that it is much consolation in a loss such as that. He noted that linebacker David Harris missed a few tackles, and, playing linebacker despite a lingering toe injury, Bart Scott accounted for a few as well.

"It was inspirational for him to be out there," Pettine said. "Now were there a couple plays that he just couldn't make because of it? Yeah, there were a few, but I'm willing to trade that to have him out there and be the emotional leader."

Pride and emotion are two things the Jets will need if they are to prove that, like some previous Ryan teams, they can bounce back after bad losses like the 34-0 defeat by the 49ers.

On tap for Monday night is a game against the 4-0 Texans, with none of those wins with a margin smaller than six points. But the Jets never have lost to Houston.

A loss could help the Jets further unravel, a process that was hurried along by injuries to cornerback Darrelle Revis and wide receiver Santonio Holmes. On paper, the team looks sorely overmatched. But Jets' defensive players still have their pride.

Pettine just wanted to remind them.

Jane McManus has covered New York sports since 1998 and began covering football just before Brett Favre's stint with the Jets. Her work has appeared in Newsday, USA Today, The Journal News and The New York Times. Follow Jane on Twitter.

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