EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- They heard it, even though they pretended not to listen. They heard every demeaning word, every cry that they're tanking the season, every prediction that they were destined to go 0-16. They heard from media, from fans, from family, from friends.
"The more people talked about us, the more our family members and friends hit us up and said, 'You all are going to be trash this year. They're saying you're not going to win a game,'" Jets linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. "After a while it just gets to be where enough is enough."
So forgive the Jets for feeling a little good and acting a little cocky Sunday afternoon after they averted disaster and pulled out a wild 23-20 overtime win against the Jacksonville Jaguars at home. It was the kind of win they weren't supposed to be strong enough to pull off, where they overcame a series of wasted opportunities. And it evened their record at 2-2 -- two more wins that more than a few people thought the 2017 Jets would ever have.
Let them crow. Let them puff out their chests. Let them have their moment, just in case they don't get another one again.
"Don't just mark us off on your calendar as a win, because believe me, we're doing the same thing to you," Jets cornerback Morris Claiborne said. "We're really working. We're not taking anything for granted. So don't come in and think you're going to just push us over."
Added cornerback Buster Skrine: "I think we surprised some people outside, but inside we're not surprised that we're winning games. We do have the potential of being good."
That remains to be seen, but the Jets do have a great chance to go to 3-2 next weekend when they travel to Cleveland to take on the 0-4 Browns. Two weeks after that, they go to Miami to face a bad Dolphins team that they already beat 20-6 last weekend. (Forget, for a moment, that there's a home game against the New England Patriots sandwiched in between.)
So yes, they are set up for some short-term success. Of course, their current high will quickly be a devastating low if they mess up their momentum with a loss in Cleveland. And in case they can't imagine that happening, perhaps they should review how close they came to blowing the game against the Jaguars.
There was, in the fourth quarter alone, quarterback Josh McCown's backward pass-turned-fumble from the Jaguars' 14-yard line that Myles Jack alertly picked up and ran 81 yards for a touchdown. The Jets, at that point, were up 20-10 and threatening to blow the game open. Instead, the Jags were within three. And there was the McCown interception from the Jets 34 with 3:22 remaining, putting the Jaguars in game-tying field goal range when the Jets could've been running out the clock instead.
Before that, late in the third quarter, a Kony Ealy interception set them up with a first-and-goal at the 7, but they actually moved backward before settling for a field goal. At the end of the first half, they ran a beautiful fake punt to move into field goal range with a chance to take the lead at halftime. Then a delay of game penalty pushed them back five yards before Chandler Catanzaro missed the 45-yard kick.
Those are the Jets. They are capable of outstanding play -- 256 rushing yards, including long touchdown runs by Bilal Powell (75 yards) and rookie Elijah McGuire (69). Their defense was relentless in pressuring Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, who was a dismal 15-of-35 for 140 yards.
But far too often, they also aren't good enough to get out of their own way.
Still, 2-2? Who saw that coming? Who imagined the Jets' identity would include a toughness and ability to fight back from adversity that absolutely no one outside their building believed they could have?
"We fought back," Jets head coach Todd Bowles said. "We had the lead and gave it away, (but) guys didn't get down. They didn't blink. They fought back from adversity."
"Three weeks ago," Bowles added, "we wouldn't have recovered from this."
That's true. And who knows, maybe three weeks from now they won't either? But right now, one quarter of the way through the season, the Jets are a .500 team, feeling sure enough about themselves that their coach can say, with a straight face, "As far as we're concerned, we could have a better record."
And every player in his locker room agrees.
"How surprising is that to you all? That's the real question," receiver Jermaine Kearse said to the media surrounding him at his locker. "We know what we have in this locker room. It just all comes down to us. It's all about us. The guys have that belief in this locker room. You've got to continue to have it, continue to play for one another and stick with one another. We can take this season as far as we want to take it."
And how far would that be? The Jets stopped short of any bold predictions. Their win, this start, was enough to shove in the face of their critics for one day.
And they certainly were happy to do just that.
"If anybody's surprised it must be all the naysayers who thought we were going to go 0-16 this year," Jenkins said. "But we knew what kind of team we have. We knew if we could actually run all cylinders and have everybody doing their job that this is the kind of team we could be."