Three days after suffering a knee injury in practice, Cromartie was back on the field, starting at cornerback against the Pittsburgh Steelers. But he gave up the biggest play of the day -- a 55-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Emmanuel Sanders in the Steelers' 19-6 victory.
Pittsburgh was in front, 9-6, and on its first offensive possession of the second half. On third-and-1 from the Steelers' 45-yard-line, Roethlisberger faked a handoff and then lofted a ball deep down the right side of the field.
Cromartie bit badly on an inside-out move by Sanders, and was several yards behind the receiver when Sanders hauled in the ball at the New York 22. Sanders put the icing on the cake by doing a forward flip into the end zone.
It would have been easy to blame his injury, but Cromartie refused to do so after the game. "The knee didn’t impact anything at all," Cromartie said. "The point is me just playing better technique on that one play.
"We were in Cover zero. They gave us a certain look, I stayed squat too long, he went back underneath me. By me staying squat too long, I wasn’t able to flip my hips fast enough to get back up the field."
It wasn't the only bad play by Cromartie, though. Later in the third quarter, he was flagged for pass interference, resulting in a 25-yard penalty, which set up a Steelers field goal. And in the second quarter, on a third-and-10, Cromartie gave up a 15-yard gain to Antonio Brown on another field goal drive.
Cromartie did take issue with the penalty.
"I don’t know, man. I felt like I didn't [commit one]," he said. "I felt like we were just trying to compete to get in position down the field."
The Jets' defense played well against the run, giving up just 73 yards on 26 carries (2.8 yards per carry). But Roethlisberger had his way in the air, completing 23 of 30 passes for 264 yards.
"We made a couple of errors in the back end today. There's no doubt about it," Jets coach Rex Ryan said, when asked about the Sanders touchdown. "We have to get them corrected."
For all the buzz about the defensive line and young studs Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, Cromartie may be the key to the Jets' D. With Darrelle Revis gone and inexperienced cornerbacks playing alongside him (Darrin Walls, Dee Milliner), Cromartie is being counted on to lock down one side of the field.
The Jets got a huge break when Cromartie's injury turned out to be just a hyperextension -- he admitted after the game that when he went down on Thursday, he thought he had torn his ACL. Now Cromartie has to regain his old form.
Yes, the Jets only gave up 19 points on Sunday. But that was plenty.
"I don’t think we did enough," Cromartie said. "Our job is to keep 'em out of the end zone, and we didn’t. They scored on a third-and-1, that’s something that we can't have -- especially for me, giving up a touchdown. That’s something that I take a lot of pride in."