FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- All season long, Rex Ryan has praised the New York Jets' camaraderie and the unity the team displayed through an up-and-down season.
With the season starting to slip away, and the potential for a rift between the offense and defense to develop, Ryan addressed his team Monday about staying united for the final five games and not listening to what others have to say.
"We got to stay together," Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson said of Ryan's message. "People are going to try to break the team apart, point the fingers, but we got to stay the course and win these five games."
Just two seasons ago, Ryan lost control of the locker room and the Jets turned a potentially promising season into a forgettable one. The Jets lost their final three games, including a home loss to the New York Giants in essentially an elimination game, and the Jets missed the playoffs for the first time under Ryan.
This season, despite being predicted to be one of the worst teams in the NFL, the Jets were one of the biggest surprises during the first half as they got off to a 5-4 start before their bye. Since their week off, the Jets have become a punching bag, being bludgeoned 37-14 by the Buffalo Bills and losing 19-3 at the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. With those two losses, the Jets no longer own one of the two wild-card spots.
While a 5-6 record has the Jets in the hunt, it's the stark contrast in play between the Jets offense and defense that could potentially lead to a rift in the locker room. The Jets' defense has performed like a playoff caliber unit for most of the season, as they are ranked eighth in yards allowed per game and are the top team against the run, while the offense ranks 27th in yards per game.
In the loss to Buffalo, the Jets managed just 267 total yards and 12 first downs, and quarterback Geno Smith threw for just 103 yards and three interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown. Sunday, the Jets totaled 220 yards and Smith once again had a brutal day with two interceptions. The Jets defense allowed 312 yards, but with the Jets inept offense, it wasn't good enough.
Wilkerson showed how that difference in play between the two units can fester into an issue when addressing the defense's performance against Baltimore.
"Defense did our job, just three plays we had some mistakes," he said Monday.
Ryan stressed that the team has to understand that not all the units are going to click at all times.
"My team is close. This team is close. There's always going to up and downs with each unit. Special teams, offense, defense or whatever and there's going to be some times when the defense has to carry the load until the offense gets righted and vice versa," Ryan said. "I know the way there's sometimes outside influences and can try to chip away at the foundation of your team. Certainly don't need that."