INDIANAPOLIS -- The New York Jets don't have a franchise quarterback. You know it, they know it, the old lady on the bus knows it. But they still believe they have enough talent around Ryan Fitzpatrick to beat the top teams, the opponents with elite quarterbacks -- and they proved it Monday night with a 20-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.
When their defense dominates the way it did against Andrew Luck, the Jets can beat anybody. Their $150 million secondary locked up the Colts' receivers, frustrating Luck (21-for-37, 250 yards) for the entire game. Darrelle Revis delivered a vintage performance, intercepting a pass and recovering two fumbles. The Colts' receivers, namely T.Y. Hilton, disappeared on Revis Island. The Jets made three interceptions, with safeties Marcus Gilchrist and Calvin Pryor also contributing one apiece.
The Jets (2-0) recorded five takeaways, bringing their total to 10 in two games -- only three shy of last season's pathetic total. That, folks, is astounding.
"We're about to crush that," nickelback Buster Skrine said.
This is what the new front office had in mind when it took Woody Johnson's checkbook and bought a new secondary, bringing back Revis and Antonio Cromartie and signing Gilchrist and Skrine. Together, they choked the Colts' passing attack, making Luck wish he were someplace else, maybe filming another TV commercial.
"That's why they're worth the big money," guard Willie Colon said of his teammates in the secondary.
This was the Jets' biggest win since 2013 -- their first 2-0 start since 2011 -- and the tone setters were Revis and Skine. It started with Skrine, who caused the first interception by clobbering Luck on a backside blitz from his slot position. It resulted in an errant throw and a deflection, which went to Pryor, who set up the Jets' first touchdown with his interception return. After that, Revis took control of the game, making the splashy plays in addition to his usual brilliant coverage.
Up in the owners' suite, Johnson must have been smiling. He doled out $39 million in fully guaranteed money to re-sign Revis, getting busted for tampering in the process, but he did it for nights like this. Revis has given an identity to the defense -- the entire team, for that matter.
"He's one of the best defensive players I've ever seen," linebacker David Harris said. "He's the man."
The Jets have to play this way if they hope to challenge for a playoff spot because, let's face it, the Fitzpatrick-led offense won't put up crazy numbers. On this night, Fitzpatrick & Co.managed only two touchdown drives against a defense that was missing its top three corners for much of the game. Truth be told, the Jets slept through the second and third quarters, finally showing signs of life in the fourth quarter. Putting aside their conservative play calling in a had-to-have-it situation, Fitzpatrick sealed the game with a touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall.
There will be about a half dozen games in which the Jets will have a distinct disadvantage at the quarterback position, and that can't be dismissed in a quarterback-driven league. Such is life in the Jets' universe. The next Andrew Luck isn't walking through their door anytime soon. The Jets won't beat every elite quarterback, but if they play like they did in the first road game of the Todd Bowles era, they'll win half of them. And half of them just might be good enough to sneak into the playoffs.
Basically, they will try to defy conventional wisdom, riding their talented defense. We know what they have up front; now the entire nation has seen what they have in the secondary.
"That's a mean group back there," nose tackle Damon Harrison said. "You have Revis on one side and Cromartie on the other side. It's tough. Pick your poison. And you have Buster in the slot. It would be tough for any quarterback, not just Luck."
There you have it, the Jets' formula. If they can't have a franchise quarterback, they can try to make it miserable for the teams that do.