FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Heavy sighs came from every corner of the visitors’ locker room Sunday night.
Some New York Jets tried desperately to find the silver lining in their embarrassing defeat at Paul Brown Stadium. Others, looking exasperated and exhausted, could barely articulate how they could let the Cincinnati Bengals walk away with a 49-9 victory.
But in the midst of all the frustration and anger was Josh Cribbs, providing perspective in a somber locker room as only he could. If there’s anyone who knows about the depths of defeat, it’s Cribbs, who had just one winning season (2007) during his eight years in Cleveland.
“We’re not the Browns,” the Jets kick returner/wide receiver said. “We’re not the team that gives up. We have fight in this team. They’re a motivated bunch of young guys. I’m just happy to be here and be able to contribute ... Love it here.
“We lost. It’s going to be a lesson for us and we’re going to play harder. It’s good that it comes now because we’re still in the mix of this. We’re halfway through the season.”
That type of veteran optimism is much needed now, as the Jets (4-4) look to rebound from this devastating beatdown. Cribbs said the Jets “dominated the Patriots” in their 30-27 overtime win in Week 7, but this past Sunday, “it was the Bengals’ turn.”
“They said, ‘The Patriots was coming,’ and we showed them. So we’re not afraid of nobody,” the 2009 All-Pro said when asked about facing the Saints at home. “And they’re coming to us ... So we don’t care who we play — the Saints, it could be anybody. We showed everybody last week. They didn’t think we had a shot. So everybody in the NFL world, they’re going to say, ‘Oh, the Jets are just an average team’ until we prove them wrong again.”
Sunday’s loss was so bad, coach Rex Ryan didn’t want to waste time reviewing it as a team.
“It’s not an indication of the work that we put in during the week, so it’s disappointing that that’s what people see,” center Nick Mangold said Monday. “We need to find consistency and the up and down, the win one, lose one, isn’t going to get us to where we want to be.”
Said Ryan: “We couldn’t stop a nosebleed. That’s how it felt ... We needed a tourniquet and we couldn’t find one.”
Asked about facing Saints quarterback Drew Brees, the Jets coach said half-jokingly: “If we don’t play better pass defense, he’ll throw for 700 yards.”
But in the same breath, Ryan spoke of his team’s resilience and each player’s desire to get better. And that’s why after just two weeks with his new team, Cribbs is optimistic. He said he understands the expectations and “Play like a Jet” isn’t something to be taken lightly.
“The GM (John Idzik) takes that to the heart. Like Braylon Edwards. He could’ve played here, but they said ‘he didn’t play like a Jet. Get him out of here,’” Cribbs said of his former teammate in Cleveland. “So last week (against the Patriots) proved to me that this is not the Browns. If we were, we would’ve lost those games.”