It had all the makings of the kind of bounceback performance Cleveland's defense wanted.
There were big third-down stops, turnovers, sacks and, most importantly, not many points surrendered as the Browns held a lead over the Jets midway through Sunday's third quarter. What Hue Jackson saw was a winning performance from a group that struggled in Weeks 3 and 4.
"Our defense fought hard," Jackson said. "I don't know what the stats were, but I know it was probably two to one [for net yards]. When you have that many yards, you should have more points."
Cleveland surrendered a season-low 212 yards, with only 67 allowed in the first half. The number that will haunt the group as it reflects on what could have been even better is 97, the number of yards allowed on a fourth-quarter drive that ended with a decisive Jets touchdown.
It came at a momentum-swinging moment in the game, with Cleveland trailing by just a field goal following a Jets fourth-down stop inside the 5-yard line. The "sudden change" situation that has sometimes brought the best out of Cleveland's defense this season went in favor of the Jets.
"You should have heard those guys. They wanted me to go for it. They were like, 'Coach, go for it. If you don't get it, we got you.' That is the way it was the whole time," Jackson said. "That is what I love about this football team. It was not deflating or anything. Their team came back and made some plays, made some key plays and we didn't. That happens."
The backbreaker came on third down, where the Browns had otherwise thrived throughout the day. Facing a third-and-2, Jets quarterback Josh McCown found a wide open tight end Eric Tomlinson for a 34-yard gain. The catch was the third of Tomlinson's career and yet another costly moment for a Browns defense that has struggled against tight ends this season.
New York picked up another big third-down conversion a few plays later, when McCown connected with Jeremy Kerley for an 18-yard gain on third-and-8. One play later, the Jets were in the end zone on a 24-yard touchdown pass from McCown to Jermaine Kearse.
"A couple communication errors, guys were not lined up, just things like that," safety Jabrill Peppers said. "All could be corrected. But at the end of the day those guys get paid too, they are going to have some plays and make some plays, it is just we have to win the plays they make. I do not think we lost gas, it just stinks they started doing little things to try and trick us on what we were doing efficiently and that was working, that's really all I feel it was."
Jackson didn't consider the moment to be "deflating" for his defense and doesn't believe it will hang over them in the coming weeks.
"Their team came back and made some plays, made some key plays and we didn't," Jackson said. "That happens."