It was a performance that would have made Rex Ryan proud — if he was still defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens.
Unfortunately, Ryan is now head coach of the New York Jets. And he watched in horror as the unit he helped create scored three touchdowns off turnovers by Mark Sanchez in Baltimore's 34-17 victory Sunday night.
Baltimore's three scores on defense were the most in franchise history. Jameel McClain took a fumble by Sanchez 6 yards for a score on New York's first offensive play, Jarret Johnson scored on a 26-yard fumble return and Lardarius Webb put the Ravens up by 17 points in the third quarter by taking an interception 73 yards into the end zone.
Don't think for a moment that Baltimore didn't take pleasure in doing it in front of Ryan, who served 10 years with the Ravens before taking the Jets job before the 2009 season.
"He created this and now he has to deal with us," Johnson said. "It was fun."
Not so for Ryan.
"I've been around football a long time and I've never seen anything like that," Ryan said. "The performance by their defence was spectacular. They were coming after us. That's a Ravens defence. It reminded me of the 2000 and 2006 defences."
This, however, was a one-of-a-kind performance. Three touchdowns in one game? Heck, that equaled the output of Baltimore's defence for the entire 2010 season. The Ravens also held the Jets to 150 yards and seven first downs in taking over sole possession of first place in the AFC North.
"The best defensive effort I thought I had ever seen or the most amazing defensive performance I thought I'd ever seen was the Pittsburgh game with seven turnovers," coach John Harbaugh said, referring to Baltimore's season-opening 35-7 rout. "But this topped it. That's pretty impressive, to say the least."
The Ravens flustered Sanchez from the outset. On New York's first play, Ed Reed caused a fumble on a safety blitz and McClain took the ball into the end zone. It was the first of four fumbles by Sanchez, three of which Baltimore recovered.
"Throughout the course of the beating, he got rattled a little bit," Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "Once we hit a few times, he kind of got uncomfortable."
A week ago, the Jets gave up 234 yards rushing in a loss to the Oakland Raiders. This defeat can be attributed to Sanchez, who threw an interception and fumbled four times, losing three. He went 11 for 35 for 119 yards, and the only score he produced until the fourth quarter was a field goal by Nick Folk after a 25-yard drive.
"He struggled mightily, there's no question about it," Ryan said. "It wasn't his best day, that's for sure, but he's our quarterback and I believe in him."
New York (2-2) has lost seven straight to the Ravens (3-1), the last two with Ryan on the Jets sideline. New York's touchdowns came on a 107-yard kickoff return by Joe McKnight and a 35-yard interception return by David Harris.
The Ravens got 17 points off three fumbles by Sanchez to take a 27-7 lead in the second quarter, and although the Jets cut the gap to 10, they were unable to complete the comeback.
"We all had our share in this loss," Sanchez said. "I'm fine pointing out my mistakes; as far as my mistakes, I'll take the blame for it."
Down 27-17, New York got the ball on the Baltimore 27 after Joe Flacco fumbled when Jets linebacker Aaron Maybin picked up his first career sack.
On the next play, Webb picked off a pass by Sanchez intended for Santonio Holmes on the right sideline and sprinted into the end zone with 8:49 left in the third quarter.
It was 20-7 before Johnson scored after Sanchez fumbled when hit by Haloti Ngata. After a replay, the officials ruled that Sanchez's arm was moving forward, but he did not have the ball in his hand, confirming the touchdown call.
Ryan was so angry he called a timeout to vent his frustration. After speaking his mind and getting no satisfaction, Ryan stalked the sideline and threw his arms up in a display of angst.
Minutes later, though, the Jets got their own defensive score. Harris picked off a pass from Flacco and took it 36 yards for a touchdown, and New York added a field goal to close to 27-17 at halftime.
But the Jets got only two first downs in the second half.