Jets say they're 'right back in this thing,' but are they legit?

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Two weeks ago, coach Todd Bowles was on his way to the unemployment line, the offense was struggling to make first downs and the defense was covering receivers with an ill-advised "I-got-him-you-take-him" method.

Yeah, things looked bleak for the New York Jets 15 days ago in Jacksonville.

Now, look:

Two wins in a row. Total points: 76. Back to .500.

"We're right back in this thing," an animated Bowles told his players Sunday in the locker room after their 42-34 victory over the Indianapolis Colts at MetLife Stadium.

Suddenly, the Jets (3-3) have a big home game Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings (3-2-1), which begs the question: Is it time to take them seriously?

Short answer: Not quite yet, but you have to respect what they've accomplished, saving their season from pre-Halloween irrelevancy. The competition hasn't been elite -- the Colts and Denver Broncos are riding four-game losing streaks -- but the Jets have proven they can win games in a variety of ways.

They went from a franchise-record rushing day by Isaiah Crowell to a franchise-record kicking day by Jason Myers, who scored more points (24) than the entire team scored in 15 of its previous 21 games. Let's not forget about rookie Sam Darnold, who delivered the Jets' most accurate passing day (80 percent) in 11 years.

So, yes, give them points for resourcefulness. They're not a one-formula team, and that's an admirable trait. More impressively, they're developing mental toughness. When Andrew Luck and his magical right arm closed to within six points in the fourth quarter, the Jets punched back after nearly blowing a 17-point lead. They scored on their final eight possessions, not counting kneel downs at the end.


"We probably would've lost this one a year ago or a couple of weeks ago," said Bowles, who has done a terrific job of rallying his team from the brink.

Linebacker Darron Lee put it more descriptively than his coach, saying, "The wheels probably would've fallen off" under the old mentality.

The buzzword in the postgame locker room was "growth," stemming from Darnold growing up as a quarterback and the defense growing together and learning to trust each other. That trust, they believe, led to their 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th takeaways of the season. These are all positive signs for a team that is young and rebuilding. They've won two straight for the first time in a calendar year -- how cute, the Patriots must be thinking -- but now there's another big challenge to conquer.

Beat a winning team -- i.e. the Vikings, who have found a rhythm after a shaky start. The Jets' beaten-up secondary had trouble against Luck's cast of no-name receivers, so how will it deal with the likes of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs? They couldn't tackle Marlon Mack, so how will they fare against Latavius Murray?

Bowles said they "botched up" some running plays and he attributed Luck's 301-yard passing day to the Colts' quick-throwing scheme and, of course, the talent in Luck's right arm. Well, Kirk Cousins is no slouch; the Jets thought enough of him to offer a $90 million, fully guaranteed contract in free agency.

The Jets also have to figure out their red-zone issues. They began Sunday ranked 32nd in efficiency, and they sank deeper with a dreadful, 1-for-6 day. It worked out brilliantly for Myers, who put his name in the team record book, but it's never a great thing when your kicker is making that many threes. Don't blame Darnold; he was 3-for-4 in the red zone, including a touchdown -- and the lone incomplete pass was an intentional spike to stop the clock.

So, yes, they have problems. Bowles called it an "ugly" win.

Better than an ugly season.