While there was outside talk that the New York Jets were going to tank the 2017 season, the players aren't surprised after Sunday's 17-14 win over the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium gave them a three-game winning streak and put them in a three-way tie for first place in the AFC East.
"Sounds like that's how it's supposed to be," cornerback Morris Claiborne, who had one of New York's two interceptions, said, according to Newsday's Calvin Watkins.
New York, which lost the first two games of the season by a combined score of 66-32, has won three games in a row for the first time since winning five in a row from Week 12 to Week 16 in 2015.
Combined with the New England Patriots' win on Thursday and the Buffalo Bills' 20-16 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, the Jets are in a three-way tie for the division lead heading into their Week 6 matchup against the defending Super Bowl champions.
"We haven't done anything," head coach Todd Bowles said, according to Watkins. "We have won three games. Three out of five and we still have 11 to play. It is good to string together wins, no matter how pretty or how ugly. It's good to string together wins and learn to win in different ways, but we just have to keep getting better every week. By no means were we perfect."
A week after Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire combined for 256 rushing yards, the Jets were limited to just 34 yards on the ground on Sunday and were outgained 419-212, however the Jets forced three turnovers, including Claiborne's interception of Kevin Hogan midway through the third quarter to set up Josh McCown's two-yard touchdown pass to Austin Seferian-Jenkins that gave the Jets a 10-7 lead.
New York's defense followed by stuffing Browns running back Isaiah Crowell at the 3-yard line on fourth-and-2, then drove 97 yards downfield on an eight-play drive, ending with Jermaine Kearse's 24-yard touchdown that made it 17-7 with 8:30 remaining in the fourth quarter.
"We played well when we needed," McCown, who threw for 194 yards, said, according to the New York Daily News' Manish Mehta. "We need to play well all day, but in that moment, we stepped up."
Second-year linebacker Jordan Jenkins, who recorded two solo tackles, said the players aren't surprised at the team's early-season success, even though there were some predictions that the Jets could be historically bad.
"I guarantee," Jenkins said, according to ESPN's Rich Cimini, "nobody had us being tied with anybody for first, second or third. It's shocking to them, but we knew we could be in this position."