On his first day as the defensive headliner, Marcus Maye served as one of the lone silver linings for the New York Jets’ Week 1 endeavors.
Getting the New York Jets’ “game ball” in the locker room after Sunday’s game in Orchard Park may be more of an insult than honor at this point.
The first game of the green decade was one to forget, its 27-17 final score in favor of Buffalo Bills nowhere near as indicative of just how one-sided the game really was. Buffalo scored the first 21 points to bring the nonexistent home crowd to its feet and relatively waltz through the remainder of the game.
In a game like that, silver linings are few and far between. The 69-yard scoring hook-up between Sam Darnold and Jamison Crowder seemed wildly out-of-place in such a one-sided affair. New York (0-1) could perhaps at least take assurance in the fact that Mekhi Becton played a relatively decent game on the offensive line. The box score, however, was relatively low on condolences.
A welcome exception to the trend was safety Marcus Maye.
Sunday marked perhaps one of the most important games of Maye’s NFL career. While it was the fourth season of his NFL career, it was perhaps his first as a defensive headliner. With Jamal Adams napalming his bridges to New York and C.J. Mosley opting out, Maye likely had the brightest green spotlight on him during Sunday’s proceedings. Only more eyes will linger on Maye this season because of his contract status; his rookie deal ends after Week 17.
For all intents and purposes, Maye impressed his suitors, both domestically and abroad. He led all defenders with 10 tackles and also earned two sacks of Josh Allen. Two quarterback knockdowns likewise awaited Maye, who also successfully defended two passes and forced a fumble.
According to Jets PR, Maye is “the 10th Jet since 1994 to record a sack, forced fumble, TFL and a PD in the same game”. Notable fellow Jets to achieve the feats in that span include Darrelle Revis, John Abraham, and Muhammad Wilkerson (who did it three times).
S Marcus Maye (@alldayMAYE) Led the team and established single-game career highs in tackles (10), sacks (2.0), TFLs (2) and QBHs (2), while adding 2 PDs and a forced fumble.
Maye became the 10th Jet since 1994 to record a sack, forced fumble, TFL and a PD in the same game. pic.twitter.com/5u2hOUEiiC
— NYJ Communications (@NYJetsPR) September 13, 2020
Maye felt that Buffalo didn’t do anything truly special in victory, instead claiming blame on behalf of the Jets.
“(Buffalo wasn’t) doing anything schematically. (Allen) was extending plays with his legs and getting guys open with his feet,” Maye noted in transcripts provided by the Jets. “The penalties hurt us on our end, but other than that, that was really it. We shot ourselves in the foot in the first half.”
To Maye’s point, the Jets lost 95 yards on nine penalties. Buffalo (1-0) earned six first downs through laundry alone. Two of those instances came from the defense on either third downs or with at least 10 yards to go.
Overwork may have contributed to the defensive woes as a whole. The Jets earned only one first down on their first five possessions, forcing the defense back on the field as quickly as they left it. Maye wasn’t looking for excuses, however. With the Jets likely positioned as underdogs for the foreseeable future, Maye knows that better starts will be vital to making the most out of this trying season.
“You have to come out hot. You have to come out fast. You canâ€™t wait until things get tough to get going. From the first play you have to come out,” Maye noted. “You know heâ€™s going to run. You know heâ€™s going to extend plays. You know heâ€™s not going to stay in the pocket. So, we just have to execute and be disciplined in our rush lanes. When the ball is in the air, just be composed and be smart.”
The Jets’ confidence in Maye was apparent when the team granted him defensive captaincy honors alongside 12th-year veteran Steve McLendon. It was Maye who spoke not only for the Jets’ defensive shortcoming but for their pregame demonstration as well.
With athletes across North American sports engaging in demonstrations against police brutality and racial injustice, the Jets opted to remain in the locker room during the opening ceremonies. According to Maye, team unity was the catalyst behind the decision.
“We just decided as a unit that we were going to hold out and stay inside during the National Anthem. We all decided that was something big for us to do. We did it as a group, as a team. Obviously, people had different perspectives on being out there on the sidelines, so we made an emphasis on just staying inside and keeping everybody together inside.”
The Jets will get a chance to redeem themselves at home next weekend against the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, Fox).
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags