EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Entering Sunday's game, the New York Jets ranked last in the NFL in takeaways. On Sunday, the Ravens did what they could to help lift New York from the cellar.
In one game, the Jets matched their previous season total of three takeaways, recording two interceptions and one fumble recovery in their 24-16 victory over the Ravens at MetLife Stadium. And each Ravens turnover proved consequential.
Perhaps the most egregious miscue was defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan's fumble inside the Ravens 5-yard line after he had recovered a fumble by New York running back Matt Forte late in the third quarter.
With the Jets at the 6 on second-and-goal and threatening to add to a 17-16 lead, Forte gained 3 yards before having the ball stripped by defensive end Lawrence Guy. Jernigan picked up the ball at the 3 and ran outside with it before it was ripped loose by wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who recovered the fumble at the 5.
Three plays later, Forte plunged into the end zone on a 1-yard dive to give New York a 24-16 advantage it would not relinquish.
Jernigan, who finished with four tackles, one sack and two quarterback hits, owned up to the mistake, saying he was trying to make a play.
"That's all I'm trying to do, simple as that," he said. "If you make the play, I don't get stripped and I'm up the sideline for 20 yards, and people are like, 'Oh, my God, he made a great play.' You get stripped, and they get the ball back. It's kind of one of those situations. But the one thing about it, I would never do something to glorify myself. Everything I've ever done was to help the team, and that's just what it is. If you take it differently, you just take it differently. It is what it is."
The sudden change in fortune evoked a similar defensive gaffe in the Ravens' 16-10 loss to the Washington Redskins on Oct. 9. In that game, inside linebacker C.J. Mosley intercepted quarterback Kirk Cousins' pass but lost control of the ball before he crossed the goal line. The ball rolled out of the end zone and gave possession back to Washington, which took advantage by kicking a field goal for the final score.
Had Jernigan held on to the ball Sunday, the Jets would have led by just one, and the Ravens would have needed only a field goal to end a three-game slide.
"It was a huge play in the game, and obviously, it was a difference in the game," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Those are the kinds of things that are costing us games, and those are the kinds of things that have to stop."
Jernigan was not the only player whose miscue contributed to the team's fourth straight loss. On back-to-back snaps midway through the second quarter, rookie left tackle Alex Lewis was flagged for a false start and a hold. The holding penalty was especially damaging, as it wiped out a 42-yard run by running back Terrance West ( Towson University, Northwestern High) that would have put the Ravens at New York's 4.
"Worst time," said West, who finished with just 10 yards on eight carries. "That's what's been killing us all year. That was huge. That could have changed the game right there."
Quarterback Joe Flacco's two interceptions cost the Ravens their lead. The Jets turned cornerback Buster Skrine's interception into a 22-yard field goal by Nick Folk for a 17-16 lead, and free safety Marcus Gilchrist's pick preceded the two-fumble play that gave New York command of the game.
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"Mistakes are frustrating, and they hurt because obviously, we gave the game away there," Flacco said. "But the more frustrating thing is just the fact that we can't consistently do things well. If we were out there and we were playing really good football, we would probably be able to live with a mistake here and a mistake there."
The Ravens' mistakes were the Jets' gains. New York halted a four-game losing skid and breathed new life into what appeared to be a season slipping from its grasp.
"We have to enjoy this win," Marshall said. "It's hard to win in the National Football League, no matter who you are or where you are at. We're going to enjoy it and move forward."
If there was one consolation from the loss, it was the valuable lesson Jernigan said he's learned.
"From now on, I don't care if I have 100 yards in front of me with no one in front of me, I'll fall on the ball just to make everybody happy," he said. "Everybody stays happier."