Jordan Whitehead entered Monday night with seven career interceptions in five NFL seasons.
He nearly had as many in the Jets’ first game of 2023.
The veteran safety was as pivotal as any Jet to the team’s first win of the season, coming up with a career-high three interceptions in their roller coaster of a 22-16 victory at MetLife Stadium.
“Something like this, you got to talk about it, you got to talk about it during the week, believe that you’re going to do it,” said Whitehead, who had two interceptions and eight passes defensed in his first year with the Jets last fall. “That’s where it comes from.”
On the night the Jets lost quarterback Aaron Rodgers to what is believed to be a serious left Achilles injury, Whitehead spearheaded a dominant performance by the defense.
Twice he picked off Bills star quarterback Josh Allen deep in Jets territory — one came in the end zone and another was at the Jets’ 4-yard line — when it looked like Buffalo would pad its lead.
Then came his third pick early in the fourth quarter that set up a game-tying touchdown.
“He’s off to a great start,” cornerback DJ Reed said. “I’m just so happy for him. He deserves it.”
Whitehead, 26, spent the offseason and training camp working on turning pass breakups into picks.
It was a personal goal of his to be able to take the ball away after dropping too many passes last year.
He told teammates he wanted to have seven interceptions this year.
“I’ve just been working all offseason, teammates have been pushing me. So no surprise,” Whitehead said. “Deep balls, just every day at practice. [Safeties coach Marquand Manuel] throws the ball to me, different drills. When I get time off [in practice], special teams drills, I’m catching balls.”
He added: “I like to read a lot; I like to hear what a lot of people have to say. I just use all of that as motivation.”
Allen had fits against Whitehead and the Jets’ defense.
He committed four turnovers — he also fumbled in the fourth quarter — and was sacked five times.
The unit held the Bills to three points in the second half and overtime and 314 yards altogether.
It was the kind of stifling performance Gang Green will need moving forward without Rodgers.
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