Jets LB on Matt Stafford: 'We knew his signals; we knew everything'

ByRich Cimini ESPN logo
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

DETROIT -- The New York Jets intercepted five passes in a game for the first time in 19 years, and they believe it's because they knew what was coming.

"We were calling out their plays as he was getting up to the line," linebacker Darron Lee said of quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was intercepted four times in theDetroit Lions' 48-17 loss at Ford Field.

"We knew his signals," Lee said. "We knew everything. That's just preparation as a defense. ... It seemed like we were in his head as a defense."

It certainly appeared that way.

Jets players said they weren't stealing signals; they attributed it to thorough preparation and scouting. CornerbackMorris Claibornesaid it was the best week of film study he could remember.

In a season opener, a team can get a good read on an opponent because it has months to prepare.

Lee led the way with two interceptions, including one for a touchdown -- the Jets' first defensive touchdown in 74 games, dating to 2013.

"I told somebody I was going to break that curse," Lee said.

Claiborne,Jamal AdamsandTrumaine Johnson also made interceptions. For Adams, the 2017 first-round pick, it was the first of his career.

Asked how the Jets knew Stafford's signals, Lee said, "Study. Everybody studied." He said they were able to figure out the Lions' tendencies based on formation and signals.

Stafford was out of rhythm almost the entire game, as he completed 27 of 46 passes for 286 yards. At one point, the Jets were down three of their top five defensive backs due to injuries.

Matt Cassel replaced Stafford briefly due to an injury, and he, too, was intercepted.

"It's always great to get turnovers, especially against a great quarterback," Jets coach Todd Bowles said of Stafford.

The Jets wouldn't be the first team to read a quarterback's signal calls for a competitive advantage, a practice that holds the potential for controversy.

In February 2017, formerIndianapolis Coltscoach Tony Dungy defended his teams' legacy in the face of an accusation by Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders that Dungy's teams had a reputation in the NFL for stealing opposing quarterbacks' signals.

The Hall of Famer Dungy, who led the Colts to a Super Bowl title and at least 10 victories from the 2002 to 2008 seasons, said Sanders probably used to see who was calling in signals during his 14-year playing career.

"And that's what happened," Dungy said during an NBC Sports Radio broadcast. "And you looked over there because you wanted to know as a defensive player: Is it going to be three wide receivers? Is it going to be two tight ends? Who's in the game? There's a person over there signaling and Deion Sanders and every other defensive player would look at the offensive sideline to get that signal.

"So that is football. And I'm not sure what Deion is referring to, really. ... That's all part of the game, but doing it legally and illegally, that's the difference. I hope Deion is not saying we did something illegally. Of course we got signals when we had an opportunity to do that, and so did Deion."

Sanders, an analyst for NFL Network, made the comments when colleague and now Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson said some might question New England's success because of Spygate, the 2007 incident in which thePatriotsbroke the rules by videotaping the opposition's signals from an unauthorized location.

"Those same critics, did they say anything about the wins that the Indianapolis Colts had? You want to talk about that too? Because they were getting everybody's signals," Sanders said on an NFL Network broadcast. "Come on, you don't walk up to the line and look over here and the man on the sideline giving you the defense that they've stolen the plays of. We all knew. LT knew. Everybody in the NFL knew. We just didn't let the fans know. That was real and that was happening in Indy."

Information from ESPN's Mike Wells was used in this report.

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