Jordan Whitehead earned more than just his game check in Week 1. The New York Jets safety received a huge $250,000 incentive bonus after intercepting Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen three times on Monday night ESPN’s Field Yates.
The Jets’ defense played all over the field and was crucial to New York’s improbable 22-16 overtime win. But Whitehead’s interceptions were the most important. The veteran safety beat Allen in the first, third and fourth quarters, helping the Jets score 10 points and keep the game close before undrafted rookie Xavier Gipson returned a punt for a game-winning touchdown in overtime.
“With something like this you have to talk about it, you have to talk about it throughout the week and believe that you can do it,” Whitehead said after the game. “That’s where it comes from.”
Whitehead’s first interception turned out to be more of a punt than anything else, but the Jets scored a field goal on the ensuing possession to bring the game within one score before halftime. The second game didn’t end with points for New York, but it still thwarted Buffalo’s chance to extend its 13-6 lead. However, the third interception set the Jets up the game-winning touchdown 4:55 left in the game to receiver Garrett Wilson.
Before Monday night, Whitehead had never caught more than two interceptions in a season. He had two picks in each of his last three seasons and seven career interceptions. Whitehead joined the Jets in 2022 after four years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
While the performance surprised many, Jets head coach Robert Saleh didn’t seem shocked by Whitehead’s play.
“He was outstanding. He was outstanding,” Saleh said said from Whitehead after the game. “He was four dropped interceptions shy of an All-Pro finish last year. … He’s an outstanding safety.”
Whitehead increased the stats and the Jets defense as a whole killed Allen and the Bills. New York forced four combined turnovers from Allen – the three interceptions and one fumble – and sacked the Buffalo quarterback five times in the win. The Bills also managed fewer than 100 yards, and receiver Stefon Diggs was the only Buffalo pass catcher to record more than five receptions or 33 yards. He finished the game with 10 receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown.
The win is important to the Jets’ prospects in 2023, but it came at a price. New York lost quarterback Aaron Rodgers early in the contest, who an MRI on Tuesday morning reportedly confirmed had a torn Achilles tendon.