Jordan Whitehead earned more than just his game check in Week 1. The New York Jets safety hit a huge $250,000 incentive bonus after he intercepted Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen three times Monday night, according to ESPN's Field Yates.
The Jets' defense made plays all over the field and was critical to New York's improbable 22-16 overtime win. But Whitehead's interceptions were the most important. The veteran safety picked off Allen in the first, third and fourth quarters, which helped the Jets score 10 points and keep the game close before undrafted rookie Xavier Gipson returned a punt in overtime for a game-winning touchdown.
“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,” Whitehead said after the game. “That’s where it comes from.”
Whitehead's first interception proved to be more of a punt than anything, but the Jets notched a field goal on the ensuing possession to bring the game within one score before halftime. The second one didn't end in points for New York, but nevertheless thwarted Buffalo's opportunity to build on its 13-6 lead. The third interception, though, set the Jets up for the game-tying touchdown to receiver Garrett Wilson with 4:55 left in the game.
Prior to Monday night, Whitehead had never caught more than two interceptions in a season. He had two picks in each of his past three seasons and has 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 sound shocked by Whitehead's play.
"He was outstanding. He's been outstanding," Saleh said of Whitehead after the game. "He was four dropped interceptions away from having an All-Pro year last year. ... He's an outstanding safety."
Whitehead racked up the stats and the Jets defense as a whole shut down Allen and the Bills. New York forced four combined turnovers by Allen — the three interceptions and a fumble — and sacked the Buffalo quarterback five times in the win. The Bills rushed for fewer than 100 yards as well and receiver Stefon Diggs was the only Buffalo pass catcher to register more than five receptions or 33 yards. He finished with 10 receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown.
The win is important for the Jets' 2023 prospects, but it came at a cost. New York lost quarterback Aaron Rodgers early in the contest, which an MRI reportedly confirmed Tuesday morning was a torn Achilles.