*Updated, 12:42 a.m. ET
*Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets knew they had their work cut out for them in a crucial encounter at Buffalo. Fitz was coming off last year's five interceptions in two losses to the Bills, Sunday's loss to the Bengals, and little success against Rex Ryan defenses. The Jets had lost five in a row to their old AFL mates and four in a row in Orchard Park. And this was the Bills' home opener.
And the team that won tonight would be back at 1-1 while the loser would sink into that dark 0-2 hole.
Fitzpatrick responded with 374 passing yards and no turnovers, WRs Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker and Quincy Enunwa and RB Matt Forte — who tied the franchise single-game mark with thre rushing touchdowns — all contributed to a 496-yard offense, and the defense came up with enough big plays to propel head coach Todd Bowles' Jets to a hard-fought 37-31 victory
Bowles said he was "proud" several times, of Marshall coming back from a scary-looking knee injury and of CB Marcus Williams for a key fourth-quarter interception. And of his entire team, he said, "It was important for them to focus after the Week 1 loss. By no means was it perfect, but I thought they fought very hard. I was proud of them."
Here are nine Jets observations as this game unfolded as it unfolded at newly renamed, hostile as ever New Era Field tonight:
1. More Q-FactorEnunwa, who had a career-high seven receptions on Sunday, picked up where he left off on the Jets' opening drive with a trio of third-down conversions. The first and last were true conversions, a 34-yard grab of the back end of the ball on a Fitzpatrick deep sideline throw and a 10-yarder on third-and-9, sandwiched around a third-down hold by Stephon Gilmore on Quincy. That kept the Jets' opening drive going for 8:19 to Nick Folk's 28-yard field goal to open the scoring.
2. More Island IssuesDarrelle Revis, who struggled against A.J. Green on Sunday, was beat in zone coverage down the right sideline by sprinter Marquise Goodwin, who gathered in Tyrod Taylor's perfectly placed bomb and took it 84 yards to lift the Bills to a 7-3 lead. After Folk tacked on his second short field goal to end the first quarter, the Jets held a 13:35-1:25 possession-time edge yet trailed, 7-6, because of that first big play.
3. No. 15's KneeBrandon Marshall started cooking in the second quarter with a 37-yard reception and then a third-down catch-and-run into the red zone. But Gilmore grabbed Marshall's facemask on the takedown, catching the wideout's left knee under him at a scary angle and he left the field. Still, the visitors capitalized on first-and-goal at the 4 as Forté fought over from a yard out for his first TD for his new team and the Jets moved back on top, 13-7. After the score, Marshall walked off the field to the locker room.
"It was very scary. It didn't look good," Fitzpatrick said. "Brandon's as tough as they come, so seeing him on the ground isn't a good thing. But it was great seeing him back in the huddle."
4. No. 15's WillMarshall jogged back onto the field after getting looked at, put on his helmet and came back into the offense. He immediately made a sideline catch and when he turned around and saw Gilmore waiting for him, he put his head down and picked up the rest of his YAC on the 21-yard play, then gave the CB some choice words before returning to the huddle. He was focused on all except one dropped pass in grabbing six passes for 101 yards.
5. Fitz-to-Deck IIThe Jets moved from there to the 5 on a Fitzpatrick 18-yard lob to Decker, then a play-action 5-yard dart to Decker on the in-cut against Ronald Darby in the end zone. The TD gave the Jets four scoring drives of 65-plus yards to open the game, something they hadn't done since Game 7 at New England in 2014 (four FGs, one TD). And at halftime Fitz had 221 passing yards, the most in a first half for the Jets since Chad Pennington had 247 at Minnesota in 2006. And Decker was on his way to six catches and a game-high 126 yards.
6. Then Suddenly...Taylor had another magical play in him and the Jets pass defense had another bad play when the Bills QB escaped pocket pressure and found former Jets WR Greg Salas running away from S Rontez Miles. The TD pass went 71 yards and cut the Jets' lead to 20-17 in the first minute of the third quarter. It was the first time a Jets opponent had two 70-plus-yard pass plays in the same game since Joe Ferguson found rookie Jerry Butler for 74- and 75-yarders in 1979 at Buffalo.
"Two busted coverages — that's two weeks in a row that's happened," Bowles said. "That's the biggest concern for me."
Five plays later, Jalin Marshall got his first catch as a pro — but gave it up on a fumble that CB Nickell Robey-Coleman scooped up and returned 36 yards for another TD. The Jets' 20-7 lead had turned into a 24-20 deficit before the second half was four minutes old.
7. ResilienceThe Green & White climbed off the deck with their longest yardage drive of the night, 84 yards to Forté's second rushing TD. And so the Jets, after a five-lead-change loss, took the lead back at 27-24 on the fourth LC of this game. Jalin made plays on that drive and the next scoring drive.
Fitzpatrick captured that turnaround march with a long sentence: "I just think the whole game, kind of the way we came out and played and played, then to fall behind in the second half, but still have belief in the huddle, and come out and put some points on the board and win ... that feels pretty good."
8. Marcus Picks His SpotTaylor was crunched on a sack that didn't count due to a Jets illegal contact. But it counted for Taylor, who came off due to the NFL's stricter concussion rules. He came back after two plays and tried to find sore-footed Sammy Watkins, but instead he found CB Marcus Williams, who grabbed his second INT of the season, his eighth in two seasons and only the Jets' second takeaway in their last seven games vs. Buffalo. The ensuing drive ended with Folk's third field goal and a 30-24 lead early in the fourth frame.
9. Big in the TrenchesThe Bills were moving again, of course, but they faced third-and-1 at the Jets 45 (EJ Manuel in at QB for no gain), then fourth-and-1. Taylor tried to fake the Jets into an offside — they didn't bite. Then Taylor handed off to LeSean McCoy. Sheldon Richardson, back from his one-game suspension and quiet so far, rose up to grab Shady, hold on and bring him down two inches shy of the first down.
The Jets responded with yet another 50-yards-plus drive to Forté's third rushing touchdown, the 13th time in franchise history a back had scored three rushing TDs in a game. That made it 37-24. The Bills scored again to make it 37-31 with 1:17 to play but B.Marshall grabbed the onside kick, the Jets worked out most of the last minute, and then they stopped Buffalo near midfield for the win.