The New York Jets raised their record to 2-1 with an impressive 28-20 win over the Buffalo Bills Sunday in Western New York. The Green & White, now 2-0 on the road, are becoming quite the resourceful, gritty bunch under first-year head coach Eric Mangini.
"This is a difficult place to play against a good divisional opponent," Mangini said. "It was an important win for us and it was a collective win – the defense made plays, the offense made plays, and the special teams made plays."
After surviving an early Buffalo punch, the Jets took charge with a touchdown late in the second quarter and then an early score in quarter three. Tight end Chris Baker gave the Jets their first lead at 14-10 on a one-yard scoring reception and Victor Hobson padded the advantage to 11 with a 32-yard fumble return. When threatened late, the Jets received a critical defensive play from a veteran lineman and they also had a player score a fourth quarter touchdown who wasn't even active the first two weeks. The Bills made it a little interesting in the end after recovering an onside kick, but the Jets wouldn't let the game slip through their rain-soaked hands.
On a gray, windy day at Ralph Wilson Stadium, the Jets yielded 247 first half yards and still went to halftime with a 14-10 lead . The Green & White were as opportunistic and resilient as ever, turning away enemy threats and scoring two short touchdowns while fighting through 33 mile per hour wind gusts.
The Bills, playing with the wind at their back, wasted little time grabbing a 7-0 lead. Quarterback J.P. Losman threw a tight spiral to Peerless Price for 18 yards on the game's first play from scrimmage. Then Losman, stationed in the shotgun, stood strong in the pocket before delivering a short ball to Roscoe Parrish, a burner in his second year from Miami. Parrish found himself all alone and sprinted more than 40 yards to complete the 51-yard score. The lightning quick drive took 55 seconds.
"We just knew we had to settle down to execute the game plan," said linebacker Victor Hobson. "We knew our coaches put together a great game plan and we knew we had prepared well."
Mangini's crew would stay within striking distance early, thwarting three other Buffalo scoring opportunities. The Bills moved to the Jets' 35-yard line on their second possession and came away with nothing to show for it after a botched fake field goal as punter Brian Moorman threw behind tackle Jason Peters. Buffalo would move inside the Jets' 20 on their third possession, but defensive coordinator Bob Sutton sent Kerry Rhodes on a blitz. Losman didn't feel the backside heat and Rhodes collected a strip-sack for the second consecutive week. Middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma had trouble scooping up the ball before finally picking it up and advancing it to the Buffalo 44-yard line.
"We made some plays when we had to," Rhodes said. "We are still not where we want to be. You have to give them credit - they made some big plays, but we made the bigger plays."
The bend but don't break theme for the Jets continued into quarter two. Safety Erik Coleman came up in a big way, stopping Josh Reed for a two-yard reception on a 4th and 3. That Coleman tackle proved rewarding as Chad Pennington took over and got his team on the scoreboard.
New York's AFC representative marched 74 yards following the takeaway, getting a large 47-yard chunk from rookie Leon Washington. With the wind at Pennington's back, the seventh-year passer dumped the ball off to Washington and the rookie back accounted for 40 yards on his own. A face mask infraction moved the Jets even closer and Kevan Barlow scored from thee yards out on the ensuing play. Mike Nugent's extra point conversion tied the divisional clash at 7-7.
"It was a great play," Washington said. "We caught them in a blitz at the right time. That's my job – to catch the ball. The offensive line did a good job and the receivers did a good job blocking down the field."
Buffalo answered immediately with a Rian Lindell 36-yard field goal. The kick was noteworthy considering Lindell was forced to kick into that strong Buffalo wind. Willis McGahee, who ran for 114 yards in the opening half, put the Bills in great position on a 32-yard run.
The Jets grabbed the four-point advantage just 14 seconds before halftime on Baker's one-yard touchdown reception. Pennington led a masterful hurry-up offense, completing five of six for 50 yards and he also pitched in a five-yard scramble.
"This team is tough and we revealed some of our character today," Pennington said. "We were able to stay in there strong when they got the momentum early and got the momentum back. It was a true team effort across the board."
Rhodes struck again on Losman early in the third period, recording his second-strip sack of the afternoon and his third in the past two weeks. This time a Jets linebacker had no difficulty controlling the loose ball and Hobson was credited with a 32-yard touchdown return. All of the sudden, the Jets had an 11-point lead at 21-10.
"Kerry has been playing really well," Hobson said of Rhodes. "That's what we need. Kerry stepped up and that was a big play. It created a lot of momentum and helped us out greatly. Fortunately, the ball rolled to me and I was able to make a play."
Prior to the close of the third quarter, cornerback David Barrett picked off a poorly thrown Losman deep ball. The Bills made it a one possession game with 9:14 on the clock, but a short Lindell field goal kept the lead at eight. Veteran defensive lineman Bobby Hamilton, now in his 12th season, made one of the game's most critical plays. Facing a 3rd and goal from the one, the Bills went to play action, rolling Losman out but Hamilton wasn't buying the fake and he racked up a sack.
Cedric Houston, who was activated for the first time this season, scored from five yards out with 3:20 remaining. The Houston score gave the Jets a comfortable 15-point edge and it culminated a nine play, 58-yard drive which ate 5:54 off the game clock. Losman and the Bills wouldn't quit though and the third-year signal caller completed the game's scoring with a 12-yard run.
Still trailing 28-20, the Bills' Andre Davis recovered an onside kick after the ball bounced off linebacker Matt Chatham's arm. But the defense would come on and force a three and out, giving the Jets another victory.
"We're over .500 in the division now; it's big," Rhodes said. "To win two road games is good for us."
The Jets host the undefeated Colts next weekend at what should be a crazy Meadowlands.
"There are a lot of things to be happy about, which I am. There is also a lot of work to be done," Mangini said.
Defensively, the Jets totaled three takeaways and scored on one… New York's AFC representative didn't post too many gaudy offensive numbers but Chad Pennington and company were efficient against a good defense. A young line surrendered only one sack to the vaunted Bills' pass rushers. "The offensive line did a very good job of giving Chad a chance to throw the ball," Mangini said.… Pennington, who completed 19 of 29 for 183 yards, now has 44 touchdowns in the red zone and no interceptions. "The wind was difficult but every time we come to Buffalo, the wind and the elements are definitely a factor," Pennington said. "You just have to understand that and focus on the job at hand."… The Jets continue to use the versatile Brad Smith all over the field. Against the Bills, Smith once lined up as a quarterback in the shotgun with Pennington split out wide… Willis McGahee had a career-high 150 yards rushing and the Bills had 169 yards on the ground, but the Jets got to Losman three times… Sutton's defense shut down the Bills on third down as Buffalo converted only three of 12… Mark down Laveranues Coles for another 10 receptions for 78 yards. This guy seemingly always gets it done… Rhodes and Vilma shared the team lead with 10 total tackles while cornerback Andre Dyson and linebacker Eric Barton each pitched in with eight. If Rhodes continues this sensational play, he'll be playing in Hawaii. "He has tried to take in the information and tried to provide some leadership in the secondary," Mangini said of Rhodes. "He has done a good job trying to improve his technique. All that is positive and he's made some big plays here in the last few weeks. There are some things we still need to correct, but it's that type of commitment that is going to serve him well and serve us well."... Derrick Blaylock was inactive for the Jets, so Kevan Barlow got the start. Barlow ran 12 times for 31 yards and rookie Leon Washington rushed for 25 yards on seven attempts. "I'm glad I got the opportunity, and I'm glad I got the chance to help the team," Washington said… Australian punter Ben Graham was tremendous, averaging 48.3 yards on seven punts. Graham pinned the Bills inside their 20 on four occasions.