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D-Lightful: Jets Bounce Buccaneers, 26-3


2009 Week 14 Jets at Tampa Photos

Parts of today's Jets-Buccaneers game weren't what one would call pretty football. But make no mistake about it: The Jets' 26-3 triumph at Raymond James Stadium was a defensive thing of beauty.

The Green & White "D" was fired up for a near-historic performance that contained the Bucs and their rookie QB, Josh Freeman, to 124 yards and six first downs. Kellen Clemens, playing QB in place of injured Jets rookie Mark Sanchez, and his offense climbed on the coattails of the defense and the right leg of Jay Feely as the Jets improved to 7-6 and stayed in the AFC playoff hunt.

"It was a big win," said head coach Rex Ryan, who celebrated his 47th birthday in style. "I thought Kellen did a great job of managing the game, no turnovers, so it was a winning performance. And our defense forced three turnovers, and with the Bucs going 0-for-14 on third downs, I think we're starting to figure this thing out a little bit. It was a great performance."

"It was difficult getting into a rhythm early on," said Clemens, who got his first win in his first start since the 2007 season finale. "But I'm happy with that stat, no turnovers. Obviously, we ran the ball well — that's something we lean on. And my hat's off to the defense. The bottom line is we got out of here with a 'W' with our playoff hopes pretty much still alive.

"Don't get me wrong. I'm stoked. I'll be smiling on the plane."

The Buccaneers, rather than smiling, were smothered in the first half by LBs Calvin Pace and David Harris, more pass coverage brilliance by Darrelle Revis, more exotic blitzes that freed up James Ihedigbo and Donald Strickland for sacks of Freeman. The big number? Fifteen, as in yards gained by the Bucs in the first 30 minutes.

The home team got a little livelier in the second half, even though their first first down of the game came on an unnecessary-roughness penalty on LB Bart Scott, who got caught for shoving a Buc who shoved him, six minutes into the third quarter and their only points through three periods came after that penalty on a 43-yard field goal by Connor Barth.

"Bart plays with heart and passion and everything else," Ryan said. "But he doesn't have to play dumb."

"Yeah, Rex talked to me about it," said a chastened Scott. "I'm dead to him right now."

And the inside LB heard from his teammates as well.

"I just think that wasn't a smart play on his part," Revis said. "Definitely, yes ,he's going to have to put some money in the kitty."

Then when Jay Feely missed from 48 yards out (after hitting three from 40-plus earlier), the Bucs gave their fans, mixed in with ample numbers of green-clad spectators, cause for hope.

But Revis took that cause for hope away. With Freeman throwing behind WR Brian Clark, Revis jumped all over the pass for his fourth PD of the game and sixth INT of the year, then started weaving his way down the right sideline.

Revis stepped out of bounds at the Tampa 7 after a 54-yard return. On the next play, Thomas Jones slashed around left end for his second TD of the game and it was 26-3 Jets with 9:07 to play.

"There was lots of pressure on us this week," Revis said. "Mark going down, Kellen coming in, and we didn't want to get embarrassed by this team. We wanted to come down here and make a statement."

Statement made. The rest, as they say, was bookkeeping, but what beautiful bookkeeping it was as the defense — the NFL leaders coming into this weekend's games in punt and three-and-out drive percentage — finished with nine three-and-out drives and forced eight punts while holding the Bucs to zero of 14 on third down.

Clemens scuffled at times in completing (12 of 23 passes for 111 yards). But he committed no turnovers and hit some key intermediate balls to Danny Woodhead, Jerricho Cotchery and Braylon Edwards. And Brad Smith chipped in with some nice running and passing — the pass coming on a fake-punt 27-yarder to Eric Smith on the second FG drive — to keep the Jets moving along to the touchdowns by Jones (99 yards on 24 carries) and Feely (4-of-5 FGs).

As legendary Tampa Bay play-by-play voice Gene Deckerhoff asked cryptically at one point in the second half: "What dries faster, blue or black paint, or maybe purple? ... Because this is like watching paint dry today."

That was from the 1-12 Bucs' viewpoint. From the Jets perspective, it was a canvas that keeps them moving along with the Patriots, Dolphins, Jaguars and the rest of the AFC pack, now with three games left before the playoffs arrive.

The Jets' first-half defensive domination was mind-boggling. The Buccaneers had 15 yards, the fewest by a Jets opponent since Indianapolis gained 3 second-half yards in the Colts' 17-10 home win in 1995. They had 6 rushing yards. They had no first downs. They went three-and-out six times. It was so bad that Freeman kneeled on the half's final play for a yard loss, the Jets were flagged for 12 men on the field, and the Bucs declined the penalty. It was that kind of game.

Game Notes

The Jets' only turnover was the third lost fumble of the year by rookie RB Shonn Greene at the end of a 25-yard run. ... Kerry Rhodes, who started in the Jets' modified three-safety nickel package, came up with his third interception in three games with four minutes left. ... Jones' two TDs gave him 11 for the season and makes him only the second player in franchise history to have two 10-TD seasons back-to-back. The other was Johnny Hector in 1987-88.

Harris' INT came on the first play from scrimmage, only the second Jets defensive takeaway on the first offensive play of a game in the past 20 seasons. The only other first-play takeaway was Marques Douglas' fumble recovery off of Calvin Pace's strip sack of JaMarcus Russell on the first play at Oakland in Game 7. "That gave us the momentum early," Harris said. "You can't ask for anything more from the defense."

Ryan had Earl Christy speak to the Jets on Saturday night. Christy, the Super Bowl III Jet who's involved with the Tampa Jets Fan Club, was glad to help. "I told them, the only people that can beat the Jets are the Jets themselves," Christy said. ""Rex has been a winner since he was 7 years old because of his father, Buddy. The guys love him and they play hard for him. They have Thomas Jones and one of the best defenses in the league. That's the formula for championship-caliber football. All they've got to do is win out."

Jets game captains were Clemens, Feely, Lito Sheppard, Drew Coleman and Wallace Wright. ... Jets inactives besides Sanchez: CB Dwight Lowery, LB Kenwin Cummings, T Ryan McKee, G Robert Turner, DE Ropati Pitoitua and LB Marques Murrell. Kevin O'Connell was the third QB.

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