The Buffalo Bills did everything to derail the Jets today. They tried to intimidate them with their all-white jerseys and the "white-out" in the Ralph Wilson Stadium stands, their 4-0 home record and their NFL-leading 18 takeaways.
But the Jets, wearing their green jerseys and green pants, were having none of it. Even though their offense struggled to find tfhe end zone until midway through the third quarter, Nick Folk produced 49- and 50-yard field goals to help the O along. And the Green & White defense played lights-out against Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson in the beautiful blue sky and 50-degree temps of western New York as the Jets scored a solid 27-11 triumph for their first road win of the season.
And instead of Buffalo being the AFC East's hottest team, here come the Jets. With their third straight victory and second over a division foe and their fifth out of their last six against Bills, they've caught Buffalo and New England at 5-3, with the Patriots, losers to the Giants at home this afternoon, coming up at MetLfffife Stadium next Sunday.
"I think our team is where we want to be right now," said head coach Rex Ryan. "Obviously we knew this was going to a tough game. Buffalo was undefeated here, playing really well. We also knew our team was going to come out guns blazing. ... I like the way our team played overall."
The Jets' offense finally got untracked with the help of the hosts with 10 points in the first 6½ minutes of the second half. First came Folk's 50-yarder, equaling his season long from opening night vs. the Cowboys.
Then when DT Sione Pouha and LB Bart Scott whacked Fred Jackson hard and forced a fumble that Jim Leonhard recovered and moved to the Bills 19, the Jets were in business on a short field. Two plays later Burress took a Mark Sanchez pass 19 yards to the 1-foot line, then LaDainian Tomlinson performed his patented LT Leap for the game's first TD and a 13-0 lead.
The Bills answered with their biggest play of the game, a Fitzpatrick-to-Stevie Johnson 52-yarder over Darrelle Revis — yes, Revis Island — to set up Rian f's 24-yard field goal for Buffalo's first points.
But then it was Tone Time.
Santonio Holmes went roaring down the right sideline for a Sanchez heave and was interfered with by CB Leodis McKelvin at the 8. The 42-yard penalty was the third-longest against a Jets opponent since 2000 and the longest since Renaldo Hill's PI on Holmes in Game 6 at Denver last year.
Then Holmes grabbed the 8-yard TD strike from Sanchez and the Jets had opened a 20-3 lead with 3:27 left in the third quarter.
Jackson returned from a spell on the sideline to turn in a 25-yard screen reception, one of his specialties, as the Bills moved to fourth-and-a-foot to the Jets 16. But Jackson, after coach Chan Gailey challenged the spot on a third-down reception and lost, was stopped for no gain by a charge led by Bart Scott and Calvin Pace and the Jets were in need of one more big drive to put a big clamp on their first road win of the year.
"This week we put in a little bit extra effort in practice. Fred Jackson's having a Pro Bowl-caliber season," said David Harris. "Everything starts and ends with him. We did a good job keeping him bottled up."
They got it after the fourth-down stop by driving 84 yards to their third TD of the second half. Holmes drew his second long PI of the game, this one on Terrence McGee on a third-down Sanchez fade into the end zone, and on the next play fullback John Conner took the handoff and scored standing up for his second pro TD (both vs. the Bills). The Jets led, 27-3, with 6:27 to play.
The Bills finally put up their first TD when Fitzpatrick found TE David Nelson for a 7-yard TD and ran in the two-point conversion on his own with 3:14 to play. In theory it was a two-score game now. But when Revis recovered the bouncing onside kick
Sanchez completed 20 of 28 passes for 230 yards, with Plaxico Burress, starring despite his sore lower back, leading the receivers with five catches for 79 yards. Shonn Greene, who left late with a head injury, led the Jets with 76 yards on 19 carries.
The Jets also won for the first time after their bye in three tries under Ryan. "I finally got that monkey off my back," Rex said.
"They're just trends, man," Pouha said about the Jets' supposed road and bye hexes, adding that hearing about them all week was a factor in their mental prep for the Bills. "It was not the driving factor. It was more an ornament to decorate the tree a little bit."
"It wasn't the amount of time off. It was just our execution the last two years," said Sanchez. "Practice last week was exactly what we needed, and we're going to need it next week when we play in the 'divisional championship game.' "
Yes, Sanchez called the rematch with the Pats the divisional title game. And Tomlinson, who told his team today's game was "do or die," was asked what that makes the New England game.
"I haven't even come up with a word for that yet," he said with a smile.
But Holmes said that work won't start till Wednesday.
"We just want to enjoy this victory, take a nice flight home," he said. "Then we'll get ready to come out on Sunday night."
First Half Played Close to the Vest
The first quarter opened promisingly but finished scoreless. The Jets defense opened with a three-and-out against Fitzpatrick, Jackson and the Bills offense. Jeremy Kerley misplayed Brian Moorman's first punt to start the Jets out at their 6, but Sanchez and the offense proceeded to inch away for first down after first down, driving all the way to the Bills 7.
However, on second-and-goal, Sanchez tried to find TE Dustin Keller but fired high into the end zone, with S Jairus Byrd picking the QB off and running it back to the Buffalo 21. That was Byrd's third pick of Sanchez in three seasons.
"The worst part for me, I'm not afraid to make bad reads or bad throws — I can fix them," Sanchez said. "But you hate to let your guys down.
"But the guys know I can battle, I can play through adversity."
The Bills moved past midfield but the Green & White "D" again grew stout and forced another punt. The Jets got 11 yards on their first play, a swing pass from Sanchez to f, but then suffered a blow when f tried to hurdle CB Terrence McGee a la his leap against the Bears last year. Keller landed hard on his shoulder and head and left the game to sit on the bench and then go into the locker room.
The Jets defense came up with another three-and-out and then the offense, sans D.K., moved to the Bills 31 on TE Josh Baker's first NFL reception, a 5-yarder, to set up third-and-8 with 3:04 left in the first half. Then they called a timeout, then Sanchez appeared to throw his second INT, a short pass for LaDainian Tomlinson that was tipped and scooped off the turf blades by S George Wilson.
But R Ryan challenged the call and ref Ed Hochuli came back to reverse the call, ruling that the pass was short-hopped off the turf by Wilson. That made Ryan 3-for-4 on replay challenges this season.
Folk followed with his second-longest field goal of the season, from 49 yards out with 2:55 left in the first half, and the Jets took the first lead of the game, 3-0.
And with the kick, Folk set the Jets' franchise record for most consecutive FGs made from the start of a season. He was 11-for-11, breaking the 10-in-a-row mark set by Pat Leahy in 1986 and equaled by Jay Feely in 2009.
The three first-half points were the fewest in a Jets first half since these two teams played a scoreless first 30 minutes in 2007 en route to Buffalo's 17-14 victory. ... The Jets had first-half advantages in yardage (191-73), first downs (11-3) and possession time (20:47-9:13). ... It was the Jets' first 20-minute-plus first half since last year's Game 4 at the Ralph against the Bills.
Pouha led the Jets with seven tackles and his forced fumble. Harris had five tackles and his INT. Pace also had an interception, and Cromartie had two PDs. Aaron Maybin had no sacks in his return to Buffalo but good pressures on Fitzpatrick's two INTs. ... That opening series that ended with the INT lasted 15 plays, 87 yards and 10:09. It's Jets' third-longest drive by time that ended with no points scored since 1984.
Keller returned to the game in the second half after undergoing concussion tests in the locker room "over and over again," he said, after his rough landing. ... Late in the game RB Shonn Greene, said Ryan, "got smashed in the head. He's fine." ... Lindell suffered a shoulder injury on Joe McKnight's 59-yard KO return to open the second half that Gailey said prevented him from trying any long-range field goals.