Even before Aaron Rodgers' devastating injury, the Jets' visions for 2023 were always going to be centered around the team. Now, after the victory that arose from the ashes of Rodgers' torn Achilles tendon on Monday night, that's even more truer moving forward.
"What an amazing team win," QB Zach Wilson labeled the 22-16 overtime triumph over the Bills.
"We were all making plays today," RB Breece Hall observed.
And Sauce Gardner: "We've just got to keep being us."
Then Tuesday, HC Robert Saleh asked why many were composing the team's obituary. "There's still a lot of faith in the locker room and the things that we can still accomplish here," he said. "So while the outside world can go ahead and write whatever story they want to write, there's still the true story being written in this building."
It's early, of course, and NFL numbers and rankings will rise and fall drastically in the coming weeks. But some areas the Jets excelled in against their forever AFC East rivals the Bills perhaps hinted at this team approach that will carry them wherever they're going.
Turnovers Are Ready
The Green & White wanted to emphasize turnovers this season, the defense taking the ball away and the offense holding onto it. That goal after Game 1 was a success as the Jets had four takeaways and one giveaway.
The Jets' plus-3 turnover margin is tied for first in the NFL with three other teams. It's been a while for them on the top of this heap. The last time they were in the top-five in TO margin was the first four weeks of the 2019 season, and the last time tied for the top was Week 1 of '19, when they lost C.J. Mosley for the season and dropped the 17-16 home opener to Josh Allen and the Bills, yet still had a plus-3 in the game.
Tied in with the TO margin are the Jets' four takeaways of Allen on Monday night, Jordan Whitehead leading the way with his three INTs. Add to that DL Micheal Clemons' forced fumble shortly after Allen's muffed shotgun snap, Quinnen Williams recovering, and the Jets had the eighth opener of three-plus takeaways in their history and their first since the Bills in '19.
Take a look through some of the best photos from the 22-16 overtime victory over the Bills during Monday Night Football.
Spreading the Sack Wealth
The Jets defense has established a remarkable team approach in sacking the QB. In last season's three games of five-plus sacks, all in that three-game midseason span (vs. NE, vs. BUF, @ NE), they registered 17 sacks, and in no one game did any player have more than one full sack.
They almost did it again Monday. Experienced newcomer Quinton Jefferson got a pair of 3-yard drops of Allen and three other players had a single sack each.
The five sacks were the most in a Jets opener since 2016, when Andy Dalton led the Bengals to the 23-22 win but was sacked seven times in the process. These two games are the highest sack totals in an opener since the 1970 merger.
With Rodgers down, one salvation for the Jets was going to be the running game. And indeed it was, as Hall flashed his form from his first seven games as a rookie last year. His 127 rushing yards on 10 carries — punctuated by that 83-yard scoot and dash that was the second-longest run in franchise history — led the Jets' 172-yard rushing offense.
That's the most rush yards in a Jets opener since their 212-yard outing vs. Oakland in 2014. And it parked the Jets at No. 4 in the NFL rushing rankings, their first top-5 ranking in that category since the 2018 opener at Detroit when they checked in at No. 3 with 169 yards.
On the Comeback Trail
The Rodgers injury coupled with the Jets' 13-3 halftime deficit left Peyton Manning, as an ESPN halftime commentator, wondering, "I don't know how the Jets can come back from this." But of course they did, with their team approach that included rookie FA Xavier Gipson's overtime punt-return game-winner.
The comeback was only the seventh in franchise history in which the Jets trailed by 10 or more points at halftime and won in overtime, and only their third such game at home. The other two: the 2000 Monday Night Miracle vs. Miami and the 2013 win over the Patriots with rookie Geno Smith under center.
And here's one more for the team: In the Jets' 45 games, regardless of regulation or OT, trailing by exactly 10 at halftime, their record was 3-42. After Buffalo it's 4-42.