Remember all the unflattering remarks from reporters and fans far and wide for the past, oh, nine months or so? You might want to table that talk for a week. Maybe more.
The Jets gave their fans, their critics and themselves quite an opening-day surprise, whipping up on their old AFL rivals, the Buffalo Bills, for a 48-28 victory o Curtis Martin Day at MetLife Stadium this afternoon. It was the most points scored by a Jets or Titans team on opening day in franchise history.
Wins in the NFL are never easy, but this triumph was the biggest the Green & White have enjoyed in a while — and in fact it's their first since walloping Kansas City, 37-10, at MetLife last Dec. 11. But after three season-ending losses, plus four more this preseason with no touchdowns by the first offense, they demonstrated that at the very least against the Bills that they were waiting in the weeds for the games to count.
"This was a tremendous performance by our football team, especially on offense," said Ryan, who rose to 3-1 in openers as the Jets' head coach and also enjoyed their largest point production in a game on his watch. "We know the records that we set in preseason that everyone pointed out, but the record that we set today was most points in team history in a season opener. I couldn't be happier for our football team. It's a tremendous performance, in particular by our offense."
Mark Sanchez, in his fourth opener as the Jets' starting quarterback, threw for three touchdown passes — one to WR Jeremy Kerley, then two to rookie WR Stephen Hill. Kerley added a second TD with a drought-snapping punt-return TD that opened the Jets' second-quarter lead to 21-0. Antonio Cromartie took back a bad Ryan Fitzpatrick throw 40 yards on the third offensive play of the third quarter — his first TD return since he played for San Diego and did it against the Jets in primetime in 2008.
"I knew we were really close in the preseason," said Sanchez, who had a sharp passing line (19-for-27, 266 yards, 123.4 rating, no sacks behind an OL led by RT Austin Howard in his Jets debut keeping DE Mario Williams at bay). "Did I know it was 48 points? No, I didn't necessarily know that, but that's just a great day of execution. We left some plays out there so it wasn't perfect."
Tip of the Hat to the Offense
LB Calvin Pace said something similar about the Jets defense, which was crisp with four takeaways that led to the Jets' first 34 points, but was gashed and missed some tackles on C.J. Spiller, who ran for 169 yards on 14 carries.
"It's just a situation where we've got to tackle better. If we made some tackles and got off the field, we wouldn't be feeling a little empty right now," Pace said. "I'm just proud of our offense. They took so much flak for games that don't even count. I have much respect for them. They played well. And I give much credit to Austin, who helped give mark all that time. I've got to tip my hat to him. That's what team football is all about."
It was Ryan's third win in four opening-day assignments as the Jets' head coach, the Green & White's Jets' sixth consecutive win over the Bills and their seventh in the last eight meetings. And Buffalo lost for the 33rd straight time when it had a minus turnover margin and for the 21st straight time on the road with a minus TO margin.
To say the least, wow.
After the Jets opened up a 27-7 halftime lead, they added third-quarter scores by Cromartie and Hill on his second TD catch-and-run from Sanchez to make it 41-7 with 9½ minutes still left in the third quarter. The 34-point lead was the largest in a season opener at home in franchise history, and after that the sellout crowd quieted down as Fitzpatrick threw short TD passes to TE Scott Chandler in the third period and WR Donald Jones with 7:57 left, followed by a 29-yarder to WR Stevie Johnson with 5:58 to go.
But Shonn Greene added the exclamation point to the win with his 1-yard dive with 1:17 to play — shortly after Tim Tebow cradled John Potter's onside kickoff — as the Jets completed their awakening with a vengeance.
The Tebow Wildcat was unveiled but it had an uneventful nine-play debut, which included Tebow keeping five times for 11 yards and handing off twice for 7 yards. "After a little bit, we didn't show too much," said Tebow. "Obviously, we would've liked to break one open, but I think it'll continue to develop."
And now they know what develops next, which is merely go to Pittsburgh, a place that's never been kind to them, and try to do some more of the same to the Steelers.
"I know we're a special group. I've known that from the jump. But I think we're starting to realize it," Sanchez said. "It's a great way to start, exactly what you want in your home opener, but we'll celebrate this one for a couple of more hours, then we've got to get ready for Pittsburgh because that's going to be another touch challenge, on the road, never an easy place to play. So we've got a lot to go here."
But not nearly as much as many thought before this game, now that the Jets are 1-0 overall, 1-0 in the division, and sharing the top spot in the AFC East with — who else? — the Patriots.
A Dominating First Half
The Jets took the opening kickoff (the Bills won the toss and deferred) and moved well toward midfield — until Sanchez rolled to his left and flipped a hard sidearm pass that Jeff Cumberland deflected into the hands of LB Bryan Scott. Ryan challenged, and replacement ref Robert Frazer ruled Scott got both feet inbounds before the pick. Buffalo was in business.
And quickly the Bills were out of business as Fitzpatrick, trying a long out to Stevie Johnson, was intercepted by Darrelle Revis — it was No. 24's third opening-day INT, following picks at Miami in '08 and vs. Dallas last year.
From there the Jets moved crisply to Sanchez's 12-yard pump-fake TD strike to Jeremy Kerley in the end zone over Leodis McKelvin. Almost eight minutes in, the Green & White were up, 7-0.
The hosts were far from done beating up on their guests from Western New York. On Buffalo's next drive, Kyle Wilson picked off Fitzpatrick near midfield, setting up another half-field TD drive that was capped on Sanchez's second scoring strike of the game and Stephen Hill's first as a pro. Hill went high over stumbling rookie CB Stephen Gilmore, caught it and fell into the end zone for the 33-yard score.
The Bills' next series was the Jets defense's first three-and-out of the game, and this time the special teams didn't give the offense a chance as Kerley took Brian Moorman's low punt 68 yards up the gut for the Jets' first punt-return TD since Santana Moss went the distance in the 2004 playoff game at Pittsburgh and their first in the regular season since Moss went yard at San Diego in '02.
The 21-0 lead was the Jets' largest first-half edge over the Bills since they opened a 21-point lead at Buffalo in '85 and the largest at home since they went up, 35-7, at Shea Stadium in '78.
The Bills immediately bit into that edge after Fred Jackson went down hard as C.J. Spiller burst up the middle, zipped past LaRon Landry in the deep middle, and went 56 yards for the score. It was the longest TD run by the Bills vs. the Jets since Willis McGahee went 57 yards in the Meadowlands in '06.
But the Green & White weren't done. They added Nick Folk's first two field goals of the season, from 25 yards at the end of a 73-yard drive, and from 39 yards shortly after LaRon Landry stripped the ball from Spiller after a downfield reception with Yeremiah Bell recovering and then lateraling to Landry for a 17-yard joint return.
The 27-7 lead was the fourth 20-point lead of the Ryan era, following leads of 24-0 at Oakland and 27-0 in the "Win And We're In" game vs. Cincinnati in 2009 and 28-3 vs. Kansas City last year. And only 30 minutes remained for the Jets to have gotten off of the right foot now that the games are starting to count.
Martin was the honoree at halftime as his No. 28 jersey became the fourth number to be retired in franchise history, with Joe Namath and Don Maynard, two similarly honored ex-Jets, on hand, plus former teammates Victor Green, Ray Mickens and Fred Baxter, among others. Martin also received his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring to go with his HOF bust, on display at midfield, plus a piece of original bronze artwork courtesy of former Jets RB George Nock, also in attendance.
Shonn Greene led all Jets rushers with 94 yards on 27 carries. ... Spiller had 169 yards in 14 carries, all but 3 yards of which came after Fred Jackson left with a second-quarter knee injury. Spiller is the first opponent with two 40-plus runs in the same game since Barry Sanders in 1997 at Detroit. ... Landry and LB David Harris shared the team lead with seven tackles. Revis broke up three passes on the day. ... Injuries included Revis (head), LB Bryan Thomas (hamstring) and WR Patrick Turner (hamstring).
Robert Malone's first punt as a Jet came early in the fourth quarter. He nailed it with a 5.18-second hangtime and it was downed by Isaiah Trufant at the Bills 4 for a 51-yard gross and net. ... Ryan had successfully challenged 10 of his last 11 replays dating to the 2010 playoffs, but he went 0-for-2 in challenges today. ... The Jets had gone 119 regular- and postseason games without a punt-return TD until Kerley turned the trick.