It seemed like a tall order for the Jets to come home last week, lose a disappointing game to the New England Patriots, then come right back at MetLife Stadium today and try to put the dynamic Buffalo Bills on their heels and send them home as the losing team.
It seemed like some folks, not all, were about to give up on the Green & White, to declare their 5-2 start a mirage.
So the Jets put together a stunning 60-minute dose of reality, ended the Bills' four-game win streak and started their own new win streak with a stirring 20-17 victory before the Green & White faithful, not to mention a whole lot of blue-clad Bills followers, at humid MetLife.
The biggest play of the afternoon was the fourth-and-21 howitzer launched by Allen for speedy, dangerous Gabe Davis deep in Jets territory. But covering Davis was none other than No. 1, rookie CB Sauce Gardner, who had the plaster coverage and got his hands up at the right moment to turn a potential game-tying or game-winning play into an incompletion and a Jets victory that improved their record to 6-3 and, along with the winning Miami Dolphins, within a half-game of the Bills' 6-2 at the top of the AFC East standings.
Zach Wilson put together an economical, accurate 18-for-25 passing day for 154 yards and a short TD toss to RB James Robinson late in the third quarter to take their first lead of the game at 17-14. Greg Zuerlein's 28-yard field goal was the go-ahead score and Sauce supplied the icing on the cake. The Jets' biggest stat: 174 rushing yards, with Michael Carter leading the way with 76 yards on 12 carries. Rookie WR Garrett Wilson had eight catches for 92 yards.
Another Inspirational Second Half
On the first drive of the second half, it appeared the Jets had stalled on their side of midfield and were punting. But the snap was to upback Ashtyn Davis, who kept on fourth-and-1 for 2 yards and so the drive continued on the Buffalo side of the 50. Then Wilson scrambled for one third-down conversion, then swung a pass off play action to Braxton Berrios for another third-down pickup to the visitors' 22.
At that time, the cable snapped on one of the skycams that hover over the field at every MetLife game. Play couldn't resume until the cam was back in the sky. No injuries were involved but the operation took extended time to repair. Who would the delay favor?
Apparently not the Jets. After more than a 10-minute delay, the Jets continued toward the Buffalo goal line — until they lost the ball. Buffalo's Von Miller administered the strip sack of Wilson from behind with the fumble recovered by A.J. Epenesa.
Or was it merely a delayed response? On two Bills plays, Josh Allen was sacked by DL Quinnen Williams, then threw a pick right to the rookie Gardner who returned 16 yards to the Bills 19. And the Green & White were back in business. It took them only four plays to move those 19 yards to Wilson's backfield flip to new Jets RB James Robinson, who rode the rapids all the way to the end zone for a 7-yard TD and their 17-14 Jets lead.
They took that three-point edge into the fourth quarter for their first lead over Buffalo in the teams' last five games, but the Bills moved enough to set up K Tyler Bass for a 51-yard field goal to tie the Jets at 17-17 with 13:33 to play.
Bass then erred with a kickoff that skipped out of bounds near the goal line, giving Wilson and the Jets a 60-yard field to try to retake the lead. But it didn't cost them as their defense held the Jets to their first 3-and-out since their opening drive.
But the Jets defense rose to the occasion with sacks by C.J. Mosley and just-returned-to-action rookie Jermaine Johnson and nearly a second INT by S Jordan Whitehead to force a punt. So the Jets took over with 7:53 to play and all they had to go was 96 yards for a go-ahead TD, slightly less for a go-ahead FG.
And they were up to doing it mostly on the ground. Robinson opened with runs of 9, 7 and 16 yards, followed by Carter's 17-yard dash around left end, then 15 more yards to the Bills 23. As the clock ran toward the 2:00 mark, the Jets ran their ninth play of the march and Wilson threw his first pass ... and Denzel Mims, who was close but unsuccessful on three previous targets, snared Zach's zipgun throw for 12 yards and a first down at the Buffalo 6 at the two-minute warning.
The Jets moved to the 2, then Wilson was sacked on third down and on came Zuerlein for his second field goal of the day, a 28-yarder that was true for a 20-17 Jets lead. All the defense had to do was keep the Bills away from field goal range for the final 1:43.
And the defense rose up and got the job done.
See the best images from the 20-17 win against the Bills.
Jets Maintain 1st-Hal Contact
The Jets seemed to be set up for a disastrous start to the afternoon. First Braden Mann, handling the kickoff duties, slipped as he struck the opening KO, with the Bills recovering on their 45. On the first play from scrimmage, Stefon Diggs put a double move on Gardner and got free down the right sideline to gather in Allen's 42-yard longball at the Jets 13.
But disaster was averted when DL John Franklin-Myers applied pressure to Allen, who misfired and threw his pass to S Jets S Jordan Whitehead for the interception, the Green & White's 10th of the season.
But Buffalo had a more productive second drive, rolling 67 yards on 14 plays to Allen's keeper TD and a 7-0 lead, one play after Allen scrambled 11 yards to what was at first called a TD, then reviewed and overturned, and three plays after Jets DL Sheldon Rankins executed a strip sack on Allen that the QB recovered to keep the march moving. Still, it was the fourth strip for the Jets this season, all in the last five games.
The Jets offense began to loosen up the Buffalo defense with its second and third series. On No. 2, they moved 49 yards to the Bills 35 before Zuerlein came on to punch through a 53-yard field goal — his fourth 50+ FG of the season — to trim the Jets' deficit to 7-3 as the teams entered the second quarter.
The Jets had a good special teams play when newly acquired RB/PR Nyheim Hines had to fair-catch a Mann punt at his 7. But Allen & Co. shrugged it off and moved 93 yards to their second TD, which was also Allen's second score when he kept off his left side and sped 36 yards, beating Whitehead to the left pylon for a 14-3 lead with 6:30 left in the half.
But the Jets had a response to their two-score deficit and that was to use most of those final 6½ minutes to get back to within one score. They moved 75 yards on 13 plays with Wilson converting a third-and-1 on a keeper, a fourth-and-1 on a toss to TE C.J. Uzomah, and crowning the possession with Carter's 6-yard run behind the snowplow block of RG Nate Herbig for the touchdown to cut the Bills' lead back to 14-10.
Naturally, 32 seconds was enough for Buffalo to get in position to score, but the visitors from Western New York could get only to the Jets 37, then K Tyler Bass tried to convert from 55 yards at the final first-half gun, but his kick in a windless, humid MetLife hooked right at the last moment. And the Jets had the opportunity for a 14-point "sandwich" around halftime because they won the opening coin toss, deferred, and knew they would get the kickoff to start the second half.