2009 Week 13 Jets at Bills Photos
The anthem most everyone sings in the stands before any game north of the border is "Oh, Canada." In the Jets' case tonight, it was more "Oooh, Canada," if you're Mark Sanchez. And "Ahhh, Canada," if you're Sanchez and all his teammates celebrating their bracing 19-13 victory over the Buffalo Bills in the Rogers Centre on Thursday night.
The Jets defense had another sterling outing, holding the Bills to 194 yards and one touchdown, with Darrelle Revis making an unconscious five pass breakups while covering Terrell Owens and, on occasion, Lee Evans.
Then with Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene taking turns, the Jets rushed for 249 yards. And wideout Braylon Edwards atoned for a drop of an 84-yard touchdown pass — which he said he lost in the lights of the indoor venue — with two phenomenal receptions from Sanchez, including the 13-yard score on his full-body stretch to break the goal line plane and give the Jets their 16-10 halftime lead.
"Today Mark played confident," said Edwards. "I hope he's going to be healthy for us."
That is suddenly the question. While 1-10 Tampa Bay is up next a week from Sunday, it wasn't known immediately after the game whether the Jets will be playing the Bucs with Sanchez under center or Kellen Clemens.
The primetime drama featured the Jets rookie coming off the field in the third quarter for the second time in two games. Last week against Carolina it was his left knee, which got twisted as he was scrambling out of bounds. This time it was his right knee, which he "mildly sprained" as he dived headfirst for an 8-yard scramble and the first down on third-and-6.
Head coach Rex Ryan, who otherwise enjoyed his visit to the country where he spent eight years of his youth, was extremely disappointed in his rookie QB, whom he and his staff have been coaching to avoid headfirst dives with the ball, going so far as to bring in Yankees manager Joe Girardi for a quick tutorial on feet-first sliding earlier this week.
"Mark just has to understand," said Ryan. "This guy's crucial to our organization's success. He can't be reckless. Maybe this little setback will show him how serious we are. I never want to see him diving forward. I thought we were clear on that."
"It started to hurt right after that play," said Sanchez, who left the game with 7½ minutes left in the period and walked off seemingly without a hitch to the Jets locker room with 5½ minutes left in the frame. "It just didn't feel right when I got back in the huddle.
"I know Rex wants me to slide, everybody wants me to slide. It's just in the heat of the moment, I don't know how to explain it, I was just trying to move the chains. ... It's something to evaluate and learn from."
The shame of it was that Sanchez didn't get to finish a fairly impressive effort, turning the ball over to Kellen Clemens for the save. He hit Edwards in stride all alone past the Bills secondary on the drop. He rifled a 45-yard catch-and-run to Jerricho Cotchery in single coverage from Donte Whitner to set up the Edwards TD catch, on which he bought time and then got the ball to No. 17 to do his magic. He didn't turn the ball over (nor did the Jets).
It also helps when the running game is grinding away like a bad toothache on the opponents. Despite the Bills trying to stop the run — and often succeeding — with a steady diet of eight in the box, Jones and Greene kept bursting free for big gainers.
Augmented by two Tony Richardson jaunts for 36 yards and a pair of end-arounds for 34 yards, the Jets finished the night with 249 rushing yards. Added to their 318 rushing yards in the teams' Game 6 Meadowlands meeting, the Jets ran for 567 yards in the two meetings.
"It says a lot about our commitment to run the ball," said Richardson. "We're not running against the normal seven men in the box. But we just keep sawing wood, sawing wood."
Trouble was only that the sawing only brought down the one touchdown. But no problem when Jay Feely was on his game in the calm atmosphere of the roofed stadium. He nailed all four of his field goal tries, from 38, 49 and 31 yards in the first half and from 37 yards on the first play of the fourth quarter, turning the game into a two-score advantage that the Bills never got close to narrowing to less than six points.
And that was the result of the defense's continuing efforts. The Bills, trying to do some fancy running of their own, moved to a field goal on their opening drive, then freed Marshawn Lynch for 35- and 15-yard bursts on their fifth drive for their only TD and a 10-6 lead.
But the Jets got stronger and stronger. They pressured Fitzpatrick well with three sacks, two by ageless Shaun Ellis and the first by David Harris on a blitz that produced a strip-sack that Bryan Thomas recovered to set up Feely's second field goal.
"We were just trying to be successful as a defense, playing the schemes that [coordinator] Mike Pettine and Rex put in," said Thomas. "Coming into the game, our mission was pretty much stop the run. We knew they had two pretty good running backs [Lynch and Fred Jackson] so it was a package deal. And we knew what type of quarterback Fitzpatrick is. We knew we had to contain him. He's a mobile guy, a player you have to account for."
And when Fitzpatrick did get off passes, Revis seemed to be everywhere, leading the charge in holding Owens to three catches for 31 yards.
The Jets sealed the game, to the delight of the vocal minority of green-and-white-clad fans in the stands, with a one-two punch from the D and the O. Revis, who had earlier dropped a sure interception on a long ball from Fitzpatrick to Owens, had the blanket coverage on another T.O. bomb and this time he held on for his third pick in two games. It came at the Jets 39 with 2:02 to play.
With the Bills out of timeouts, all the Jets needed was another first down. They got it when Jones, who had already secured his fifth consecutive 1,000-yard season, burst up the middle for 29 yards to the Bills 29. That got him his fifth 100-yard game of the season and enabled Clemens to kneel twice to wrap up the Jets' mostly excellent adventure in Canada.
"They got the best of us the first time we played," said safety Jim Leonhard, recalling the 16-13 overtime loss in Week 6, "so it was nice to get a little revenge, and get a victory."
They'd like their next victory to come at Tampa Bay, but with which QB? Ryan said he wasn't sure if Sanchez will be ready and that tests will continue on his right knee this week. Sanchez said, "I'll do everything I can to play next week."
But there's a little extra time to get the joint in order before the Jets head off to battle in their next one-game season, this time in the southern U.S. rather than north of the border.
Harris led all players with 11 tackles, including the sack, and had at least one other hit on Fitzpatrick. ... Ellis is now at 68.0 career sacks. ... Clemens had only one completion on two attempts, but it was a nifty 14-yard out-route to Cotchery on third-and-12 en route to Feely's final FG. ... Feely now has hit 21 of 24 field goals, an 87.5 percent accuracy. ... The Bills and, last Sunday, the Panthers were both held to under 200 yards. It's the first time the Jets defense has had back-to-back sub-200-yard games since 1993.
The Green & White came into the game with a 1-3 record on Thursday nights. They lost at home to Pittsburgh in 1984 and New England in '86, then at Washington to kick off the 2003 season. But they got on track with their 34-31 triumph at the Patriots last season, with Feely nailing the game-winning 36-yarder. ... Game captains tonight: Edwards, LB Jamaal Westerman, G Matt Slauson, TE Matt Mulligan and LB Calvin Pace. ... Slauson, the rookie guard, and Mulligan, signed Wednesday from the Jets practice squad, suited up and played in their first games as Jets..