2008 Week 15 - Jets vs Bills Photos
"Big Play Abe" and "Big Katt" wouldn't let the Jets' season die.
Safety Abram Elam forced a strip-sack of Buffalo QB J.P. Losman and defensive end Shaun Ellis recovered and scored from 11 yards out with just 1:54 remaining as the Green & White captured a thrilling 31-27 win over the Bills.
"We know they have a tendency to go to the right if they gotta have a play," Ellis said. "Elam just did a great job, sacking the quarterback and getting the ball out. I was just right there to pick it up."
With the victory, the 9-5 Jets not only halted a two-game slide but also remained in a first-place tie in the AFC East. The Bills, who got a 127-yard rush effort from Marshawn Lynch, lost their seventh out of eight after beginning the year 5-1.
The outlook didn't look promising. The Bills, up a field goal, had the ball and the clock threatened. Then Elam got to Losman and stripped the ball free. Ellis recovered, tossed a forearm at a Bill and rumbled home. The Meadowlands moved as fans jumped up and down with delight.
"He looked pretty good spinning and running," said RB Thomas Jones of Ellis. "Me and Laveranues [Coles] said he jumped into the end zone like he was jumping into a pool."
Darrelle Revis and Kerry Rhodes added interceptions to end the Bills' final two drives. Rhodes, whose pick came on the final play, went over to the crowd and the former college quarterback unleashed a spiral 15 rows up to end Fan Appreciation Day. Relief and pandemonium!
"I'm proud of the way the guys continually fought," said third-year head coach Eric Mangini. "Sometimes we looked to be going in different directions at different points, but that's going to happen. You just have to find a way to get a win and that's what we did today."
In this game of tug-of-war, the Bills improbably went ahead, 27-24, with 5:39 left. Fred Jackson, who serves as Lynch's understudy, would not be denied from 11 yards out. He kept his legs churning and got a lot of help from his friends to reach the end zone.
Tension was high at the Meadowlands as the teams entered the final quarter with the Jets clinging to a 21-20 advantage. But Hank Poteat made the home crowd erupt, intercepting Losman's overthrow of Josh Reed. Poteat's pick set up Jay Feely's 34-yard field goal.
Up, 21-17, in the third quarter, the Jets turned the ball over for the second time in the game. Brett Favre wanted to go long to Jerricho Cotchery but was hit and his wounded pass was intercepted by Bills CB Terrence McGee, whose 36-yard return got the visitors in plus territory. Rian Lindell, with a fortuitous deflection off the right upright, closed the gap to just one as he was successful from 48.
On a 40-degree North Jersey day, the Jets started out the first half hot, withstood a Bills rally and got a late Leon Washington TD to take a 21-17 lead after 30 minutes of exciting action.
You couldn't blame the Bills if they didn't prepare for the Brett Favre ground attack. But the 39-year-old graybeard got 27 yards on a naked bootleg to get the Jets rolling. Then fullback Tony Richardson, appearing in his 200 NFL game, collected a 12-yard gain to pave the way for a historic run from Jones.
TJ's 2-yard scoring plunge gave the nine-year vet three franchise records simultaneously: touchdowns in a season (15), rush touchdowns in a season (13) and consecutive games with a TD (8).
"I'm blessed to have the opportunity to score that many touchdowns this year," Jones said. "Anytime you break a record like that, it's not just an individual achievement. My offensive line has done a great job — I have the best line in the league. I have the best fullback in the league in Tony Richardson. To me he's one of the best fullbacks who's ever played the game."
Buffalo answered with a 34-yard Lindell field goal after throwing a changeup of its own. It looked as if the Jets had forced a three-and-out, but the Bills kept the ball because LB Keith Ellison gained 6 yards on fourth-and-4.
New York's AFC representative got the ball back and pushed its advantage to 14-3 when Favre connected with Cotchery for an 11-yard TD with 3:50 remaining in the opening stanza. The Green & White moved the ball at will on their first two drives, totaling 142 yards as Favre was 6-of-8 for 83 yards.
"It's definitely a step forward for our offense," Cotchery said. "We got back in sync. I felt it throughout the week and it carried over to the game. We still made a couple of mistakes, but they are very correctable."
The contest tightened up in the second quarter. Linebacker Paul Posluszny was in the right place at the right time to record the game's first takeaway, hauling a deflected ball that was originally intended for Coles. LC ran a slant and was hit as soon as the Favre toss hit his hands.
Nine plays later, Losman called his own number and the quick backup signalcaller got in from 8 yards out. Suddenly the Bills had life and the Herd would take the lead three minutes later.
Buffalo forced a punt and Roscoe Parrish displayed his explosiveness with a 56-yard return. Losman culminated a 4-play, 23-yard drive with a 2-yard strike to Steve Johnson. It was the first professional TD for the rookie out of Kentucky.
Trailing for the first time, the Green & White responded. Washington, who entered the game with most combined yards in the NFL, tacked on to his impressive total on a 47-yard scoring run just a minute before intermission. The O-line got Washington to the second level and then, in a flash, he ran by and around a bunch of overmatched defenders.
That set things up for a heart-stopping second half. On Fan Appreciation Day, the Jets and the Bills gave a product worth the price of admission.
The Jets still control their own destiny with two games to play. But nobody's going to think about the Dolphins in two weeks because the Seahawks are up next on the West Coast.
Elam and Ellis kept the Jets' pulse going. They'll try to end their western woes next week in Washington State.
"It saved the game. I don't know about the season yet," Ellis said of the late TD. "We still have to go to Seattle and play a tough game out there. It's one step."
"Who knows?" Favre added. "We might look at that play as one of those things that catapulted us into something great."
Pass Defense Steps Up
The Jets defense allowed 187 rushing yards, its most of the season, and Lynch ran for 127 to join Denver's Peyton Hills as 100-yard rushers vs. the Jets.
On the other hand, the Green & White's 31st-ranked pass defense allowed 119 net passing yards, the second-lowest total under Mangini and defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, behind only the 111 net passing yards by Rex Grossman and the Bears in 2006.
Ellis' score was the first of his nine-year career. It was also the first defensive TD to put the Jets ahead in the final two minutes of a game since S Brian Washington returned an interception of Jim Kelly 23 yards with 1:41 to play to lift the Jets over the Bills at Buffalo, 24-17, in the game after Dennis Byrd suffered his paralyzing injury.
Gholston Down, Clowney Up
For the first time in his pro career, linebacker Vernon Gholston was among the inactives. Gholston, who was the sixth overall selection in last year's draft, has 11 special teams tackles and five defensive tackles this season.
On the offensive side of the ball, wide receiver David Clowney made his pro debut. Clowney's first career reception was an absolute dandy, hauling in a pretty one-handed 26-yarder to help get the Jets out of their own end.
"It felt good," Clowney said. "I definitely got the jitters out. Hopefully, I'll dress again next week and take it from there."
The Dolphins kept pace in the division with the Jets, taking a 14-9 decision over the San Francisco 49ers to move to 9-5. New England, which also entered today with an 8-5 mark, disposed of the Raiders by a 49-26 score.