Last week RB LaDainian Tomlinson called Sunday's game in Buffalo a "do or die" situation. Coming off a bye, traveling to an energized Ralph Wilson Stadium, without DTs Mike DeVito and Kenrick Ellis, facing a rejuvenated 5-2 Bills team, the cards were stacked against the Jets.
And it all meant nothing. The Green & White broke out against the Bills, playing arguably their best football of the season in a 27-11 victory.
"Everything we want is right in front of us," said QB Mark Sanchez after the Jets' third straight win wiped out memories of their three-game road losing streak. "We learned a lot through that stretch. We'll be ready these next couple of weeks."
The first half was a struggle for both teams, as the Jets limped into the locker room at halftime with a 3-0 lead. Sanchez turned the ball over twice, throwing an interception in the end zone after the Jets' opening 15-play, 10-minute drive, and fumbling a shotgun snap near midfield with 53 seconds left in the half.
"Guys know that I can battle and play through adversity," said Sanchez. "It's frustrating because you let your guys down. To go down there and give them a cheap one, it never feels good, but my guys rallied around me."
The Jets defense prevented the Bills from capitalizing on either giveaway and allowed the offense to make halftime adjustments with a lead.
"I was getting a little bummed out," said Ryan. "Our style of football is we want to eliminate penalties and protect the football. That's kind of what we stand for. There was a stretch there where it looked like Bad News Bears."
Whatever was said at the half, it resonated with the offense. Sanchez went on to complete 70 percent of his passes in the last two quarters for 93 yards and a touchdown. The Jets added 24 points, including touchdowns from Tomlinson, WR Santonio Holmes and FB John Conner. It was a crisp, exciting half for the Green & White.
"It was a great game plan by Coach Schottenheimer," said Sanchez. "When we stuck to the plan and finished drives, we were good."
WR Santonio Holmes responded with three passes for 29 yards and an 8-yard touchdown. He was targeted six times on the afternoon, most among Jets wideouts. Perhaps the most impressive note from Holmes' day was the hidden yardage he gave the offense by drawing two tremendous pass interference penalties, totaling 59 yards.
Working in tandem with the passing game was the omnipresent "Ground and Pound" approach. The Jets racked up 126 rushing yards on 39 attempts as RB Shonn Greene led the way with 19 carries for 76 yards.
"We were hot," said Sanchez. "The run game set up the pass game, and the pass game complemented the run game. It's good to see us marching down the field. We did it in the first half. We just didn't finish."
The Jets had six offensive possessions in the second half, scoring on four of them. Whatever play was called, it was executed to near perfection, allowing for an eye-opening offensive performance.
"I like the way we tightened it up," said Ryan. "I thought Mark did a much better job protecting the football."
The third-down offense continued to gain momentum, converting six of 11 opportunities into first downs. The long drives allowed the Jets to dominate possession time throughout the game, finishing with an edge of 37:52 to 22:08.
"We're just giving our defense a chance to rest," said Holmes. "We had all those three-and-outs earlier in the season, but we're doing a better job now. We would like to give our defense as much time on the sidelines as possible, and we did a good job moving the ball up and down the field with ease."
The win moves the Jets to 5-3 with another critical divisional matchup next week when they host the New England Patriots on Sunday night. It will be a primetime game in every sense of the phrase, and one that will have major postseason implications for both teams moving forward.
"We're a good team," TE Dustin Keller said. "We're becoming more and more consistent offensively. The defense is the defense. They show up every week. The offense is playing their best football right now, and if we keep this up, we're going to be a tough team to beat."