Just as the Jets' offense needed to show a victorious growth spurt in the middle of their 60 minutes of football against the Bills, so did the Green & White defense. And job one of that rapid maturation process was to slay the beast that had been feasting on NFL defenses all season named Josh Allen.
Jets D-lineman Carl Lawson identified part of the solution.
"When you work together and when you rush as one, you can minimize the running attack that he has and how incredible a dual-threat quarterback he is," Lawson said following the Jets' immensely uplifting 20-17 home win over Allen and the Bills. "It's just a credit to us staying together, working together."
And it was a credit to all three levels of the Jets' defensive unit, each of which got stung here and there but came back strong with lessons learned and dangerous lessons of their own to teach.
Such as the Bills' first offensive play of the game, the double move by uber-WR Stefon Diggs, who ran past rookie CB Sauce Gardner, gathered in Allen's 42-yard throw to the Jets 13 right out of the box.
Was Sauce concerned? Not at all. It was merely a learning moment.
"That was just me," Gardner said. "I watch a lot of film and on the film, with that motion, it's usually like a little quick glance or an out. I feel like the route that he ran, that wasn't supposed to be his route, but he took off running — that's how their offense is. After that play, I just told everybody, 'Chill out, we're going to be good.' "
Sure enough, factor out that completion and Allen's passing game was 17-for-33 for 163 yards, no TDs and two INTs, for a passer rating of 40.3. From there, the secondary had six pass defenses on the day, including picks by S Jordan Whitehead to get the hosts out of their early hole and Gardner to repay the Jets' only giveaway of the game and set up the take-charge TD pass from Zach Wilson to James Robinson.
And at least one other one that fellow corner D.J. Reed said was inspired by Gardner's theft.
"I told Sauce he changed the game," Reed said. "He got that interception, and I told him that's your touchdown because we ended up scoring. I'm like that's your touchdown. That turned me up. That's a big part of why I made the play, because when I see him make the play, I want to make a play."
That play in question was Reed's catch-up PD at the Jets 5 with eight minutes to play. Without that play, Buffalo takes a 24-17 lead. Without it, the offense goes on its way to the go-ahead field goal.
But while the PDs were eyepopping for Jets Nation, they weren't the only big plays. As MLB C.J. Mosley explained, there was the running game to address, which also included a healthy helping of Allen.
"I feel like we did a really good job setting the edges," Mosley said. "Obviously, they got a few out on us. We know with Allen being able to run the ball, creating plays with his scrambling [nine carries, 86, yards, both TDs], we knew that was going to happen.
"One thing we didn't do was we didn't panic when it happened. We lined up for the next play because we knew it was going to come down to the end like it did. The D-line did a great job of keeping pressure on him, the back end did a great job of handling all those shots that were taken."
And speaking of keeping the pressure turned up high, Allen in his seven previous games vs. the Jets never suffered more than three sacks for more than 16 yards. Sunday, he was sacked five times for 22 yards and absorbed eight hits in all.
None was more devastating than Bryce Huff's potentially game-winning rush into Allen's wheelhouse. On the Bills' final series, the one during which many assumed Allen would complete enough downfield throws in limited time to set up at least a game-tying field goal, Huff ripped around the outside of RT David Quessenberry and separated Allen from the ball as he cocked his arm.
It was the defense's second strip sack of the game — DL Sheldon Rankins had the first. And even though the Green & White didn't recover either strip, Huff's play resulted in 19 yards of lost field position, back to the Bills 14, setting up third- and fourth-and-21 incompletions to seal the game.
So all three levels of the D threw their hats in this ring, and everyone had a little different take on what the win over the Bills said about their growing group.
"We're not the same old Jets," Huff said. "We've got a group of guys here that love to work. We show up to work every day with the same mindset, just get better and go 1-0 on Sunday."
Reed had a similar kumbaya take: "We play for each other. We really love each other. We hang out outside of football. Everybody's close-knit, just close — it's family."
And John Franklin-Myers boiled the day down to the nitty-gritty on the field of battle.
"We forced turnovers, we got the quarterback down, and we played violent," JFM said. "Usually, that leads to success."