Many thought the Jets' trip to Buffalo on Sunday would be a trap. Flying high off of two wins against divisional foes and soaring into dreary, rainy upstate New York had all the makings of an ugly slugfest.
But it wasn't ugly for New York's AFC representative as the Jets' defense made it happen from a variety of angles.
"That's more like it," head coach Rex Ryan said. "That's the style of play we're accustomed to. Like I said, bet against us, we'll see where we end up in the end. It was a good win for us."
With a 38-14 victory over the winless Bills, the AFC East leaders are now 3-1 overall and 3-0 within the division. After a less than stellar performance in last Sunday night's game at Miami, the Jets' typically stout defense returned to its 2009 form.
"For us to be where we want to be, we have to win our division," linebacker Bart Scott said. "This is a divisional opponent and they count for one and a half. We'll see these guys again and our expectations are to win that, too, because we don't want to have to get to the end of the season like we did, 'If this team wins, if this team loses, we're in.' We just want to take care of our business and leave our destiny in our own hands."
Some questioned the Jets' inability to get off the field on third down — through the first three weeks, Ryan's crew was 31st in the NFL defensive third downs. But Sunday they held the Bills to 0-for-10 on third downs. That's only the third time since 1986 that a Jets opponent had no third-down conversions.
"It felt good," defensive end Shaun Ellis said. "We took a lot of heat for our third-down defense over the past three weeks. It felt good to be able to go out there and get off the field."
Buffalo had been a frisky team so far this season, particularly on offense with promoted quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm, putting up 30 points at New England last week. But the Jets came fully prepared for the Bills' weapons.
"We just tried to come out and eliminate what they do best," linebacker David Harris said. "They have a couple playmakers in Lee Evans, C.J. Spiller, the rookie, and Marshawn Lynch but we pretty much had them in check and gave up a couple yards on scrambles to the quarterback. Overall I think we did a great job and came out with the victory."
Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's bunch held the Bills to 12 first downs and 223 yards and Bryan Thomas forced a fumble by Lynch that Jason Taylor recovered. It all led to the Bills' 19:31 time of possession.
"Last year we prided ourselves on being great on third down and getting guys in third-and-long," Scott said. "We've been getting guys in third-and-long — I think we had 26 in the first three weeks. But then we were giving up over 50 percent and that's uncharacteristic of our football team."
Fitzpatrick was held to 12-of-27 passing for 128 yards, and running backs Spiller, Lynch and Fred Jackson were held to 40 yards on nine carries. Wide receivers Lee Evans and Roscoe Parrish were held to one reception each, with Evans' coming with 25 seconds left in the game, as cornerback Antonio Cromartie and the DBs blanketed the Bills receivers most of the game.
It will be exciting to see this gang's production starting a week from tonight against Minnesota when cornerback Darrelle Revis and linebacker Calvin Pace make their hoped-for returns from injury. Those two are keys to Ryan's and Pettine's scheme, which at Buffalo began to work to perfection.
"Players are buying into the system and Rex knows what kind of players fit in his system," Scott said. "Make no bones about it, you have great position players as well. That's beautiful when it's matched up like that. We have the personnel, we have the system, we have no excuses not to be dominant."