Listless Jets manage to keep season alive with win over Bills
An ugly and somewhat listless Jets team somehow came out on top with a 28-24 win over Buffalo, ending a two-game losing streak and righting their record to 6-5. A look at three things that went right and three things wrong for the Jets in the Week 12 win:
What went right …
1. The Bell Cow
Given the shaky play of their quarterback and the inept status of the passing game the past two games, it made sense for the Jets to go with the ground game early, even with LaDainian Tomlinson ruled out for a second-straight game due to injury. Shonn Greene and Joe McKnight more than carried the load with Greene pacing all rushers in the game with 78 yards on 13 carries. After a rough start to the season, Greene has now settled down to become the feature back the Jets envisioned earlier this season when Ryan called him the team’s “bell cow.”
2. Jets Respond
After the defense got physically manhandled on the Bills first quarter scoring drive that gave the visitors a 7-0 lead, the offense responded in a major way. The Jets went 78 yards in 10 plays, including a 23-yard Santonio Holmes run on third down to sustain the drive. After a rocky start to the game, Sanchez was 4-of-6 for 20 yards on the drive including a three-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dustin Keller. It was a measured and steadied response from the Jets who typically panic after going down early.
3. Johnson Crashes and Burns
The Bills turned a Sanchez interception into six points with just 2:09 left in the second quarter, on a Stevie Johnson five-yard grab in the heart of the end zone giving Buffalo what would become a 14-7 lead. But after the touchdown, Johnson mocked shooting himself in the leg, imitating Plaxico Burress’s nightclub incident three years ago. Then he extended his arms like a jet, faux flying and then crashing in the end zone. A 15-yard penalty was tacked onto the kickoff for unsportsmanlike conduct and then when Ryan Lindell badly shanked a squib kick, the Jets took over possession on the Bills 36-yard line. Four plays later, Plaxico Burress had a 14-yard touchdown grab to make it an even game. A costly and tacky penalty from Johnson led directly to Jets points.
What went wrong …
1. Slow Start
In their first two offensive series, the Jets were anemic in moving the ball and no one looked more flat than Sanchez, who failed to complete a pass in the opening two drives in what was an 0-of-4 start for the quarterback. Sanchez was under scrutiny after it came out this week that backup quarterback Mark Brunell received a small number of first team snaps in practice. Ryan said that his starter got “hot under the collar” and competitive. Too bad that “hot under the collar” translated to a cold start. In three of their first four possessions, Sanchez failed to complete a pass and on the fifth, he threw an interception.
2. Another Long Drive
After conceding a 95-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter of their recent loss at Denver, the Jets defense was soft again. On their second defensive series, the Jets allowed Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick time and space in the pocket to mastermind a 90-yard drive. A Brodney Pool face mask penalty on the second play of the Bills’ drive gave them an early jumpstart, and from there, the ball was moved down the field almost at will. The 13-play, 90-yard drive ended emphatically when Fitzpatrick found wide receiver David Nelson for an eight-yard touchdown.
3. Oh No Cro
The Jets were up 21-14 deep into the third quarter when the defense forced Buffalo into a three-and-out. Rather than send out the usually reliable Jim Leonhard for punt return duty, explosive kickoff returner Antonio Cromartie was trotted out. Rather than be a jolt, Cromartie muffed the punt, letting the Bills recover on their own 33-yard line. On the next play, Cromartie tipped a Fitzpatrick pass that he had a beat on, allowing Brad Smith to catch a 36-yard touchdown. It was an awful 10 seconds of play from Cromartie, who also badly missed a tackle on a David Nelson third-down catch early in the fourth quarter.
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.