The banged-up Jets played out the string with a 30-10 win over a Buffalo Bills (7-9) team that was enduring a similar fate.
It wasn’t necessarily an artistic sendoff, but Gang Green showed enough flashes to give its tortured faithful a proper ending to an arduous and injury-plagued season. There were many notable players inactive – and among the more distinguished names in street clothes were defensive tackle Steve McLendon, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and cornerback Nick Marshall. The more pressing issues were at running back and wideout, however, as starting running back Matt Forte and starting wideout Brandon Marshall were both inactive, providing nice long looks at their understudies.
The injuries have been the narrative all season, and today was no different. Forte -- who rushed for a career-low 813 yards and had a career-low 30 receptions for 263 yards and eight total touchdowns in his first Jets season – was placed on injured reserve (IR) just two days before the game. He was the 18th player on the team to be placed on IR, making it always difficult for head coach Todd Bowles to properly field a competitive outfit.
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One guy who benefitted from the injuries, though, was Ryan Fitzpatrick. The veteran bounced in and out of the lineup all season, primarily due to his poor play, but once again found a way to capitalize on injuries to guys ahead of him on the depth chart. Fitzpatrick got the start when Bowles placed starter Bryce Petty (shoulder) on season-ending IR the week leading up to the finale, and the journeyman actually played well. Fitzpatrick went 20-of-30 with 210 yards, two touchdowns, and no turnovers as he ended his Jets’ – and likely NFL – tenure on a high note.
He wasn’t the only one in green and white to finish strong, as the Jets (5-11) ended its campaign by playing hard and executing well – two factors that were missing during its losing streak.
Metro takes a look at other key factors in a rare Jets’ win.
What We Saw:
1. Powell power – The Jets placed Forte on injured reserve Friday afternoon, two days before the finale, which meant stellar backup Bilal Powell was afforded a chance to fully show his wares. He didn’t disappoint, as he notched 137 total yards from scrimmage – including 73 of his 122 rushing yards and a touchdown reception in the first half. Powell has excelled this season as a reserve – one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal offensive season – so it was always baffling why offensive coordinator Chan Gailey so under-utilized him. Forte was the unquestioned No. 1 back, but there was certainly room for Powell to shine. It took a great showing as a stand-alone back for the Jets to see what they were missing all season. Powell registered his second 100-yard rushing day of the season against a Bills squad that was still showing some fight. He entered the contest averaging 96 rushing yards over the last month, a sign that he can be a very productive contributor. Supporters of the career-backup certainly hope Gailey and co. – or whoever is on the Jets’ sidelines next season – don’t forget just how much Powell can offer an offense.
2. One last Fitz Magic show – He had a very disappointing season, especially considering his career-year last season, and was a major reason why the offense sputtered. But for one final game as a Jet, Fitzpatrick showed the good side of his game. He went 20-of-30 for 210 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions and connected with seven different receivers, including a beautiful go-route to Quincy Enunwa for 51 yards that set up Powell’s touchdown reception. All week, Fitzpatrick reasoned that Sunday was his New York curtain call, and even allowed that today may have been his professional swan song as well – at least as a starting quarterback. If so, he didn’t disappoint the MetLife Stadium faithful this time, as he deftly directed a Jets’ offense that still hummed smoothly, despite missing its starting wideouts and No. 1 tailback. He set the tone early with pocket poise and accuracy as he went 12-of-17 for 143 yards and a touchdown in the first half, and was a perfect 3-of-3 on the team’s first touchdown drive, a seven-play, 75-yard sojourn against a Bills’ defense that was still playing hard.
3. Getting defensive – It’s been a rough year for the Jets’ defense, especially considering the big-name talent on that side of the ball and it also being Bowles’s specialty, but for at least one final time, Gang Green showed what it could do. Revis registered his first interception of the season when picked off rookie Cardale Jones with five minutes remaining. It was his first pick since December of 2015 when he nabbed Tom Brady. Revis returned it 51 yards to the Buffalo three-yard line to set up the Jets’ final offensive points of the season. Revis wasn’t the only defender to shine, as Gang Green also tallied three sacks and forced two fumbles to go along with Revis’s pick. The interception was a welcome sight for Jets’ fans who’ve seen a drastic decline in Revis’s play this season, as the takeaway just may be the final of his career as a Jets’ cornerback. There’s a very real possibility of Revis being released after this season – or at least being forced into a position change. The future Hall of Famer noted that he and Bowles have already begun talk about moving him to safety next season – provided they’re both back. The future is for later talk, but for at least one more Sunday, the Jets’ defense showed what it could do when all on the same page.
Gang Green notes:
- Jalin Marshall, registered a touchdown reception today, the second time he’s scored this season. Marshall, who’s the less-heralded wideout out of Ohio State on the Jets’ roster behind second-year receiver Devin Smith, was far more involved in the offense after getting the start. Smith, who’s endured an injury-riddled career to date, wasn’t even targeted in the game.
- Pro-Bowl alternate Leonard Williams (66 tackles, team-high seven sacks) was named the team’s Curtis Martin MVP. The second-year defensive end is the youngest Jet to be named the team’s MVP.
- Other team-wide award winners included wideout Enunwa (Marty Lyons Community Service Award), quarterback Bryce Petty and kicker Nick Folk (shared Kyle Clifton Good Guy Award), and punter Lachlan Edwards (Bill Hampton Award as “the rookie who acts like a pro in the locker room”).