The New York Jets travelled to Western New York to play the only football team that’s actually housed within state lines, and came away with a 26-17 victory.
The Buffalo Bills were heavily favored going into the game against their division rivals—especially after their strong start in 2008. However, the New York Jets responded with an incredibly well-played second-half, culminating in a win in hostile territory for what could be a season-defining game.
At the halfway mark, the Jets needed a victory in Buffalo to remain competitive in their division. Their victory brings them to 5-3, tying them with Buffalo and New England at the top of the division.
An Indianapolis Colts win against New England will create a three-way tie for first-place in the AFC East.
The victory didn’t come easily for New York, though. Struggling to find a rhythm in the first quarter, the Bills dominated the clock, and kept New York off the field.
But when it was all said and done, the Jets did everything they needed to do to deflate any chances for the Bills to develop any momentum in the second-half.
Winners Want the Ball More
Early in the game, Darrelle Revis forced and recovered a fumble after sacking Trent Edwards at Buffalo’s six-yard line. Unfortunately, the Jets couldn’t take advantage of the field position, and was forced to settle for three points.
The turnover was nice, but the Jets would need to do more to win on someone else’s field.
Abram Elam was given precious playing time in favor of the less-athletic Eric Smith, and made the most of it.
As the first quarter drew to a close, Elam hopped in front of a Trent Edwards pass intended for Roscoe Parrish, and took it down the sideline for 92 yards. The interception return put the Jets on top 13-7—a lead Buffalo would never challenge as the Jets hit a defensive stride.
Darrelle Revis made his presence felt for the entire game, blanketing Lee Evans and limiting the Bills’ playmaker to only four catches.
But as the Bills were making a last-ditch effort of desperation, Trent Edwards could only find Revis on the goal line.
Providing the nail in the coffin is an impressive feat in itself. But Revis’ athleticism was on display as that interception came in a jump-ball situation against the 6-foot-6 receiver, James Hardy.
Intelligence on Display
The Jets’ opponents are quickly learning how important Leon Washington is to his team’s success.
He’s the spark plug out of the backfield, and even more dangerous on special-teams. But his feet were responsible for a different kind of highlight on Sunday.
When Buffalo decided to stop kicking directly to Washington, he decided to make them pay for a poorly placed squib kick.
As the ball bounced near the sidelines, it didn’t carry enough momentum to actually bounce out of bounds for a penalty.
Instead, Leon Washington fielded the ball from out of bounds, drawing an automatic penalty and giving the Jets the ball on the 40-yard line in the fourth quarter.
The drive ended in a seven-yard touchdown run by Thomas Jones.
It provided the separation New York needed to finally put the game out of reach for Buffalo.
Turning Chess to Checkers
The New York Jets’ coaching staff took a lot of heat in recent weeks for neglecting proven gamplans that would’ve been more efficient against weaker teams.
Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer dialed up pass-heavy gameplans against teams that couldn’t stop the run, and Jets’ fans scratched their heads.
Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton took a lot of heat for allowing offenses to develop a rhythm against him.
Against Buffalo, both coordinators made adjustments and attacked the areas the Bills struggled against. Sutton asked his defense to apply pressure and never let up.
Trent Edwards may have still thrown for over 280 yards, but his statistics came without points and a lot of time spent under duress from a resilient pass-rush.
In the first-half, the Bills held the ball for over 20 minutes compared to the Jets’ five. In that time, Buffalo ran over 25 plays that would result in seven points for New York.
A lot of defensive coordinators don’t care what a team can do between the 20′s—what’s important is keeping them out of the end zone.
With a premium placed on creating turnovers, and disallowing points, the Jets did too much for Buffalo to truly overcome.
The aforementioned implications of a Patriots’ loss to the Colts will create a three-way tie in the AFC East. In that scenario, three teams would be at 5-3, as the Jets prepare for a home game against the St. Louis Rams.
It’s not the same walk in the park fans would have expected given the first quarter of the 2008 season. Jim Haslett has his Rams playing much stronger football, but it’s still a game the Jets should win.
However, it does have the potential to be a trap-game.
Immediately following next Sunday’s game, the Jets have a short week to prepare for a Thursday night game against the Patriots.
Division games are always important, but a win against St. Louis would make the Patriots’ game a crucial one for AFC East supremacy.
Going on a streak at this point is essential for the Jets to stay alive in the playoff race before they face the Tennessee Titans on Nov. 23.
However, things must go one game at a time, so the first priority has to be the Rams. New York can’t afford to play them as casually as they played against the Bengals, Raiders, and Chiefs.