By Chris Mascaro, The Sports Xchange – UPI
Even the Jets couldn’t blow this one.
Losers of three straight in which they gave up 14-point leads in the first two and fourth-quarter advantages in the second two, the Jets put together a complete performance, dominating the Buffalo Bills 34-21 on Thursday night at MetLife Stadium.
New York (4-5) is still in last place in the AFC East, so talk of a playoff push would be premature. However, the Jets showed surprising signs of improvement in two areas where they previously struggled — running the ball and rushing the passer.
Running back Matt Forte complained after Sunday’s loss to the Atlanta Falcons that first-year offensive coordinator John Morton got too pass-happy. But the Jets eclipsed last week’s total of 43 rushing yards in the first quarter with 53, then finished with 194 on 41 carries (4.7 per carry).
“Kudos to coach Johnnie Mo (Morton) for sticking with the run, like he promised us he would do,” said Forte, who spoke with Morton and head coach Todd Bowles on Monday to address his concerns. “That’s how the running game is, you’re gonna have carries where you get stuffed for no gain, or you get 2 and 3 yards here, and then you get a 20, then you get a 30 and then you get a blockbuster for 51 yards. It’s like a boxing match, you’ve got to wear your opponent down.”
Bilal Powell had the 51-yard run Forte referenced to set up the Forte’s first touchdown of the season, from 10 yards out, to give the Jets a 24-7 lead with 4:16 left in the third quarter.
Forte’s second TD came after a strip-sack by Jordan Jenkins and a recovery by Demario Davis at the Buffalo 5-yard line. The score gave the Jets their largest lead of the season to that point (31-7), sending many fans to the exits as the rout was on.
Forte finished with 77 yards on 14 carries.
New York kicker Chandler Catanzaro, who missed two field goals in the rain on Sunday, added his second field goal of the game before Buffalo quarterback Tyrod Taylor threw for a touchdown and ran for another late to pique the few remaining fans’ interest.
The Jets’ defense came into the game with 11 sacks, tied for second worst in the league with the Titans, but New York kept Taylor skittish all game. The Jets sacked the man they call “T-Mobile,” because of his elusiveness, seven times.
“Not gonna lie, it felt pretty good,” Jenkins said about getting his first two sacks of the season, including one on the Bills’ first play of the game. “We had fun out there. Right from the get-go, getting the first one, after that, it was just back to back to back to back …”
Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, who didn’t practice for the third straight week, had arguably his best game of the season with a sack, two QB hits and a pass deflection.
“As long as I’m getting those mental reps, I know my job, I know the plays,” Wilkerson said. “Honestly, I wasn’t too sure how I was gonna be, but I’m the type of player who wants to be out there with my guys. I’m pretty sure everyone in this locker room knows that.”
The Jets took a 17-7 lead on their first drive of the second half, marching 74 yards in seven plays, capped by Robby Anderson’s 25-yard touchdown catch on a fade route down the right sideline. On the play, quarterback Josh McCown tied his career high with his 13th TD pass of the season.
Anderson, who blew past Bills rookie corner Tre’Davious White, has scored in three consecutive games.
“It’s just chemistry,” he said of being in sync with McCown. “It’s not that complicated, it’s just basic fundamentals. Catching that hot streak … I’ve been feeling good out there. The last couple games we did lose, but aside from the result of the game, I’ve been having a lot of fun out there. It’s a lot easier to play good when you’re enjoying yourself.”
For the fifth game in a row, the Jets took the lead first.
McCown, who completed 14 of 20 passes for a season-low 140 yards, scrambled around the left side from 10 yards out and lunged into the end zone to put the Jets up 7-0 with 7:43 left in the first quarter. The 38-year-old quarterback, who spiked the ball with all his might, leads the Jets with three rushing touchdowns this season. The other two came on sneaks from the 1-yard line.
The Bills tied the score at 7 eight seconds into the second quarter on the first career touchdown catch for rookie Zay Jones. The second-round pick out of East Carolina caught a 10-yard pass on a slant route from Taylor, who finished 29 of 40 for 285 yards.
The Jets appeared to score a touchdown on the ensuing drive, but a penalty forced them to settle for a field goal and a 10-7 lead.
Buffalo, which had won four of its last five coming into the game, fell to 5-3, missing on a chance to tie New England for first place in the division with the Patriots on a bye this week.
“It’s not the result we wanted, and there’s not a man in that room that feels otherwise,” said Bills coach Sean McDermott, “and so we have to learn from it, just like any game whether it’s (the) national spotlight or not. It’s never easy.”
NOTES: Jets WR ArDarius Stewart, after being inactive for the Sunday loss to the Falcons, was reinstated as the team’s kick returner. He had 44 yards on two returns. He also recovered an onside kick late in the game. … Jets WR Jeremy Kerley, who reportedly has a suspension pending, was active and had one punt return for 3 yards. However, he injured his foot in the first quarter, and Elijah McGuire replaced him as the punt returner. … Jets LB Bruce Carter sustained a hamstring injury and did not return. … Bills WR Zay Jones was injured late in the first half when Jets CB Buster Skrine tripped him and Jones landed awkwardly on his right leg. Skrine was flagged for illegal contact. … Bills WR Jordan Matthews lost a fumble inside a minute to play in the first half. It was only Buffalo’s second lost fumble of the season to that point. Buffalo QB Tyrod Taylor lost another later in the game.