The New York Jets had lost three games in a row, and their season was on the line. They shot back with their most complete performance of the season, a 34-21 stomping of the resurgent Buffalo Bills, raising their record to 4-5 going into Tampa Bay before the bye week.
Give Todd Bowles credit for having his New York Jets fired up for a Thursday night dogfight on a national stage. Even if they had to wear those ghastly color rush uniforms. The final result was this franchise’s most impressive win in the past two seasons.
LeSean McCoy ran roughshod over the Jets in a Week 1 21-12 rout. In a recent deadline deal, the Bills made a playoff push by acquiring a deep target for Tyrod Taylor in Panthers star WR Kelvin Benjamin (inactive this game). And they unloaded on Jacksonville one of the NFL’s worst pacts in Marcell Dareus. Going into this MetLife matchup with a solid 5-2 record, the suddenly relevant Bills could not let things slip against the Jets. To lose this contest would be so Bills-like.
This contest was the best we have seen from the Jets front seven. They completely dominated and disrupted the line of scrimmage. In their first eight games, Gang Green caused six sacks. Against Buffalo, his defensive front unleashed five sacks in the first half alone. By the end of the game, the Jets unleashed seven sacks and three forced turnovers. They held Taylor to 35 yards on the ground, and McCoy to 12 carries for 25 yards. Talk about nowhere to run and nowhere to hide!
The Jets offense knew they had one edge against Buffalo. If they could hold the line, Josh McCown could pick apart Buffalo’s second-rate secondary, and New York’s running backs could run amok. Offensive coordinator John Morton implemented a nice game plan, spreading the ball around and taking time off the clock. Yes, there was another troubling fourth-quarter meltdown, but at least it did not cost them the game.
By the fourth quarter, it was difficult to tell which the crowd was more excited by, the two TD lead or the return of Fireman Ed leading the “J-E-T-S” chant.. One had to be concerned that they’d stay focused and close out this win. Thankfully, they did. Here are five high-energy songs by The Who that express this energized squad, back on a muddled playoff picture. We won’t get fooled again!
Next: 5. Goin' Mobile
5. Goin’ Mobile
Josh McCown has revealed himself as a mixed bag journeyman QB. This year, he’s completed 70 percent of his passes yet averages just 6.8 yards per. And think of all the awful miscues by the 17-year vet! One of his biggest breaks against Buffalo was after another rookie-like INT, dropped by LB Leonard Johnson. But then in the third quarter, he made a brilliant bomb strike TD pass to Robby Anderson tumbling over the Bills’ TreDavious White. As long as the Jets keep winning, McCown should remain under center. From the podium after the game, he again came off like a true leader.
When the Bills could not stop the run, Bowles kept pounding the rock. And as the game went on, the Bills stacked eight men in the box. So it was surprising Gang Green wasn’t countering that with Matt Forte swing passes against a LB. But that dam busted when Bilal Powell broke at least three tackles on a 51-yard romp, followed by that 10-yard Forte TD bolt to make it a three-possession lead. Rookie sixth-rounder Elijah McGuire also tore off some nice late game jaunts.
Second-string tight end Eric Tomlinson might be this team’s best blocker. Against Buffalo, he was that lead blocker mowing down linebackers. But he also blew a wide-open first half catch in which McCown got leveled. The offensive line excelled and looked particularly strong in a six-man front with Dakota Dozier.
The Jets were forced to prepare for the Bills assuming that Jeremy Kerley would not available with his looming four-game PED suspension. In the end, he was allowed to participate but got injured early on. The league really botched this suspension. Why not suspend him on Monday or announce one to begin next Monday? Why unnecessarily hamstring the Jets on the road?
Next: 4. Eminence Front
4. Eminence Front
Every time Buffalo was able to move the ball, it was due to the inability of the Jets’ D-line to make the pocket collapse. When pressure got applied, Demario Davis. Darron Lee, David Bass and Jordan Jenkins were the rudest guests in the Bills backfield. Leonard Wiliams and Steve McLendon got their fist half-sacks of the season. Muhammad Wilkerson played with great confidence. The entire defense exuded passion and attitude.
A previous post cited that of the NFL’s most penalized players, three of the top four are Morris Claiborne, Buster Skrine and Darron Lee. Then, 48 hours before game-time, Mike Maccagnan acquired the league’s most penalized player, benched 49ers CB Rashard Robinson. The 23-year-old 2016 fourth-rounder has an impressive skills but he’s a raw project who needs to grow up. Current Jets who’ve played with Robinson — Jamal Adams (LSU) and Jeremy Kerley (Niners) — are all-in with Rashard’s arrival. With coaching-up, he can be a long-term solution. NFL Draft Scout Mike Miller extolled the move and the young NYJ secondary.
But face facts: aside from injuries to Claiborne and Skrine, the reason the Jets felt they needed to reach for Robinson was projected starter Juston Burris‘ on-field crash-and-burn. A few weeks ago, in a roster pinch, the team cut former starter Marcus Williams, scooped up by the Texans. So their faith in the fourth rounder outta NC State has been tested.
Burris was expected to turn things around — beginning on a national stage Thursday night. As if on cue, Juston’s fumble recovery with less than a minute to go in the first half swung the game’s momentum back to Gang Green. It was an even more exciting turnover than Jamal Adams‘ third-quarter strip of Bills TE Nick O’Leary. Or Demario Davis‘ recovery down to the Bills five-yard-line that turned this game into a laugher.
Give credit to the beleaguered Skrine, who while late on some coverage, did a nice job all around. But he had his name called for a needless tripping penalty on Bills rookie long-threat Zay Jones. Darryl Roberts delivered solid tackles in place of Claiborne, until late in the fourth quarter, when he got beat on a late game TD, and whiffed on a gimme INT.
Next: 3. The Seeker
3. The Seeker
You can’t say Trader Mike isn’t working around the clock. Of the current 53-man squad, 15 percent were not on this team in September. These Jets have been injury ravaged, with 22 percent of the original “53” on Injured Reserve. There’s been a steep 52 percent player turnover from 2016’s opening roster.
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But what does it mean? Is this roster better than what this GM inherited in 2015? Maccagnan’s first two drafts yielded more misses than hits. Of this year’s crop, New York Post’s Brian Costello cited five future contributors, while Pro Football Focus brutally assessed the Jets’ 2017 NFL Draft.
When Jeremy Kerley and the Jets kissed and made up for a 2017 reunion, it was widely reported how the veteran receiver went to Florham Park to ask to come home. So it takes away some of the sheen from the feel-good, when you chronologically connect it all to his upcoming suspension.
Ed Stinson was active on the D-line in a few plays against the Falcons before a season-ending neck injury. An interesting under-the-radar Maccagnan move was his replacement Xavier Cooper, a 2015 third-rounder out of Washington State, and two-year starter with the sub-NFL Browns.
This GM really deserves a lot of credit for what we’re seeing on the field. You look at this game’s snap counts, and it was teeming with low-risk acquisitions such as DeMario Davis, Darryl Roberts, Mike Pennel and Kony Ealy. With young players developing, stars emerging and overachieving signings off the street, there’s much to feel good about moving forward.
Next: 2. Getting in Tune
2. Getting In Tune
On one hand, the Jets lost two of five games in part due to special teams blunders. On the other hand, Mike Maccagnan, has re-invigorated the kicking game. His confidence in young Aussie punter Lach Edwards has paid off big-time, as per ESPN the NFL’s sixth-best booter.
Against Buffalo, Edwards had a couple of wobbly first-half boots. But he rebounded strongly by the middle of the third quarter. With the Jets up for good, Edwards hammered the nail in the Bills coffin, when he laid down a perfect squib punt for no return inside the 20. In the early fourth quarter, he smacked another down on the Bills nine-yard line.
Chandler Catanzaro had much to atone for after his MetLife monsoon meltdown against Atlanta. The Clemson grad has gotten the job done — the definition of average as the #16 kicker in the 32-team league. But he far outshines 2013-2016 booter Nick Folk (ranked #25 with the Bucs, before getting relegated to Injured Reserve). Versus the Bills, Catanzaro went a perfect two-for-two, including a clutch first-half 45-yarder that was not exactly a chip shot. His consistency has taken a lot of pressure off the offense.
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Austin Seferian Jenkins — victim of another phantom TD-reversal call, after an invisible second-quarter pass interference call against Matt Forte — whiffed on the hand’s team, after he got hit smack in the mitts by an on-side kick, recovered by training camp cut Shamarko Thomas. It all made for jittery moments before the final whistle. But feel confident about these special teams moving forward.
Next: 1. Who Are You
1. Who Are You
The Jets have become a fairly exciting team to watch. The players believe in themselves, and the fanbase is amped up. But there are still amateur-hour penalties that beset this roster. And there is still no week-to-week consistency. So if the Jets grow up fast and can finish out games, they can make a statement over the final seven games. This coaching staff has much to address.
The Jets expect a tough game in Tampa Bay against Jameis Winston and the reeling Buccaneers (2-5). The biggest questions were if Catanzaro would out-boot Nick Folk‘s replacement, Fordham grad Patrick Murray? Or if Winston would, unfortunately, go down would we see that “geriatric bowl” featuring ex-Jets flamethrower Ryan Fitzpatrick facing a Josh McCown-led Jets?
With ten days off, it’s as if the Jets get a mini-bye before their showdown in the Florida swamps. Then comes their bye-week. So the Jets have a long time to properly heal for the final stretch of the season, with only one game remaining before Thanksgiving.
Through nine weeks, this team is still in the conversation. So if the Jets can defeat Tampa Bay they will go into the bye 5-5. Then comes two tough home games, against Carolina and Kansas City. Then if they can split those contests and be 6-6, then they will truly be playing meaningful games in December. It will be tough sledding, but funnier things have happened. Who’d’ve thunk?