Thursday was the night the New York Jets sought vengeance for their Week 1 loss to the Buffalo Bills. New York split its season series with Buffalo and won its fourth game of the year, 34-21, and two late Bills touchdowns made that margin of victory much closer than it should have been.
Surprising as the result was, there are three simple reasons the Jets dominated this game. Let’s break them down.
The defense forced sacks and turnovers, despite all odds
The Jets entered Week 9 having recorded just 11 sacks on the year. Only one team, Tampa Bay, had fewer. But Gang Green sacked Tyrod Taylor seven times Thursday.
Similarly, Buffalo entered this game with the best turnover differential in the league, +14, thanks to just three turnovers. They doubled that total in one outing, losing three fumbles to New York.
No sane person would have predicted any of this to happen based on what happened throughout the first half of the season. But that’s what the NFL is this season. Every team is careening wildly toward 8-8, most of all the Jets. Can the Jets keep it up next week against Tampa Bay? Who on earth knows? Probably not. Everything is wildly inconsistent.
But give credit to guys like Muhammad Wilkerson, who recorded a sack for the second straight game after being sackless through the first seven. Credit to Marcus Maye and Jamal Adams, rookies who certainly don’t play like rookies, as shown in their heads-up play stripping tight end Nick O’Leary upon realizing he hadn’t been touched down on a certain play. Credit to Darron Lee–yes, Darron Lee!–for his final stat line of eight total tackles, three tackles for loss, two quarterback hits and a sack. Lee also chased Tyrod Taylor right into Jordan Jenkins, who forced the third fumble of the night.
A return to the run game
Though he didn’t name offensive coordinator John Morton, Matt Forte aired a grievance about the Jets’ offensive strategy after last week’s close loss to the Falcons. Maybe Morton was listening.
Just look at the difference play calling between Thursday night and last week. Week 8 vs. the Falcons: 22 carries for 43 yards, 33 pass attempts for 257 yards. Week 9 vs. the Bills: 41 carries for 194 yards, 20 pass attempts for 140 yards. What a difference this made.
This trickled down to Forte himself. A week after gaining a dismal seven rushing yards, he had 14 touches for 77 rushing yards in addition to four catches for 19 yards. Most importantly, he found the end zone for the first time this year – and the second. Even his standard runs were full of slick cuts. Bilal Powell broke off a 51-yard run and finished with nine carries for 74 yards, and even third-stringer Eli McGuire had himself a nice night with 13 carries for 30 yards.
This game once again proves that the Jets’ offense works better when the balance is closer to 50-50 and the running backs have a chance to establish themselves early and often. By the end of their second drive, this team gained more rushing yards (50) than they’d had in their entire Week 1 game (38) against the same Bills defense, albeit a unit that still had nose tackle Marcell Dareus. That set the tone for the entire game.
Robby Anderson continued his scoring ways
Josh McCown only threw one touchdown in this game, and Anderson caught it, beating rookie cornerback Tre’Davious White on a fly route for a 25-yarder early in the third quarter. Any fantasy owners who signed him this week were duly rewarded: Anderson now has a touchdown in three straight games.
In all, Anderson caught four of his five targets for 48 yards to lead the Jets’ receivers. He’s had a hot-and-cold season, but it’s clear the talent is there for Anderson to be a strong WR3 or even WR2 option in the NFL.