What a win for the Jets. Heading into today’s matchup with the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium, the Jets had heard their skeptics. During recent victories over the Bengals and Chiefs, they were criticized rather than praised for their inconsistency. During losses to the Chargers and Raiders, they were told how embarassing they were. A future Hall of Fame quarterback, an elite nose tackle and a plethora of other weapons could not save the Jets from scrutiny. They were supposed to immediately transform into a mighty giant, while others in the AFC East were expected to crumble around them. But as grim as the hopes had been, the Jets still found themselves one win away from first place heading into today’s battle in Buffalo. After weeks of being labeled the favorite and underacheiving, the Jets assumed the underdog role today and made the most of it. After today’s 26-17 win over the Bills, the Jets have a chance to enter next week’s game against the Rams in a three-way tie atop the AFC East, depending on the outcome of the Patriots-Colts showdown tonight.
*Nose tackle Kris Jenkins was worth every penny of the $35 million the Jets invested in him this offseason. Jenkins dominated the Buffalo offensive line, recording two sacks and five tackles. Perhaps the most impressive stat of the day was that Buffalo recorded only 30 total rushing yards on 17 carries. Standout running back Marshawn Lynch was essentially eliminated from the gameplan, as he carried the ball only nine times for 16 yards and caught three passes for 52 yards. With Jenkins controlling the middle of the Jets’ defensive line, opponents’ have been turned one-dimensional this season. As Head Coach Eric Mangini preached throughout last week, playing solid run defense will do wonders during the winter months.
*A great decision by Jets’ Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to call a handoff on Thomas Jones’ third quarter touchdown run. The Jets faced a first-and-goal from the Bills’ seven-yard line while up 16-10, but the handoff obviously had the Bills’ defense fooled. Jones burst through the middle of the line and was barely touched as he stampeded into the endzone. It was a great job of blocking by the Jets’ offensive line and an even more impressive burst of speed by Jones.
*Nice bounceback afternoon from Jets’ kicker Jay Feely, who nailed four (37, 26, 20, 31) out of five field goal attempts in a stiff Buffalo wind. Feely’s 52-yard field goal against Oakland was as big as a kick as the Jets have had in years, but he has been shaky at times (8-for-11 heading into today)while filling in for the injured Mike Nugent. The Jets obviously would love Nugent to be back, but Feely is by no means a downgrade.
*Great job by Reggie Hodges to grab and perfectly place James Dearth’s high snap on Feely’s fourth-quarter field goal. A high snap can often throw off a kicker’s rhythm and force him into a missed attempt, but Hodges perfectly executed the hold. The field goal extended the Jets’ lead to nine points with 2:16 left, sealing the victory.
*A solid all-around performance from cornerback Darrelle Revis, who recorded one sack, one interception, one forced fumble and five tackles. Revis has quietly continued his stellar play which began early in training camp and is turning into one of the NFL’s elite corners. Bills wide receiver Lee Evans, who is one of the league’s unheralded stars, caught only four passes for 41 yards. Right now, it can easily be argued that Jenkins and Revis are playing as well as any player in the league at their respective positions. If both players can continue to play at such an elite level, the Jets will be a tough out come January.
*Opposite Revis, rookie cornerback Dwight Lowery also had an impressive showing, recording four tackles and a forced fumble. Lowery has been a pleasant surprise this season for the Jets, who entered training camp with a giant hole opposite Revis. The trio of David Barrett, Drew Coleman and Justin Miller would be hard-pressed to match Lowery’s impressive performance this season.
*If safety Abram Elam did not seal up the starting safety spot alongside Kerry Rhodes for the forseeable future, you would have to wonder if he ever will. Eric Smith, who continues to battle post-concussion issues, never made an impact when he did play. Elam, who returned a Trent Edwards pass 92 yards for a touchdown, always seems to have a nose for the football. Elam is not a standout safety but he is a consistent tackler who provides steady pass and run coverage.
*No David Harris, no problem. David Bowens is not going to light up highlight reels, but he has been a pleasant surprise for the Jets this season. Today, Bowens added five tackles and one sack.
*The Bills were without defensive end Aaron Schobel and it showed. Buffalo recorded zero sacks this afternoon and rarely pressured Favre. The outcome might have been different had Buffalo been able to generate a pass rush with Schobel, but nonetheless, credit must be given to the Jets’ offensive line. The line had taken criticism over the previous weeks while Favre was knocked down repeatedly and today the line proved its worth. The hardest hit Favre took all afternoon was on Jabari Greer’s 42-yard interception return for a touchdown.
*Another impressive performance by linebacker Eric Barton, who recorded eight tackles on the afternoon.
*I may be searching too hard for an area to criticize after the Jets did little wrong, but Vernon Gholston continues to remain non-existent. Only one assisted tackle surely is not what the Jets were hoping for when they signed the Ohio State standout to a $20 million signing bonus in April.