Jets S Abram Elam sacks and strips Bills QB JP Losman which led to a fumble recovery and winning TD by DE Shaun Ellis during the Jets 31-27 win against Buffalo. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Just when everyone thought it was over, it wasn’t. Right as radio reporters began to utter those painful words—‘Same old Jets,’ the game made a dramatic U-turn into traffic and Gang Green got an early Christmas present.
As the clock dwindled down in the fourth quarter, the Bills went from clinging to a lead to milking out the clock. Why Buffalo dialed up a pass play inside the final three minutes is beyond anyone’s imagination, but safety Abram Elam got to JP Losman for an 11-yard sack and after a Jets roll, defensive end Shaun Ellis picked up the lose ball and tight-roped it 11 yards into the end zone with just under two minutes to play. It put the Jets up 31-27 and The Meadowlands crowd into a frenzy, all the while putting Gang Green one game closer to their first division crown since 2002.
Despite four lead changes, it was a victory that players will tell you was inevitable.
“We knew we were gonna win,” Leon Washington said. “We just didn’t know how.”
Washington had a 47-yard run for a touchdown, his only carry of the game, to go along with Thomas Jones’ 78 yards and a touchdown. With his two-yard run in the first quarter, Jones set Jets single-season records for touchdowns (15), rushing touchdowns (13), and consecutive games with a touchdown (8).
“It’s a great accomplishment, but the major thing is that we won,” Jones said. “A lot of times if you break a record and had a good game and you lose it’s kinda like you didn’t even do it.”
The AFC’s leading rusher coming into this Sunday had nothing but praise for the people that have helped him achieve his success thus far.
“I have the best line in the league,” Jones said of his blockers. “I have the best fullback in the league in Tony Richardson. Everybody’s stepping up and contributing.”
His two-yard rumble to daylight around right guard Brandon Moore capped off a solid opening drive for the Jets, one that suggested today would be different than the last two losses, but the Bills refused to go away as they scored 14 in the second quarter to make it 21-17 at halftime.
Bills linebacker Paul Posluszny had four tackles, an interception and two defended passes in anchoring a defense that gave Brett Favre (17-for-30, 207 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs) trouble.
“As an older player, statistics don’t matter quite as much as they used to,” Favre said. “One statistic that matters is wins and losses. It doesn’t matter how we win, it’s a win. Believe me, it’s a win.”
Favre hit seven different targets, including Laveranues Coles five times for 82 yards and Jerricho Cotchery four times for 34 yards and a touchdown. He also flashed some speed on the game's opening drive when he kept a ball to the left and ran it for a 27-yard gain.
“It amazes me that we ran it,” Favre laughed. “I was about 20 yards down there when I realized that I was slower than I thought.”
Buffalo did the only scoring of the third quarter with a 48-yard field goal by Rian Lindell to inch closer, making it 21-20 with one quarter remaining.
A Jay Feely field goal from 31 yards out gave the home team some breathing room, but two Bills’ possessions later Fred Jackson scored on an 11-yard run when he carried several green jerseys across the goal line to give Buffalo the lead 27-24 with 5:39 on the clock. A quick Jets three-and-out gave Buffalo the ball back, setting up the dramatic finish.
Head coach Eric Mangini was not one to celebrate though as he stayed true to his 'one-thing-at-a-time' demeanor when Ellis scored, stating that while he was happy, there was a flipside to it.
“You’re also looking at the fact that you have to kickoff to one of the most explosive kickoff returners in the NFL, and they have plenty of time left with three time outs,” the coach said.
You could not have told the crowd that, especially not Fireman Ed, who called for three ‘J-E-T-S, Jets! Jets! Jets!’ chants after Ellis’ triumphant touchdown.
While the locker room was full of talk about the ‘little things’ this past week, the stats did not tell the story in this division matchup as the Bills had more first downs (23-18), more rushing yards (187-165), a higher red zone efficiency (75 percent-67), and a higher third down efficiency than New York, having converted 6-of-14 to the Jets’ 4-of-11.
There was one stat that told everything, however. The Jets were up 1-0 in scoring on fumbles thanks to Abram Elam and Shaun Ellis.
“It was a good play,” Ellis said of the biggest one of the game. “Elam just did a great job of getting to the quarterback, sacking him and forcing the ball out and I was right there to pick it up.”
Ellis may not have simply picked up the ball, but the Jets’ season as well. With two games left to play, Gang Green controls its destiny as it holds a tie-breaker over New England and Miami—both winners Sunday.
“It’s a one-game season,” Elam said about this spring-boarding his team into next week at Seattle. “Each and every game matters right now.”
Ladies and Gentlemen… David Clowney!
WR David Clowney suited up for his first NFL game Sunday, and had one catch for 26 yards. The catch was a spectacular one-handed grab on the right sideline from Favre.
“It felt good,” Clowney told reporters. “I definitely got the jitters out. Hopefully I’ll dress again next week and take it from there.”
He added that it’s all up to the coaches whether or not he deserves the right to suit up next week. Of course the status of Brad Smith, who was out this week with a possible concussion suffered at San Francisco, will play a big role in Clowney dressing or not.
“As long as we’re winning, I’ll be happy,” Clowney added.
Elam Has Buffalo’s Number
Safety Abram Elam has played spoiler for the Bills more than once this season. In addition to the sack he put on JP Losman that forced the fumble Shaun Ellis took back to win the game Sunday, Elam had a 92-yard INT he returned for a touchdown against Buffalo in Week 9.
“He’s a big-play specialist,” Mangini said about Elam. “He plays different roles each week.
“What you like about Abe is that whatever you ask him to do, he always does it to the best of his ability. He’s always willing to play whatever role and he always does his job. Whatever his job is, you can always count on Abe to take care of that responsibility.”
Age and Beauty
The Jets opened the game with a well-oiled seven-play, 72-yard drive in 3:09 that resulted in Thomas Jones’ two-yard touchdown run, marking the seventh time this season the Jets have scored on their opening drive (five touchdowns, two field goals).
The four players that made the biggest contributions in yardage combine for 50 years of NFL experience:
Brett Favre: 18th year; 2-for-3, 27 yards passing; one carry for 27 yards.
Tony Richardson: 14th year; one carry for 12 yards.
Laveranues Coles: 9th year; one catch for 22 yards.
Thomas Jones: 9th year; two carries for six yards and one touchdown.
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