Opening Statement: Jets Roar in Regular Season Debut

So much for all that preseason consternation over the New York Jets’ inability to score points.

Playing the Buffalo Bills (0-1) in the regular season took care of that.

The Jets (1-0), who continue to have the Bills’ number in recent years, posted a huge sum on the scoreboard, while beating their AFC East rivals for the eighth time in the teams’ past nine meetings, during a 48-28 rout at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on Sunday afternoon.

After becoming the first team since the 1977 Atlanta Falcons to go without a touchdown in their first three preseason games, the Jets followed up a winless preseason by using four Bills turnovers to score on six straight possessions, while getting half of their 48 points – their most ever in a season opener – off of Buffalo miscues.

Before that could happen though, New York had to overcome its only turnover of the game on its first possession of the season, when quarterback Mark Sanchez (19-for-27, for 266 yards, three touchdowns and one interception) caused some grumblings among Jet Nation with an awkward, close-range flip along the left sideline, to tight end Jeff Cumberland (three catches – more than he had during his entire rookie season last year – for 33 yards). The ball deflected off of Cumberland and into the hands of linebacker Bryan Scott (two tackles, one interception) who barely got his feet inbounds for the pick at the Buffalo 46-yard line.

Two plays after completing a 13-yard pass for a first down on the Bills’ first play from scrimmage however, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (18-for-32, for 195 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions) was picked off by star cornerback Darrelle Revis, who made a nice play to step in front of wide receiver Stevie Johnson (four catches for a team-high 55 yards), and similar to Scott, yet on the opposite sideline, managed to narrowly get both feet inbounds.

Mixing both the running and passing games on their next possession, the Jets marched 61 yards on eight plays, helped by a 21-yard pass from Sanchez to wide receiver Jeremy Kerley (four catches for 45 yards and a touchdown) and a 12-yard scamper from running back Shonn Greene (27 carries for a team-high 94 yards and a touchdown). Four plays after badly overthrowing wide receiver Santonio Holmes (four catches for 68 yards) on what looked to be an easy touchdown chance up the right side, Sanchez looked in the same direction and connected with Kerley on a 12-yard touchdown pass that put the Jets ahead for good, 7-0, with 6:02 left in the opening quarter.

Cornerback Kyle Wilson then continued a rough start for Fitzpatrick, snagging a pick in front of wide receiver David Nelson (two catches for 31 yards) six plays into the Buffalo’s next possession.

Once again, New York capitalized, needing just five plays to go 52 yards, while taking a 14-0 lead on the first play of the second quarter, when Sanchez threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to rookie second-round draft pick, wide receiver Stephen Hill, who in his first NFL regular season game, made an immediate impact with a team-high five catches for a game-high 89 yards and the first two touchdown receptions of his professional career.

A Bills three-and-out followed, and just 2:13 after Hill’s score, Kerley returned a punt 68 yards for a touchdown to extend the Jets’ lead to a commanding 21-0, just 2:40 into second quarter.

Running back C.J. Spiller (14 carries for a game-high and career-high 169 yards and a touchdown) tried to keep his team close (after starting back Fred Jackson was injured midway through the second quarter) with a 56-yard touchdown run 3:34 later, to trim New York’s lead to 21-7, but a long 15-play, 73-yard drive that consumed nearly half (7:09) of the period, ended with a 25-yard field goal by kicker Nick Folk, to push the Jets’ edge to 24-7 with 1:57 to go in the half.

Spiller made a 30-yard reception on the next play, but he was stripped by safety LaRon Landry (seven tackles, one forced fumble and two quarterback hits), who returned the ball nine yards after fellow safety Yeremiah Bell (four tackles and pass deflection) scooped up the loose ball and brought it back eight yards before lateralling to Landry.

That led directly to a 39-yard field goal by Folk, which gave New York a 27-7 lead a dozen seconds before halftime.

Things went from bad to worse for Buffalo as the third quarter began.

Just three plays into the period, cornerback Antonio Cromartie (four tackles, one pass deflection, one interception and a touchdown), brought back another ill-advised throw by Fitzpatrick 40 yards to put the Jets up 34-7, and right after another three-and-out for the Bills, Sanchez completed to Hill for 27 yards to the Buffalo 21-yard line. Two short runs by Greene later, Sanchez tossed a 17-yard score to Hill, to increase New York’s advantage to an embarrassingly large 41-7 just 5:22 into the second half.

Buffalo made the score a lot more respectable with touchdowns on each of its next three drives, going 77, 96, and 41 yards to get to within 41-28 on a 29-yard touchdown pass from Fitzpatrick to Johnson with 5:58 left in the game, but the Jets recovered an onside kick after that score and turned that into six-play, 50-yard drive that culminated with a one-yard touchdown plunge by Greene, to close the scoring with 1:17 remaining.

Despite not having much to do with the game, the NFL’s most popular backup quarterback, Tim Tebow – who was mainly used as a decoy while not throwing a pass and rushing for only 11 yards in five carries – was reportedly swarmed by a throng of media in the Jets’ locker room after the game.

As promised, New York experimented with their new wildcat offense, lining Tebow up at wide receiver on the first play of the game, but the Jets’ regular offense and an opportunistic defense were the primary catalysts for Gang Green’s easy victory.

Those results might be something for New York’s coaching staff to strongly consider going forward, especially when it looks at the game film and sees its starting franchise quarterback being manhandled and dragged to the ground on the fourth play of the game, when Sanchez lined up at wide receiver with Tebow at quarterback.

For the first week at least, concerns about how the Jets would score enough points to win in the regular season were strongly quieted, as the Jets racked up 17 more points in their regular season opener than in their four preseason games combined.

If New York’s own performance didn’t inspire it enough, perhaps the halftime ceremonies did, as ex-Jet running back Curtis Martin’s number 28 was retired at halftime after his framed jersey was unveiled at midfield by former Jet greats Joe Namath and Don Maynard. A five-time Pro-Bowler and the NFL’s fourth-leading rusher of all time, Martin was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame 36 days earlier, in his second year of eligibility.

New York will attempt to build on its successful start when it travels to Pittsburgh (0-1), which lost its opener in Denver, 31-19, on Sunday Night Football. Kickoff between the Jets and Steelers is scheduled for 4:25 pm ET next Sunday.

About the Author

Jon Wagner

Jon has been a credentialed writer with New York Sports Day since 2009, primarily covering the New York Knicks and Hofstra men's basketball. He has also occasionally covered other college basketball and New York's pro teams including the Mets, Giants, Jets, Islanders, Rangers and Cosmos (including their three most recent championship seasons).Jon is former Yahoo Sports contributor who previously covered various sports for the Queens Ledger. He's a proud alum of Hofstra University and the Connecticut School of Broadcasting (which he attended on a full scholarship).He remains convinced to this day that John Starks would have won the Knicks a championship in 1994 had Hakeem Olajuwon not blocked Starks' shot in Game 6 of the 1994 NBA Finals.

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