It wasn’t pretty, but the New York Jets won again and are off to a surprising start.
Not even a team-record 20 penalties (for 168 yards), three turnovers, nor blowing an 11-point, second-half lead at home could prevent the Jets (2-1) from getting by their AFC rivals, the Buffalo Bills (1-2), 27-20, at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.
Despite all of their ugly play, there was still plenty of good for the Jets, such as their 513 total yards of offense and stopping the Bills on Buffalo’s final four drives after the visitors tied the game on an early fourth-quarter touchdown.
Rookie quarterback Geno Smith’s 69-yard strike to wide receiver Santonio Holmes (five catches, 154 yards, one touchdown), just 1:16 later, proved to be the difference, as New York found a way to win for the second time in as many home games.
And, this time, the Jets didn’t even need a gift late hit on Smith (16-for-29, career-high 331 yards, two passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdowns, two interceptions), as they received to beat Tampa Bay in Week 1.
New York instead, complimented Smith’s nice passing day with 182 rushing yards, led by a career-high 149-yard effort (on 27 carries) from running back Bilal Powell.
Smith got the Jets off to quick start by hitting wide receiver Stephen Hill (three catches, 108 yards) for a 45-yard completion up the right side, on the third play of the game. Nine plays later, Smith finished a 12-play, 80-yard drive with an eight-yard touchdown run (the first of his career) up the middle, to put New York up 7-0.
The Bills cut that deficit to a point on a pair of second-quarter field goals, the second of which came off of a Smith interception deep in the Jets’ end, but Smith went back to Hill on a 51-yard touchdown pass (to cap another 80-yard scoring drive) before a defensive pass interference call helped New York push its lead to 17-6 on a 47-yard field goal by kicker Nick Folk as the first half ended.
Folk capped an eight-play, 64-yard drive with a 34-yard field goal to put the Jets up 20-6, but after Buffalo’s Dan Carpenter answered that with a 43-yard kick of his own, Smith’s second pick led to a 26-yard Carpenter boot that pulled the Bills to within 20-12 late in the third quarter.
Aided by another pass interference penalty, New York moved 48 yards in seven plays but was stopped on 4th-and-1 from the Buffalo 37-yard line.
Two Bills possessions later, Buffalo’s own rookie quarterback came through with a couple of big scoring plays to end an 80-yard drive that tied the game. Quarterback E.J. Manuel (19-for-42, 243 yards, one touchdown) completed a 33-yard scoring pass to tight end Scott Chandler (five catches, 79 yards, one touchdown) and followed that play up with a successful two-point conversion pass to wide receiver Stevie Johnson (six catches, 86 yards), to even the game up, 20-20, with 10:39 to go.
After the Bills helped the Jets out with yet another pass interference penalty (for 20 yards, to the New York 16-yard line), Smith, just two plays later, hit Holmes with the game-winning play up the right side.
With three time outs and the two-minute warning still to go, Buffalo was able to get near midfield three straight times, but punted twice and turned the ball over on downs before the Bills got the ball once more, at their own 1-yard line without enough time to threaten again.
In a battle of overachieving teams from which little was expected this year, the Jets will look to get their first road win of the season, at Tennessee (2-1), next Sunday.