EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Certain aspects of Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills were uncharacteristic of the Jets this season. For one thing, they won the contest, 30-10.
They also ran the ball extremely well and kept quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick on his feet. Their defense minimized the potency of a high-scoring Bills offense, albeit one without its starting quarterback, Tyrod Taylor, and running back LeSean McCoy, who left the game in the first half with an ankle injury. In the fourth quarter, Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis recorded his first interception of the season.
None of this matched the profile of a team that had underperformed in about every aspect in which performance is analyzed in the sport. Fittingly for this Jets season, then, it all came in a game that did not matter. A half-empty MetLife Stadium saw the Jets (5-11) playing with only three of the 11 players who started the season on offense, and with the Bills giving their third-string quarterback, Cardale Jones, an extended look.
Buffalo’s 7-8 record coming in was at least more respectable than that of the Jets, but the Bills had already fired Coach Rex Ryan last week. Two years ago, the Jets had fired Ryan after a 4-12 season that bore a few too many similarities to this one. The Jets and the Bills happen to share a good many things in common, and most of them are undesirable.
The Jets began the season as the only N.F.L. team with four quarterbacks on its active roster. They wound up only playing three of them. Christian Hackenberg, the rookie out of Penn State, remained on the sidelines Sunday, although he was active for the first time because of the shoulder injury sustained by the starter, Bryce Petty, last week.
Ryan Fitzpatrick gave a spirited effort (20 of 30 passing, 210 yards, two touchdowns). His 51-yard completion to Quincy Enunwa in the second quarter set up a 2-yard touchdown catch by Bilal Powell to break a scoreless tie. The Jets chose not to play wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who has battled hip and shoulder injuries in the waning weeks of a disappointing season.
There was a devil-may-care attitude in the way both teams played the game. Or worse. Late in the fourth quarter, the Bills simply let a kickoff bounce into the end zone without touching it, and the Jets recovered it for a touchdown. Effectively, it could be considered a 65-yard onside kick for a score.
The Jets twice opted to go for it on fourth down in the red zone, failing both times. Ahead, 10-3, midway through the third quarter, and facing fourth-and-1 from the 10, the Jets could have simply extended their lead with a short field goal. But why not play like there is no tomorrow? They gave the ball to Powell on a draw play. He was stuffed, and the scoring chance — and the drive — ended.
The Jets managed to get the ball back on the next possession after a strip sack of Bills quarterback E. J. Manuel was recovered by the Jets at the Buffalo 14-yard line. It was the team’s 12th takeaway this season. The N.F.L. record for fewest forced turnovers is 11.
Fitzpatrick concluded the drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Jalin Marshall for his 12th touchdown pass of the season — 19 shy of the team record for touchdowns he set a season ago.
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