(TSX / STATS) — EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — You could almost hear Al Pacino reciting the line he made famous in “The Godfather Part III” if he were a Jets fan: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”
Even the Jets couldn’t blow this one.
Losers of three straight in which they gave up 14-point leads in the first two and fourth-quarter advantages in the second two, the Jets put together a complete performance, dominating the Buffalo Bills 34-21 on Thursday night at MetLife Stadium.
New York (4-5) is still in last place in the AFC East, so talk of a playoff push would be premature. However, the Jets showed surprising signs of improvement in two areas where they previously struggled — running the ball and rushing the passer.
Running back Matt Forte (14 carries, 77 yards) complained after Sunday’s loss to the Atlanta Falcons that the Jets got too pass-happy. But the Jets eclipsed last week’s total of 43 rushing yards in the first quarter with 53, then finished with 194 on 41 carries.
Forte scored his first two touchdowns of the season, the second giving the Jets their largest lead of the season to that point (31-7) and sending many fans to the exits as the rout was on.
Buffalo quarterback Tyrod Taylor threw for a touchdown and ran for one late to pique the few remaining fans’ interest, but the Jets closed it out and won for the first time in nearly a month.
Forte’s touchdown was set up by a strip-sack by Jordan Jenkins and a recovery by Demario Davis to the Buffalo 5-yard line.
The Jets’ defense came into the game with 11 sacks, tied for second worst in the league with the Titans, but New York kept Taylor skittish all game. The Jets sacked the man they call “T-Mobile” because of his elusiveness seven times, and Muhammad Wilkerson, who didn’t practice for the third straight week, had arguably his best game of the season with a sack, two QB hits and a pass deflection.
The Jets took a 17-7 lead on their first drive of the second half, marching 74 yards in seven plays, capped by Robby Anderson’s 25-yard touchdown catch on a fade route down the right sideline. On the play, quarterback Josh McCown tied his career high with his 13th TD pass of the season.
Anderson, who blew past Bills rookie corner Tre’Davious White, has scored in three consecutive games.
For the fifth straight game, the Jets took the lead first.
McCown scrambled around the left side and lunged into the end zone to put the Jets up 7-0 with 7:43 left in the first quarter.
The 38-year-old quarterback, who spiked the ball with all his might, leads the Jets with three rushing touchdowns this season. The other two came on sneaks from the 1-yard line.
The Bills tied the score at 7 eight seconds into the second quarter on the first career touchdown catch for rookie Zay Jones. The second-round pick out of East Carolina caught a 10-yard pass on a slant route from Taylor.
The Jets appeared to score a touchdown on the ensuing drive.
McCown, rolling to his left, threw across his body to Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the front corner of the end zone. But Forte was blocking downfield before McCown released the ball and was flagged for offensive pass interference.
Chandler Catanzaro, who missed two kicks in the rain on Sunday, hit from 45 yards to put the Jets up 10-7.
Buffalo, which had won four of its last five coming into the game, fell to 5-3, missing on a chance to tie New England for first place in the division with the Patriots on a bye this week.
McCown completed 14 of 20 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown. Taylor was 29 of 40 for 285 yards and two scores.
NOTES: Jets WR ArDarius Stewart, after being inactive for the Sunday loss to the Falcons, was reinstated as the team’s kick returner. He returned the opening boot 26 yards. He also recovered an onside kick late in the game. … Jets WR Jeremy Kerley, who reportedly has a suspension pending, was active and fair-caught the Bills’ first punt. However, he injured a foot in the first quarter. Elijah McGuire replaced him as the punt returner. … Jets LB Bruce Carter sustained a hamstring injury and did not return. … Bills WR Zay Jones was injured late in the first half as Jets CB Buster Skrine tripped him and Jones landed awkwardly on his right leg. Skrine was flagged or illegal contact. … Bills WR Jordan Matthews lost a fumble inside a minute to play in the first half. It was only Buffalo’s second lost fumble of the season to that point. Taylor lost another later in the game.