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Jets beat Browns in opener to start Todd Bowles Era on winning note

Head coach Todd Bowles of the New York

Head coach Todd Bowles of the New York Jets smiles as he walks off the field after defeating the Cleveland Browns at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015 in East Rutherford, N.J. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Calvin Pace couldn't hide his happiness.

For once, the Jets' defense didn't have to shoulder the load alone. This time the offense could be trusted to take care of the football and put points on the board. And as a result, the Jets came away with an easy victory in Game 1 of the Todd Bowles Era.

"Truth be told, man, our offense gave us serious problems in training camp. And that right there showed me that they're for real this year," Pace said after the Jets' 31-10 win over the Browns in Sunday's season opener at MetLife Stadium.

"The running game is strong as usual, but now we've got some threats outside . . . It's good to have a complement on the other side and not to be out there and having to do it all by yourself and try to play a perfect game."

Despite injuries to cornerback Antonio Cromartie and rookie outside linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin -- both of whom had to be carted off the field -- the Jets remained unaffected by adversity, just as they did in training camp. And that's a credit to Bowles.

"He's a calming presence, but he's also got a lot of fire," said quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who threw two touchdown passes. "You look at him on the sidelines and kind of feel at ease. He's very comfortable in who he is and in his role. We certainly feed off that."

Fitzpatrick showed no signs of being just another game manager. He was smooth and in control, and he threw a nice ball, too.

Fitzpatrick finished 15-for-24 for 179 yards. He threw an interception, but his teammates had his back even on the pick. Brandon Marshall stripped the ball out of the hands of safety Tashaun Gipson at the Cleveland 17-yard line and reached the 9. Two plays later, Chris Ivory scampered 10 yards into the end zone as the Jets tied the score at 7 with 9:41 left in the first half.

"He made a veteran move," Gipson said. "I can't tip my hat enough to him. I think that play changed the game."

So did Bowles. "That was huge," he said. "Brandon plays everything. He plays offense. He plays defense. He plays aggressive. To me, that was the play of the game."

Ivory rushed 20 times for 91 yards and two TDs. Bilal Powell averaged 5.2 yards a carry, rushing 12 times for 62 yards.

Bowles' defense also made key plays. Though the Browns controlled the time of possession (31:40 to 28:20), they failed to score another point after posting 10 in the second quarter.

Their starting quarterback, Josh McCown, was knocked out of the game with a concussion late in the first quarter as he tried to scramble toward the end zone. He fumbled after a hard, low hit by safety Calvin Pryor and then was sent flying on a midair hit by linebacker Demario Davis. McCown did not return and was replaced by Johnny Manziel, who was 13-for-24 for 182 yards with a touchdown -- the first of his career -- an interception and two fumbles. He also was sacked three times.

The Jets had five takeaways -- their most since the 2010 season finale against Buffalo and their most in a season opener since 1984 at Indianapolis.

"Confidence is everything," said Marshall, who had six catches for 62 yards and a 1-yard TD to go along with Eric Decker's 15-yard score. "Not only in sports but in life. And when you take confidence and turn it into momentum, successful things happen."

It's only one game, but the win was a positive sign for a team that's built "to win now," Pace said. "A lot of the guys that they brought in are going to play an integral role in us trying to get back to the playoffs. It's a team win . . . We've just got to keep building."

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