Sunday’s Jets-Bills game was a statistical mismatch on defense, with the Bills among the NFL’s elite and the Jets, well, not.
But for most of the day at Highmark Stadium, the Jets more than held their own, frustrating Bills quarterback Josh Allen before fading down the stretch in a 27-10 loss that clinched the AFC East title for Buffalo.
It looked bad early for the Jets, who fell behind 10-0 and appeared as if they might get run out of the building. But they tightened and eventually forced to Bills to punt seven times after they had not punted at all in the previous two games.
Buffalo finally broke through with two late touchdowns to clinch it, but the defense did what it could, given an offense that totaled 53 yards — the lowest figure in franchise history.
It was a satisfying comeback for a defense that saw the Bills win, 45-17, at MetLife Stadium in November — and continue throwing the ball even after that outcome no longer was in doubt.
In the week leading up to the game, Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said, "I would definitely say that there’s some guys, probably including myself in some ways, that want some redemption.
"When a team has got a comfortable lead on you and they keep throwing the ball deep on you, that leaves a mark; that leaves an impression."
Linebacker C.J. Mosley said that "in the moment you felt the disrespect," but by the time the team took the field in Orchard Park, there were more immediate priorities at play against a divisional opponent.
"As a team, we wanted to really show what we have for our last game and really try to put something together," he said.
Quarterback Zach Wilson said of the defense, "Unbelievable, man. I mean, that’s a really good offense and those guys, they came out ready to go, slowing them up, giving us endless opportunities, good field position.
"I thought those guys played lights-out today. They put us in position to really do anything we wanted to . . . Hats off to those guys."
Coach Robert Saleh said, "Really, really pumped up for the defense. They played their absolute butts off. I know the stats don’t look like that. But if you just watch the tape, I mean it was tough sledding around the field for a little while on defense and just couldn’t get anything going on offense to give them a break.
"But we’re really, really proud of the defense in the way it played today, and hopefully something that we can move forward, take with us to the 2022 season."
As Saleh said, the stats did not look great for the Jets. Buffalo totaled 424 yards of offense, including 170 rushing.
Defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins said that given the way the defense played, it was frustrating to look at the final score. But anyone watching knew how good the Jets defense was and how flummoxed Allen got — and knew this was not the same defense the Bills saw in November.
"A lot of things transpired in that game that we just weren’t happy with," Rankins said. "So coming into this one, we knew we wanted to go out on a high note. We wanted to come in and execute and play our brand of defense and our brand of football and go out and make the plays we knew we could make last game but weren’t able to do, and I felt like we did that for the most part."