The Jets played their best game of the season in ending a three-game losing streak with a dominating 34-21 victory over the Bills at MetLife Stadium on Thursday night.
Finishing, establishing the running game and producing a strong defensive effort were the major themes for the Jets going into their only prime-time contest of the season.
“It wasn’t a relief, it was necessary,” coach Todd Bowles said of ending the skid. “We got to do that every week. When we have the lead, we got to close games out, and we did that today.”
The Jets (4-5) had lost their previous three games, squandering 14-point leads to the Patriots and Dolphins and failing to hold a seven-point halftime advantage against the Falcons.
Thursday’s task seemed daunting. The Bills entered with a 5-2 record and had won four of their previous five games. But the Jets had seven sacks, their most since recording seven on Sept. 12, 2016, against the Bengals. The Jets had only 11 sacks entering the game.
The Jets also forced three turnovers, matching the Bills’ total for their first seven games.
Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson said the Jets’ goal was to hold the Bills to fewer than 70 yards rushing. They had 63, with starting running back LeSean McCoy totaling only 25.
“We can check that off with the challenge,” Wilkerson said. “We just got to keep on going, moving forward. We got to get back next week with Tampa, and they have some good backs, and make sure again we stop the run.”
The game was sealed when outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins recorded his second sack of the game, stripping the ball from Tyrod Taylor at the Bills’ 18 with 11:26 to play. The loose ball was scooped up by inside linebacker Demario Davis, who returned it to the Bills’ 5. Matt Forte scored from the 5 with 11:21 left to give the Jets a 31-7 lead.
Forte, who had complained about a lack of running plays in Sunday’s loss to the Falcons, rushed a season-high 14 times for 77 yards with two touchdowns. Bilal Powell totaled 74 rushing yards. The Jets rushed for 194 yards overall.
“We played to what we do best, and our offensive line likes to come off the ball straight ahead and hit guys in the mouth and wear guys out like that,” Forte said. “I think we started to wear on them as the game went on and you saw some runs pop here and there.”
The Jets took a 24-7 lead when Forte scored on a 10-yard run with 4:16 left in the third quarter. It was his first touchdown of the season. Powell juked past three defenders for a 51-yard run on the previous play.
On the Bills’ next possession, Taylor completed a 23-yard pass to tight end Nick O’Leary at the Jets’ 34. No Jet touched O’Leary, and after he stood up, rookie safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye converged on him, with Maye stripping him of the ball. Adams recovered it with 2:26 left in the quarter.
Earlier in the third quarter, Josh McCown connected with Robby Anderson on a fade route for a 25-yard touchdown to push the Jets’ lead to 17-7.
The Jets’ defense was outstanding in the first half, getting five sacks, seven quarterback hits, three tackles for loss and a fumble recovery.
Wilkerson picked up his second sack of the season and Leonard Williams recorded a half-sack, his first of the year.
The Jets finished an eight-play, 54-yard drive when McCown scrambled for a 10-yard run for a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. It was McCown’s team-leading third rushing touchdown.