ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Ryan Fitzpatrick finally exorcised his Buffalo demons.
Eight months after playing one of his worst games in a Jets uniform, he returned to his old stomping grounds and proved he’s still got it. Behind Fitzpatrick’s 374 passing yards and Matt Forte’s three touchdown runs, the Jets defeated the Bills, 37-31, on Thursday night at New Era Field.
“I think it means a little bit more than a regular game, just because this was my life for four years being here,” said Fitzpatrick, a former Bill who had been 1-8 against Rex Ryan teams. “Not necessarily because it was against Rex, but this place is special for me to play in.”
The 374 yards were Fitzpatrick’s second-best total with the Jets, who had lost five straight to the Bills. Forte gained 100 yards on 30 carries and Eric Decker (126 yards), Brandon Marshall (101) and Quincy Enunwa (92) had six catches each.
The Jets, whose playoff hopes were dashed with a 22-17 loss here in Week 17 last season, returned with one mission: to win in hostile territory.
They scored 17 unanswered points to stave off the Buffalo stampede, but it wasn’t always pretty. For all of their talent, they continue to be their own worst enemies at times. But luckily for Todd Bowles, Ryan’s team is far more adept at committing self-inflicted wounds.
“To come in here and fight, I’m proud of them,” Bowles said.
The same issues that plagued the Jets during Ryan’s tenure with them — penalties, red-zone miscues, questionable play-calling and an underperforming secondary — sabotaged them early.
A taunting penalty. A holding call. Sloppy fumbles. All of it led to a squandered 20-7 lead.
With the Jets trailing 24-20 late in the third quarter, Fitzpatrick threw three straight completions to Decker, Forte and Jalin Marshall to reach the 7. The Jets caught a break when the Bills were called for 12 men on the field, and Forte scored from the 3 to put the Jets up 27-24.
They expanded their lead to 30-24 in the fourth as Marcus Williams intercepted a pass from Tyrod Taylor to set up Nick Folk’s third field goal. Forte added an insurance TD on a 12-yard run with 4:02 left. Taylor’s third touchdown pass cut the lead to 37-31 with 1:17 to go.
“That’s a good feeling as a quarterback: to have guys looking at you with confidence in their eyes,” Fitzpatrick said. “And that’s what we had today.”
But it wasn’t all good.
“Revis Island” once was a one-man fiefdom, a place where visitors went and never were heard from again. But for the second time in five days, Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis was roasted by a speedy receiver.
In choosing to double-team Sammy Watkins, the Jets left Revis alone on track star Marquise Goodwin, and soon the footrace was on. Goodwin, the fastest player in the NFL, blew by Revis for an 84-yard touchdown, the longest completion at home in the Bills’ 57-season history. The Jets already have allowed four passing touchdowns of at least 50 yards this season after allowing only five all of last year, according to ESPN.
The Jets suffered a scare when Marshall’s left leg bent awkwardly after he was taken down by a horse-collar tackle after making a catch. “I thought I was done,” he said, but he was evaluated briefly in the locker room and returned to the field.
Bowles said he was told Marshall’s knee was “sore” or he suffered “a slight sprain.” But the receiver seemed optimistic about his availability.