By Kristian Dyer
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The Jets went vintage in their 27-11 win in Buffalo on Sunday, riding a tough defense and physically imposing their will on the Bills in what looked like an old school game from head coach Rex Ryan. They had labeled Week 9 as “must-win” and the Jets showed up on Sunday afternoon ready to prove that point.
It was a win they were supposed to have, a win they needed to have and a win that, until the final whistle, most Jets fans weren’t sure they would have. This was a surprising Bills team that was riding on the coat tails of a no-name quarterback, a rather plebian running back until this season and a hodgepodge defense.
Moments before kickoff, the Bills looked like the real deal.
At 5-2, they had a signature comeback win over New England and looked like a balanced, poised team. It was a feel good story out of Ralph Wilson Stadium, a team that hadn’t made the postseason since 1999 had won several big games and was out to slay the Goliaths from down state. This was the Bills moment in time, their chance to step up and validate the talk that had begun to circle around their team.
Instead, the Jets bullied and beat them up; controlling the line and limited their mistakes. This was the identity the team had embraced under head coach Rex Ryan, a “Ground & Pound” offense predicated on ball control and a defense that would bend and not break, forcing turnovers and mistakes from their opposition. It was the kind of defensive performance fans got used to seeing in 2009, when the unit was the top-ranked defense in the league in Ryan’s first year with the team.
The defense looked like the group that created pressure and havoc in last year’s playoffs, making Peyton Manning look ordinary and rattling Tom Brady.
This didn’t look like the Jets team that lost three games in a row at Oakland, Baltimore and in New England. It didn’t bear a resemblance to the team that was sloppy in its win over Miami or needed a furious second half to cap a comeback win against the over-rated Chargers. On Sunday, the Jets came out strong and controlled the game, dominating every facet.
From the first whistle when Buffalo was forced into a three-and-out, it was a game the Jets put their stamp on. They never let their foot off the proverbial gas pedal in a season where the defense has looked less than dominating.
There were errors and mistakes – a poorly thrown Mark Sanchez first quarter interception and too many penalties – but though they held just a 3-0 lead at halftime, it was the Jets game to lose. This was what the Jets signed up for during preseason camp, a vintage performance.
The ground game went for 126 yards, the offense converted a season high 54 percent of their third downs and the time of possession – the Jets held the ball for 37:52 of the game – staggeringly tipped to their advantage. The Bills rarely seemed to establish a rhythm, with Ryan Fitzpatrick constantly hurried and completing just 15-for-31 passes for just one touchdown and two interceptions and a 51.9 quarterback rating.
It was a season low for Fitzpatrick in completion percentage, passing yards and quarterback rating – a far cry from his numbers the week before. Even running back Fred Jackson was held below the 100-yard threshold for just the third time this season. It looked and felt like the Jets defense of two years ago.
Dialing back to their old school mentality and forcing the Bills into mistakes with constant pressure comes at a perfect time for the Jets, who face another “must-win” next Sunday night when they host the Patriots.
Having already lost in Foxboro in Week 5, this is the Jets chance to win their way to the top of the division. In Ralph Wilson Stadium yesterday, the Jets showed that they have the wherewithal to beat one of the top teams in the conference – and that they have the ability to do it again against their biggest rival in a week’s time. Now is the Jets chance to step up and muscle their way past New England once and for all.
Kristian R. Dyer covers the Jets for Metro New York and contributes to Yahoo!Sports. He can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer