NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) – Rex Ryan laughs when people say his Jets are a lucky bunch.
Sure, they needed a brilliant catch by Plaxico Burress, a few drops by Buffalo’s Stevie Johnson and lots of deep breaths, but the Jets coach says his team did exactly what it needed to in its 28-24 victory Sunday.
“I’ve said it for three years now: I don’t care if I’m known as the luckiest coach in the league,” Ryan said Monday. “That’s great. As long as we win, that’s fine with me.”
New York (6-5) kept pace in the AFC playoff race with the win that snapped a two-game skid, but the Jets realize they need to be a lot better if they intend to make it to the postseason for the third straight year. They entered the game against the Bills with many players saying they needed to win all six of their final games to reach the playoffs.
The Jets got the first one, but it was hardly convincing – especially when Ryan Fitzpatrick was driving the Bills down the field in the closing seconds.
“It was scary,” cornerback Darrelle Revis said with a laugh.
It was a victory that was filled with lots of juicy story lines including Johnson mocking Burress by pretending he was shot during a touchdown celebration, Mark Sanchez having another mediocre performance despite setting a career high with four TD passes and Burress coming up with a one-handed grab for a first down that saved the Jets’ season, at least for now.
It was Sanchez’s eighth fourth-quarter comeback victory, despite the fact he completed under 50 percent of his passes – he was 17 of 35 – and threw an interception for the fifth straight game.
“Mark Sanchez is not our problem,” a defiant Ryan said. “He’s one of the strengths of our team.”
There was also the Jets’ defense appearing as if it was about to have another late-game collapse. But this time, the Jets survived three close calls. A wide-open Johnson dropped a pass in the middle of the field that might have gone for a touchdown. Fitzpatrick misfired on a pass to Johnson a few seconds later, zipping the ball just behind the receiver in the end zone. Johnson was open again on the last play of the game, but Fitzpatrick’s throw was way over his head.
“It wasn’t real pretty,” Ryan said, “but we’ll take it.”
“He was wide open,” said Revis. “If he would have caught it, he’d probably score.”
Many expected the Jets to win easily, considering the Bills had several starters sidelined with injuries and New York has played its best under Ryan in desperate situations. Instead, it was a nail-biter that left the Jets and their fans drained.
Few players showed up in the locker room during media availability Monday, and those who did weren’t exactly celebrating.
“I think there’s still room to push our team,” Revis said.
“I think there’s more so a sense of frustration,” said Aaron Maybin. “If we’re going to really consider ourselves to be one of the best defenses in the NFL, we can’t have those inconsistencies.”
The win also had some in the media far from convinced that this is a playoff-caliber team, saying that it could easily be 5-6 without a little bit of luck.
“It is funny how if we make a mistake, we’re horrible and it’s, `Oh, they’re terrible,’” Ryan said. “That could be bad luck there, too. But if we make a play, it’s, `Oh, we’re just lucky.’ So, maybe it’s the green (team colors). I don’t know. I hope karma is with us. I hope we continue to be lucky, and we’ll take that.”
“The old saying, `I’d rather be lucky than good.’ I’d rather be both, and I think we are.”
But there were moments, particularly early, when it appeared Sanchez could be headed to the bench because of poor throws, bad decisions and the offense just being ineffective. Despite taking away some snaps in practice last week to fire up the quarterback, it was more of the same old Sanchez. That is, until the final drive.
That’s when Sanchez made a handful of clutch throws, including the play of the game on third-and-11 from the 36: an 18-yard toss to Burress, who reached up with his right arm for a one-handed, twisting grab. Two plays later, Sanchez connected with Santonio Holmes for the winning 16-yard touchdown.
The offensive line, which has been a constantly criticized unit this season, allowed no sacks and gave Sanchez plenty of time in what Ryan called its best performance so far.
The defense, though, had its issues again by allowing a 90-yard touchdown drive earlier in the game and then nearly allowing the Bills to march down the field to win it.
“Obviously, there are some things that we have to take care of in terms of tightening up the execution and the game plan,” defensive tackle Sione Pouha said. “It’s always good to fix what you can fix with the `W’ under your belt.”
Perhaps the most alarming aspect on the defensive side was the fact the Bills constantly tested Revis, who was beat by Johnson on several plays as the wide receiver ran slants and changed up his moves time and again. He caught eight passes for 75 yards and had the first touchdown scored on Revis all season.
“I mean, Brett Favre threw interceptions before,” Revis said. “You’re not going to have a perfect game all the time. You’re not going to have your best game all the time. I’ve have had horrible games in the past.”
It has been a while, though. And, the Jets can’t afford any more of those – from Revis, Sanchez or anyone else.
“We have to keep improving, there’s no question,” Ryan said. “We’re not going to win and we’re not going to reach our goal if we don’t get better. But we definitely plan on getting better.”
Notes: Ryan said DE Mike DeVito sprained the MCL in his left knee and isn’t likely to play against Washington on Sunday. DeVito recently returned from the same injury to his right knee. … Ryan on Johnson’s touchdown celebration antics: “I thought it was ridiculous.”
Do you think Sanchez is a strength or a weakness for the Jets? Sound off in the comments below…
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