By Abraham Gutierrez
Todd Bowles’ NFL head coaching debut got off to a roaring start, as five forced turnovers on defense and a balanced offensive attack set the tone on the (1-0) New York Jets’ resounding 31-10 beating of the (0-1) Cleveland Browns. Going in as three-point favorites in the opener, Gang Green exceeded all expectations getting the post-Rex Ryan era underway with an all-around performance at home.
“It feels good to get the butterflies out of the way, to get that first one,” said the 51-year-old from Elizabeth, New Jersey after the game. “It wasn’t perfect, by no means, but we did what we had to do to win.”
Even though the Jets were only able to tally 333 yards total, balance was the winning offensive formula for this club. With only 18 first downs and 28 minutes and 20 seconds of time of possession, New York racked up 154 rushing yards and 179 through the air on their way to a 4-touchdown afternoon in front of a sold-out crowd at MetLife Stadium.
After a slow start, well-traveled signal-caller, Ryan Fitzpatrick settled in, finishing with 179 yards on 15-for-24, two scores and a pick for a quarterback rating of 95.7. Chris Ivory took care of the Jets’ ground attack, as he was unstoppable with 90 yards on 20 carries and found paydirt twice for the home side.
Also worth noting are the offensive contributions of the two players who were on the receiving end of Fitzpatrick’s TD passes. Five-time Pro Bowl wideout Brandon Marshall was the team leader with 62 yards on six receptions and a touchdown, while reality TV star Eric Decker pitched in with 37 yards on two catches and a score.
The Jets defense was the determining factor in getting Bowles his first win as an NFL head coach, crushing the Browns in the turnover battle, 5-1. Calvin Pryor, Trevor Reilly, Brandon Marshall and Lorenzo Mauldin each registered a forced fumble on the win. Marcus Williams picked off Johnny Manziel after he was inserted in the game following Josh McCown’s injury, rounding out the Jets’ 5 turnovers.
The Jet also got after the quarterback, coming away with three sacks courtesy of David Harris, Muhammad Wilkerson and the aforementioned Trevor Reilly. While New York’s defense also limited the Browns to just 15 first downs all game, and flustered “Johnny Football” in the process. Nevertheless, the win is a bit overshadowed by a pair of defensive injuries, as rookie linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin (concussion) was carted off the field in a stretcher, while four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Antonio Cromartie suffered a knee injury.
Special Teams: A
Although special teams play didn’t have a significant impact on the outcome of this game, it’s worth noting that Nick Folk started the season by connecting on a 34 yard field goal and four point-afters. Ryan Quigley had three punts on the afternoon for an average of 43.7, including a 52-yarder to help the Jets’ field positioning.
Not too shabby for a guy with no previous head coaching experience in the National Football League. As he stated during his post-game press conference, it was good to get into the win column immediately and get the proverbial monkey off his back. Bowles was able to prepare his team physically and mentally for what the Browns planned to do on both sides of the football, and his team went out there and executed the gameplan to perfection.
The New York Jets will have a long week to prepare for next week’s trip to Lucas Oil Stadium to face Andrew Luck and the (0-1) Indianapolis Colts Monday night. Indy is coming off a shocking, 27-14, loss to former Jets coach Rex Ryan, as the Bills caught the 2-time defending AFC South champs napping in the opener.
Abe Gutierrez’s passion led him to ditch law school journey in order to launch his own publishing company. His expertise make him a valued addition to Examiner.com, AXS.com and the CBS-Sports family. Some of his work can be found on CBS-Miami (Dolphins), CBS-LosAngeles (Chargers) and CBS-TampaBay (Buccaneers), AXS.com, Examiner.com. and other online publications.