In a game that counted for little more than pride and draft position next spring, the Bills took care of the football better than the Jets and it was enough to post a season-ending 28-9 victory over the Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium Sunday.
"I thought it was a team win," said head coach Chan Gailey. "Everybody contributed from the blocked field goal to the defense scoring and to the offense controlling the ball in the fourth quarter and scoring touchdowns. There were some critical plays in the game that we made. We had not been making some of those critical plays and we made them in this game."
For Buffalo it was their first win over New York in three seasons as the Jets had taken each of the last six meetings and eight of the previous nine. The Bills last win over the Jets was Oct. 18, 2009 and it took overtime to do it (16-13).
Buffalo carried a precarious five-point lead into the early stages of the fourth quarter, but fortunately put together their most impressive drive of the day. The Bills marched 80 yards on just seven plays. Stevie Johnson provided the biggest play of the drive with a leaping 37-yard catch to move the Bills into New York territory. A 15-yard roughing the passer penalty moved Buffalo to the Jets 28.
The catch also put Johnson over the 1,000-yard receiving threshold for the season, his third straight.
Five plays later Brad Smith on a Wildcat keeper went right up the middle for a four-yard touchdown to make it 21-9 Buffalo with just under 11 minutes remaining.
"It felt pretty good," said Smith of his touchdown against his former club. "But just for our team to come out on that drive and move down the field like that. Just to finish it off was good for us."
In the waning moments Tashard Choice capped a 10-play 47-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown run with just over a minute remaining to seal the victory (28-9).
Prior to that scoring drive the Bills had a pair of opportunities for points late in the third quarter to expand a five-point halftime lead (14-9). The first came after a lengthy drive stalled at the Jets 29. However, Rian Lindell's 50-yard attempt sailed wide right.
Buffalo's defense got the ball right back when Spencer Johnson had a sack and forced fumble on Mark Sanchez on the very next play from scrimmage. Nigel Bradham recovered the loose ball at the Jets' 34-yard line. After coming up two yards short on a 3rd-and-8 at the Jets' 32, Lindell again came on, but hooked a 46-yard attempt wide left.
The Bills defense stiffened considerably in the second half. After allowing 119 rushing yards in the first half alone, Buffalo allowed a total of 128 net yards over the final two quarters with the Jets going 0-for-3 in the red zone.
"I thought they came out and controlled the ball the first part," said Gailey. "It took us a while to adjust and get back into it. The thing about it is we played good enough to keep them from scoring touchdowns. That's big when you play good enough to do that."
The Jets put points on the board on their opening drive. New York pounded out all 47 yards on the ground running on nine of the 11 plays from scrimmage before Nick Folk put a 47-yard attempt through the uprights for a 3-0 New York lead with nine minutes left in the opening quarter.
Buffalo's defense would be the first unit to score for the Bills. With the Jets pinned deep in their own end facing a 3rd-and-5 at their own 15, Mark Sanchez's pass intended for Jeremy Kerley was picked off by Bryan Scott. The Bills linebacker returned it 20 yards for a touchdown to give Buffalo a 7-3 lead late in the first quarter.
"Basically it was a three man zone and Sanchez kind of with his eyes led me to that route," said Scott.
New York would respond with another field goal drive. The Jets had a chance at the end zone after a 19-yard run by Bilal Powell set up 1st-and-goal at the nine. But after a 3rd-and-goal at the five pass by Sanchez fell incomplete, the Jets took a short field goal by Folk to pull within a point (7-6).
The Jets would call on Folk a third time to take the lead, when another march inside the Bills 20 stalled two yards short of the first down marker at the Bills 10-yard line on a 3rd-and-8. Folk put a 28-yard attempt up and through to make it 9-7 Jets with just under four minutes remaining in the first half.
The Bills would deliver one of the quicker answers, with one of their fastest players. After two straight incompletions, Ryan Fitzpatrick hit C.J. Spiller coming underneath on a middle screen. Getting a couple of good blocks downfield, Spiller went right down the middle of the field for a 66-yard touchdown to put Buffalo back in front (14-9) with just over three minutes left.
"We worked on it in practice and though it was something we could get," said Spiller, who finished with 131 total yards from scrimmage. "When I saw the guy get caught up then I knew I had it. I told the guys I owed them one from last week. They want to see me make up for it and that is what I came into the game trying to do."
For Spiller the 66-yard catch and run was the longest of his career, eclipsing his 62-yard run a week earlier at Miami that he felt should've been a touchdown.
Buffalo opened the second half with the first possession, but C.J. Spiller was stripped of the football on the first play from scrimmage by Jets DL Mike DeVito. The Jets recovered at the Bills 15, but the defense forced a third down stop. The ensuing 30-yard field goal attempt by Folk was then blocked by Marcell Dareus to preserve Buffalo's five-point lead (14-9).
"I thought one of the biggest series of the game was the start of the second half when we fumble and our defense holds them," said Gailey. "They get nothing out of it. That kind of set the tone for the second half."
The Bills finish their third season under Chan Gailey with a 6-10 mark, equal to that of the 2011 campaign. Missing the playoffs for the 13th straight season had many in Buffalo's locker room concerned about what changes might be afoot in the wake of another unsuccessful season.
"There are changes every year," said Kyle Williams. "Whether it is players or coaches there are all kinds of different changes. So whatever happens we are prepared for it. We will see what happens over the next week or so."