It’s the battle of the 40-yard plays as the Jets-Bills game opens up.
Leon Washington starts the game with a 40-yard kickoff return to the Jets 39. Two plays later, he takes a quick screen and darts through traffic for 40 more yards to the Bills 21. This sets up Jay Feely’s 37-yard field goal into the so far still mild Orchard Park breeze for a 3-0 Jets lead.
It’s the third consecutive game in which the Jets have scored on their opening drive, after going 0-for-5 in their first five games. It’s also the first time they’ve scored in the first quarter at Buffalo since a Doug Brien field goal in 2003. That breaks a scoreless streak of nine first-period drives up here in Western New York.
But the Bills respond in kind. Rookie Leodis McKelvin returns the hosts’ first kickoff 44 yards to the B-43. Then the first play from scrimmage is a Trent Edwards toss to a wide-open Marshawn Lynch for 42 yards to the Jets’ 15. Was Lynch David Bowens’ man. Bowens, starting at ILB for David Harris, went on a controlled blitz and there was no one else around Lynch.
That sets up Edwards’ 9-yard TD pass to another wide-open receiver, this time rookie TE Derek Fine in the end zone. Bowens arrives too late, but it’s hard to say whose guy Fine is. Kerry Rhodes blitzed on the play. Quickly in the game’s first four minutes, it’s Bills, 7-3.
The Jets shoot themselves in the foot on the next drive, second-and-1, when first Chris Baker is called for not being set at the snap on a quick first-down throw from Brett Favre to Dustin Keller, then, after a dancing Washington gain makes it third-and-1, Thomas Jones is dropped for a yard loss by DE Chris Kelsay, who comes off the Jets’ left side unblocked.
But the Jets defense strikes quickly with a brilliant Darrelle Revis blitz. Edwards is looking to his left the whole time and never senses Revis from the blindside. No. 24 slams the Buffalo QB, strips the ball and recovers the fumble at the Bills 6.
Favre can’t hold the shotgun snap from Nick Mangold but Thomas Jones recovers. Then Bills pressure — Kelsey muscling past LG Alan Faneca — forces one Favre incompletion, and coverage plus Favre not finding Laveranues Coles in the back of the end zone results in a throwaway. Feely comes in again from 26 and Buffalo‘s lead is trimmed to 7-6.
The Bills are helped down the field on their next drive by Jets mistakes. Bryan Thomas is called for unnecessary roughness, then Kris Jenkins jumps too soon and is called for encroachment. And when the Bills are called for ineligible man downfield to set up on an Edwards incompletion, head coach Eric Mangini can take fourth-and-11 from the Jets 25 and a likely 43-yard Rian Lindell field goal attempt or third-and-16.
Mangini takes third-and-16 and Edwards finds Roscoe Parrish, with Drew Coleman having fallen down in coverage, for 22 yards and first-and-goal at the 8.
But perhaps there was a method to the Jets’ madness. On third down, Jenkins, playing mad and effectively after his penalty, pressures Edwards heavily. The Buffalo QB unloads a pass — and Abram Elam is ready. The safety, starting with Eric Smith deactivated, snaps up the interception and takes off down the right side of the field and outlasts Lynch’s pursuit. It’s a 92-yard interception return TD and the Jets take a 13-7 lead on the last play of the long first quarter.
Elam’s return is the longest by a Jet in nine years and is tied for the fourth-longest INT-return TD in franchise history. Here are the six 90-yard-plus IR scores by the Jets:
|1996||Aaron Glenn||at MIA||100|
|1983||Darrol Ray||at CIN (PO)||98|
|1999||Marcus Coleman||at MIA||98|
|1989||Erik McMillan||vs. IND||92|
|2008||Abram Elam||at BUF||92|
|1994||Marcus Turner||at MIN||90|
The Bills march again down into the Jets red zone, and again they are thwarted. This time they get to third-and-1 at the 8. But Edwards can’t find a receiver and throws the ball away. Then, with Marshawn Lynch walking to the locker room presumably with an injury, Bills coach Dick Jauron decides to go for it on fourth-and-1.
Fred Jackson tries to burrow off his left side, but Kris Jenkins and company are there to meet him. He doesn’t make it and the Jets offense finally gets back on the field with 7:57 to play in the first half.
The Bills have just held the ball for 15 minutes, 8 seconds of clock time and have scored no points.
Then Jauron makes the wrong call. He challenges Favre’s third-down completion to Coles, saying the ball touched the ground. At first glance it appeared the Bills boss had a case, but replays show Coles had his hand underneath the ball the whole time, so Buffalo loses its last timeout of the first half.
Favre and the offense seems to be getting on track on this drive, and Favre is throwing high heat to move the chains. After the Coles third-down grab, he converts third-and-2 to Jerricho Cotchery, then second-and-4 to Coles, then a laser that Cotchery pulls off his hip for second-and-1, setting up Washington’s short run for the first down.
The Jets are in hurryup mode, and the officials seemingly ignore two Bills getting off the field late. So Mangini comes on the field to ask an official about throwing the red flag. He gets the answer he wants and drops the flag to call for a replay challenge. Ref Ron Winter rules that the Bills in fact didn’t get their people off the field and so the Jets make it first-and-5 at the B-25.
Then Thomas Jones, behind a punishing Damien Woody block, rips off 11 yards to the 14 to take us to the two-minute warning.
Word has just come in that Lynch left the game because he was nauseous and vomiting on the Buffalo sideline.
The Bills defense, even without Aaron Schobel, remains formidable and stiffens in its red zone. Jerricho Cotchery drops a play-action WR screen but would’ve been dropped for a loss had he caught it. Paul Posluzny swallows up Washington for a 2-yard loss. Then Cotchery is tackled for a 3-yard loss.
To top it off, Feely misses wide left from the right hashmarks from 37 yards out. So the visitors put together a scoreless 7:38 drive of their own and the teams go in at halftime with the Jets ahead, 13-7.
Tags: Brett Favre, Darrelle Revis, Leodis McKelvin, Leon Washington, Marshawn Lynch, Trent Edwards
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