Jets 38, Bills 7
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)
Mark Sanchez handed the ball off to his running backs and then got out of the way.
Nine times - without a throw. Then, the New York Jets quarterback called it a day.
''I was keeping the streak alive,'' a smiling Sanchez said of his cameo appearance against Buffalo on Sunday. ''Look out Brett.''
Taking it easy before the playoffs, Sanchez played one series without throwing a pass while resting his sore right shoulder before giving way to Mark Brunell, who threw two touchdown passes in a lopsided tuneup as backups starred for the Jets in a 38-7 rout of the lowly Bills.
''That was great,'' Sanchez said. ''It was fun for me to watch.''
Sanchez wasn't the only one who got some pre-playoff rest, as LaDainian Tomlinson, Shonn Greene, Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie all sat this one out. But New York (11-5) still earned the fourth 11-win season in franchise history - and first since the 1998 team went to the AFC championship game. The Jets, the No. 6 seed, will play at Indianapolis (10-6) on Saturday night.
''We are ready to go do what we set out to do,'' coach Rex Ryan said. ''If somebody is going to beat us, then they must be really good.''
The Jets lost to the Colts in the AFC championship game last season, and will return to Indianapolis a little earlier this postseason.
''It's going to be a big challenge for us, but we're ready for it,'' cornerback Marquice Cole said. ''Hope to get some payback from last year.''
Rookie Joe McKnight ran for a career-high 158 yards and New York's defense was dominant, forcing the Bills (4-12) into six turnovers, including Cole's 35-yard interception return for a touchdown.
''We really got exactly what we were shooting for leading into the playoffs,'' Ryan said.
It's the second time in as many seasons the Jets are going to the postseason under Ryan, who led the team to the AFC championship game a year ago.
Green and white confetti trickled through the air after the game, and several players high-fived fans in a victory lap around the New Meadowlands Stadium.
Ryan said during the week that Sanchez would start so he could maintain the rhythm he had the last few weeks, but wasn't sure how long he'd play. Turned out, if you blinked, you missed him. After his nine handoffs - one was called back for a penalty - Brunell replaced Sanchez to start the Jets' second offensive series, and it was all New York the rest of the afternoon.
''It was just getting out there, being with the guys, going through my routine pregame, stretching out and making it like a real game,'' Sanchez said. ''And, then, everyday leading up to this, we're in a good place on offense and we wanted to keep that rolling, and I think we did.''
Sanchez said his shoulder is ''all right, it's ready to play,'' but this week served as a way to get an extra week of rest. He said he doesn't know if the shoulder will need surgery after the season, but insisted he can play well through it the rest of the season.
The Jets defense swarmed Brian Brohm, starting for Ryan Fitzpatrick, all game and forced the Bills into six turnovers. New York intercepted Brohm three times and sacked him three times.
Buffalo was held to 162 total yards, compared to New York's 388, and the Bills gained just 37 yards on the ground.
''Offensively, it was an awful performance,'' Buffalo coach Chan Gailey said. ''We couldn't protect the passer, we couldn't run it. We never got any kind of consistency at all. When you turn it over that many times, your defense has no chance.''
It was a good performance by a Jets defensive unit that went back to basics during the week of practice after a handful of subpar games.
''They were tremendous,'' Ryan said. ''It was great.''
Brunell finished 6 of 12 for 110 yards and touchdowns to Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards. He also threw an interception, which accounted for Buffalo's only points as Jairus Byrd returned it 37 yards for a score early in the third quarter.
One of the biggest cheers came when Kellen Clemens, the Jets' third quarterback, scrambled 10 yards for a touchdown to put New York up 31-7 with 9:18 left.
McKnight, making his first NFL start in a disappointing rookie season, got the bulk of the work on the ground, rushing 32 times while Tomlinson and Greene watched from the sideline.
''It felt good just to go out there and play ball,'' said McKnight, who had only 31 yards on seven carries entering the game.
The loss capped another lousy season for the Bills, who were trying to win their regular-season finale in consecutive years for the first time since 1998-2000. Buffalo will miss the playoffs for the 11th straight year, tied with Detroit for the NFL's longest active drought.
''It hurts,'' Gailey said. ''It does. It's not the way you want to finish.''
Cole, starting for Cromartie, who was resting a tweaked groin, gave the Jets a 10-0 lead with 9:07 left in the half after intercepting Brohm's pass intended for Steve Johnson and returning it for a score.
''You obviously can't win if you turn the ball over that many times,'' Brohm said. ''We've got to give ourselves a chance.''
Cole had another interception late in the game, setting up John Conner's 16-yard touchdown run that capped the scoring.
Holmes caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Brunell to give the Jets a 17-0 lead with 15 seconds left in the opening half. It was Brunell's first scoring throw since he tossed one against Dallas in November 2006, when he was with Washington.
Notes: Brohm finished 10 for 23 for 106 yards and three interceptions in his second NFL start. Fitzpatrick was inactive after missing practice all week with a right knee injury. ... Tomlinson finished 86 yards rushing short of his ninth 1,000-yard season. ... Jets LB Jason Taylor had a sack to tie Lawrence Taylor and Leslie O'Neal for eighth on the career list with 132 1/2.