Jets open season with surprising scoring outburst
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP)
It was a picture-perfect season opener Sunday on an afternoon filled with high-fives, slaps on the back and trips to the end zone for the New York Jets.
''Obviously, when you watch the tape, it was a great game,'' coach Rex Ryan said Monday, ''especially offensively.''
Well, so much for those preseason scoring woes. The Jets' offense went from laughable to unstoppable in a 48-28 rout of the Buffalo Bills.
It was an unexpected scoring splurge after the starters failed to get into the end zone in three preseason games. Things were so good Sunday that the defense and special teams got in on it, too. The Jets didn't even need to use Tim Tebow much.
After all, Sanchez was in total control, and he'll need another big game next week at Pittsburgh. So will the offensive line, which didn't allow a sack.
''It wasn't perfect,'' left guard Matt Slauson said. ''We have a lot of things to clean up. We could've done a lot better in the running game, and all we've got to do is improve.''
In a total team effort, New York's offense scored 34 points, Antonio Cromartie returned an interception for a TD and Jeremy Kerley brought back a punt for a score.
''It felt great,'' Cromartie said after the game. ''The offense is putting up points, throwing the ball down the field. Mark is making great decisions, receivers are catching the ball. That's all you can ask for as a defense.''
It was the defense that set up the offense early as the Jets turned two interceptions into their first two touchdowns. By the time Kerley ran back a punt 68 yards to make it 21-0 early in the quarter, it was clear that it was going to be the Jets' day.
Next up: the 0-1 Steelers, who are coming off a 31-19 loss to Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Denver. The Jets are in position to start 2-0 for the third time in Ryan's four seasons - and send the Steelers to their first 0-2 start since 2002.
''They've definitely come back as a physical team,'' linebacker Aaron Maybin said. ''They're a team that definitely has a lot of explosiveness and a team that, on the line, is very physical and tries to be the bully. That's really been the Steelers that you're used to seeing. And, they've got a quarterback that can make a play - a big play - on any given play, and that's very dangerous.''
''It looks like Big Ben is getting the ball out quicker than he used to, where he used to stand back there and swing guys around with his body, then throw it 60 yards down the field,'' Ryan said. ''He still has that in him, though.''
That means the Jets better hope they've got a few scores left over from Sunday's outburst.
New York actually finished with 6 less net yards than Buffalo's 390, but went 10 for 14 on third-down conversions and constantly worked with a shortened field because of solid defensive and special teams play.
''I know we're a special group,'' Sanchez said after the game. ''I've known that from the jump, but I think we're starting to realize it.''
Sanchez and Ryan refused to say ''I told you so'' after the Jets took lots of heat from fans and media for becoming the first team since the 1977 Atlanta Falcons to not score a touchdown in its first three preseason games. There was also the picture on the front of one of the New York tabloids last week that depicted Ryan, Sanchez and Tebow as clowns squeezed into a tiny car.
Ryan brought it up to the team during the week that there's a perception that the Jets are a circus.
''It seems like that's how people look at us,'' Ryan said. ''I was like, `You can think that all you want, but we see something different.' I do, and I know this football team does. When I said our opponents will take us seriously, I promise you that. And, they will.''
Rookie Stephen Hill, the Jets' second-round draft pick, answered the question of whether he was ready to be a starter, catching five passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns - all despite getting sick on the sideline a few times during the game.
''He showed that toughness that we knew he had,'' Ryan said. ''It is impressive that he was able to have that kind of day.''
The Jets didn't even need to use their highly anticipated wildcat package with Tebow much because the base offense was clicking so well. Tebow took two snaps out of the traditional wildcat, and was on the field on offense for nine plays.
The opener was all about Sanchez making the offense hum. He finished 19 of 27 for 266 yards, three touchdowns and one interception that came early in the game when he tried to shovel a pass to Jeff Cumberland, who had the ball tip off his hands and right to Bryan Scott. Revis bailed Sanchez out by intercepting Ryan Fitzpatrick a few minutes later, and then the offense went to work on setting the tone for the afternoon.
''When he has the time to throw the football, he can be as good as anybody,'' Ryan said. ''I think that's something we've always talked about for us to be effective, where we want to be offensively. We want to be able to run the football, protect the quarterback, and we did both (Sunday).''
NOTES: Ryan and RT Austin Howard disagreed with Bills DE Mario Williams' claim that Howard illegally used hands to the face to block him Sunday. Williams was held without a sack in his Bills debut. ''There's no question he's a tremendous player, but I disagree with him on this,'' Ryan said. Howard said he faced Williams in one-on-one protection for about half the snaps. ''I'm not really going to step into that too much. All I know was that there were no flags thrown. Didn't hear too much during the game, either.'' ... Ryan had no updates on LB Bryan Thomas and WR Patrick Turner, who have hamstring injuries.
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