Jets rebuff Bills' upset bid
Late defensive TD reverses fortunes
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The New York Jets were facing a stinging loss that would've knocked them out of first place in the AFC East and severely damaged their playoff hopes.
A bad play call, a big hit, and a lucky bounce changed all that in an instant.
Abram Elam sacked Bills quarterback J.P. Losman from behind and caused a fumble, and Shaun Ellis picked up the ball and rumbled 11 yards into the end zone with 1:54 left to give the Jets the go-ahead score in a 31-27 victory yesterday.
"That play that Shaun makes and Abe makes, who knows?" quarterback Brett Favre said. "At the end, we may look back and say that could be one of those plays that catapulted us into something great."
Maybe, but the Jets (9-5) looked nothing like a playoff team for most of this one as the Bills' once-dormant offense prospered against New York's struggling defense.
Buffalo (6-8) was nursing a 27-24 lead and close to wrapping up its first win against an AFC East opponent when Losman dropped back to throw and was hit from behind by a blitzing Elam. The ball squirted out and bounced around before Ellis grabbed it, tiptoed down the sideline, and splashed into the end zone.
"I just kept running, got some good blocking, and was able to get into the end zone," Ellis said.
Added running back Thomas Jones: "Me and Laveranues [Coles] said he jumped into the end zone like he was jumping in the pool."
The Jets were surprised the Bills were passing in that situation, expecting Buffalo to try to run out the clock. After all, Marshawn Lynch gained 127 yards on 21 carries and New York was struggling to stop him. Instead, coach Dick Jauron overruled offensive coordinator Turk Schonert.
"Clearly the responsibility for the last call, the play-action pass, that was mine," Jauron said. "That goes right on me. It backfired clearly and caused us to lose the game."
Jauron refused to blame Losman, who made his second straight start for the injured Trent Edwards.
"It's on my shoulders to protect him, to keep him from that situation, and I didn't do it," Jauron said.
It was a hectic scene as bodies flew everywhere near the end zone, with even referee Jeff Triplette getting knocked to the turf face first by Bills center Duke Preston and getting a bloody nose.
Buffalo got the ball back twice, with both drives ending on interceptions, including Losman's desperation heave as time expired that was picked off in the end zone by Kerry Rhodes.
"It's been that type of season," receiver Lee Evans said. "Sometimes the ball bounces funny ways. On that last play, it certainly took a bounce for the worst for us."
It didn't appear likely that the Jets were going to be doing any celebrating after this one, especially when the Bills - held to single field goals in their previous two games - went ahead on Fred Jackson's 11-yard touchdown run with 5:30 remaining.
The Jets snapped a two-game losing streak and offset another shaky performance by Favre. The veteran quarterback was 17 of 30 for 207 yards and a touchdown, but also threw two interceptions and misfired several times.
"Maybe I don't have the arm I once had," he said. "I don't know."