Underdog Jets ‘do not flinch’ in house victory over Payments

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Jets overcame a slow start, a double-digit deficit and a bizarre sky cam delay to deliver their biggest win in seven years: a 20-17 upset of the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

The Jets continued their improbable season with a dominating performance on defense (five sacks and two interceptions) and a bounce-back game by quarterback Zach Wilson, providing a loud statement to their many doubters.

One year after a 4-13 finish, the Jets (6-3) are tied with the Miami Dolphins for second place in the AFC East, only a half-game behind the Bills (6-2).

“Everybody outside of this locker room didn’t think we had a chance, but it’s been the same story all season for us,” tight end Tyler Conklin said. “Everybody kind of thinks it’s going to be the Same Old Jets, right? Last week was, ‘Oh, the Same Old Jets.’ … Guess what? We’re not the Same Old Jets.”

The Jets went off as 10.5-point underdogs, making them the biggest home underdogs with a winning record since 2007. On cue, they fell behind, 14-3, on two touchdown runs by Bills quarterback Josh Allen. Their hopes were fading after a third-quarter fumble by Wilson in the red zone, ruining a potential scoring drive that was disrupted by an unusual delay.

The game was stopped for 11 minutes because of a broken cable on CBS’ sky cam, which caused it to sink close to field level. Asked what he was thinking during the delay, Jets coach Robert Saleh said, “It only happens to the Jets.”

When play resumed, the Jets committed a false start. Then, two plays later, Wilson coughed it up on a sack by Von Miller.

As it turned out, the sky cam fell on the Jets, but the sky didn’t. Moments later, rookie cornerback Sauce Gardner made an interception at the Bills’ 19, setting up Wilson’s 7-yard touchdown pass to running back James Robinson to give the Jets a 17-14 lead.

After the Bills tied it, the Jets turned to their ground game, rushing 10 out of 12 plays on an 86-yard drive that culminated with a 28-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein with 1:43 left in the fourth quarter. They finished with 174 rushing yards, including a 6-yard touchdown by Michael Carter. The defense, with a sack by defensive end Bryce Huff on the final possession, slammed the door for the win.

“I know a lot of people are going to be surprised, right?” Saleh said. “I don’t think there’s a person surprised in the locker room.”

The Jets have won three games after trailing by double digits, compared to 4-30 in the previous four seasons. Under Saleh, they’re 5-14 in those situations after going 0-20 in two seasons under Adam Gase.

“We don’t flinch,” Saleh said. “We’re too young to flinch.”

So much of the pregame focus was on the Bills’ defense, ranked first in points allowed and second in yards allowed. The Jets took it personally, aiming to prove their defense is on the same level.

They did. Rarely blitzing, they used their four-man rush to rattle Allen (18-for-34, 205 yards) into one of his worst games. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who had five catches for 93 yards in the first half, was blanked in the final two quarters: No catches, three targets.

“If we’re not No. 1, that’s the goal is to be No. 1,” defensive end John Franklin-Myers said of the Jets’ defense. “We’re going to keep playing and keep dominating teams and, hopefully, it plays out.”

Perhaps the most encouraging development was Wilson (18-for-25, 154 yards), who set a career high for completion percentage (72%). He was under intense scrutiny after last week’s three-interception disaster in a 22-17 loss to the New England Patriots, but he managed the game nicely and had only one turnover.

“I don’t really care what anybody says,” Wilson said. “Of course, I’ve been dealing with [criticism] my whole life. But that’s a huge team win.”

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