The Jets’ defense had a score to settle against the Bills Sunday.
Defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich made it clear during the week leading up to Sunday’s game in Orchard Park that his players had a bad taste in their mouths from the 45-17 hammering the Bills gave them on Nov. 14 at MetLife Stadium.
Ulbrich referenced the Bills passing deep on the Jets despite that game having been long decided.
That memory proved to be a powerful motivator for the Jets’ defense, which played so well Sunday that the Bills’ lead was merely 13-10 midway through the fourth quarter before Buffalo pulled away.
“That shot they took in the last game, in the moment you felt the disrespect,’’ linebacker and team captain C.J. Mosley said.
“I think in this business, you look for any edge you can get, and obviously the last game wasn’t what we wanted, didn’t end how we wanted,’’ defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins said. “A lot of things transpired in that game that we just weren’t happy with. So, coming into this game we knew we wanted to go out on a high note, play our brand of football, and make the plays we knew we could make last game but weren’t able to make.
“I felt like we did that for the most part.’’
They did — despite the fact the game’s statistics didn’t indicate it. The Bills amassed 424 total yards and 25 first downs. They were 8 of 18 on third downs. But the Jets’ defense kept them out of the end zone.
The Bills had not punted once in their previous two games and were forced into seven punts by the Jets.
“We did everything we could to keep that game as close as possible, and we did,’’ Rankins said. “To see the final score … if anyone looks at the box score they won’t think much of it. But for the guys that played in this game, we understand that we were very much in this game. The score was not indicative of what transpired.
“We were a few plays here or there from really turning this thing and coming out of here with a victory.It’s something to hang your hat on and understand this is a playoff team we just played and we were able to take them down to the wire.”
Jets head coach Robert Saleh raved about the defense.
“I’m really pumped up for the defense,’’ he said. “I thought they played their absolute butts off. I know stats don’t look like that, but if you just watch the tape, it was tough sledding [for Buffalo]. We were on the field for a little while on defense (Buffalo led in time of possession 37 minutes to 23) and just couldn’t get anything going on offense to give them a break.
“I’m really proud of the defense. Hopefully something that we can take with us as we move forward into 2022.’’
Rookie quarterback Zach Wilson credited the defense with keeping the team in the game, calling its performance “unbelievable, man.’’
“That’s a really good [Buffalo] offense and guys came out ready to go, slowing them up and giving us endless opportunities with good field position,’’ Wilson said. “I thought those guys played lights-out. They put us in position to really do anything we wanted to as far as situation and timing. Hats off to those guys.’’