Rex Ryan speaks to the game officials before his team's 20-penalty performance. (Ron Antonelli/Getty Images)
It's not exactly easy (or pretty) to win a game in which you set a team record for penalties, but the New York Jets seem to be past the phase where style points matter. Rex Ryan's team was penalized 20 times for 168 yards on Sunday, but they still beat the Buffalo Bills, 27-20 to climb to 2-1, and that was a record few expected after the team's drama-filled offseason.
Certainly, the Jets proved to have a peerless ability to self-destruct even as they destroy opponents. They put up 513 total yards on Buffalo's seemingly stout defense, and sacked rookie quarterback EJ Manuel eight times. But just as a great play on either side of the ball seemed to put things out of reach for the Bills, a boneheaded moment would bring things back down to earth.
The worst stretch came in the fourth quarter, when Jets cornerback Kyle Wilson seemed to let the taunting of Bills receiver Stevie Johnson get in his head. Wilson was penalized three times in a four-play stretch and was benched for a time as a result. Ten of New York's penalties came in the fourth quarter, and that sloppiness was compounded by the two lost challenges Ryan tried in the third quarter. As a result, he had no challenges left when Manuel appeared to fumble the ball later in the game.
And still, with all that, the Jets appeared dominant at times, and in control of the result when it counted. Geno Smith led the Jets on two 80-yard touchdown drives, and it was the second time in team history (1985) that New York had a 300-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver in the same game. Smith finished with 16 completions in 29 attempts for 331 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Bilal Powell ran for 149 yards on 27 carries, and Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill each broke the 100-yard mark. The last time the Jets amassed over 500 yards in a win, they did so in 1998 against a rookie quarterback by the name of Peyton Manning.
So, yes -- it was a triumph on the stat sheet for the Jets' offense and defense. And if they can ever manage to keep their heads on straight as they're matriculating the ball down the field, they might be on to something.
"The thing that makes me most happy is that I know this team's going to get better," Ryan said after the game. "There's no way we can't. Twenty penalties? That's on my shoulders, no doubt about it, but ... just think of how good we can be if we can eliminate the penalties and the turnovers. I know we'll coach and we'll get it corrected. I'll be the first one to step up, but I love the fact that our team found a way to win."
Indeed, but even for a franchise that has raised making it hard on oneself to an art form in the last few years, this was a real doozy.