- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Jets welcomed the Bills to their circus big top, and they turned the visitors into the clowns Sunday at MetLife Stadium. It was a 48-28 victory for the Jets in the season opener, setting a franchise record for most point on opening day.
What it means: They shut up their critics for at least a week. This was a huge win for the Jets, who needed positive momentum after last season's meltdown and a disappointing preseason.
Wildcat a dud: After all the build-up, all the ridiculous hype, the Jets' Wildcat was a bust. It produced little and fooled no one. At one point, Tim Tebow was booed as he trotted off the field. All told, he played nine plays on offense -- two in the Wildcat (with Mark Sanchez split out) six in the read-option (Tebow as the quarterback) and one at tight end. The eight plays with Tebow under center produced only 22 yards. Talk about a buzz kill. The Jets, no doubt, will say that other components of the offense flourished because the Bills had to spend time on Tebow prep. Tebow finished with five rushes for 12 yards.
Mark answers: QB Mark Sanchez (19-for-27, 266 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT) began the game as if he were begging for a quarterback controversy, a ridiculous flip-pass interception, but he regained his poise and played exceptionally. Afforded excellent protection, Sanchez picked apart a suspect Buffalo secondary, throwing three scoring passes (two to rookie Stephen Hill). He made quick decisions, looking totally at ease in the new system. Sanchez needed to have a big game, and he delivered.
Tony ball a hit: Maybe Tony Sparano really was saving his good stuff for the regular season. After a one-touchdown preseason, the Jets actually looked like they knew what they were doing. They amassed 384 total yards, controlled the ball for 31:18 and, most important, neutralized the Bills' new and improved front four. Stat of the day: Sanchez was not sacked. Except for some poor choices on when he used Tebow, Sparano called a solid game and even showed some razzle-dazzle with a flea flicker in the third quarter.
Complementary football: You're going to hear Rex Ryan use this phrase an awful lot this season, and Sunday was a prime example of all three units working together. Yeah, Sanchez got the ball in the end zone, but he was helped enormously by the defense (three takeaways) and special teams (Kerley's 68-yard touchdown on a punt return). Ryan couldn't have scripted it any better. In fact, the Jets scored 24 of their first 34 points off turnovers. There were interceptions by Darrelle Revis, Kyle Wilson and Antonio Cromartie, who returned it 40 yards on a awful read by an overwhelmed Ryan Fitzpatrick. There also was a forced fumble by S LaRon Landry, who impressed in his Jets debut.
Awesome D: The Jets' defense lived up to the hype, making Fitzpatrick afraid of his own shadow. The key to beating the Bills' spread offense is to disrupt the timing, and the Jets did just that. They did it. They didn't have any sacks, but they got plenty of pressure, with LB Calvin Pace and Landry leading the way. The coverage was terrific. Revis, with something to prove against Stevie Johnson, shut down his nemesis, holding him to four catches for 55 yards.
For a Harvard guy, Fitzpatrick (18-for-32, 195 yards, 3 TDs, 3 INTs) did a lot of dumb things. On his third interception, he was fooled by a Cover-2 look (the Jets rarely play Cover-2) and he gift-wrapped a pass to Cromartie, who channeled his inner wide-receiver and did a front flip into the end zone. No doubt, the Bills were hurt by the loss of RB Fred Jackson, who left in the second quarter with a leg injury. His replacement, C.J. Spiller, had a career day, rushing for 169 yards.
Where's Mario? The Bills scored a free-agent coup, signing DE Mario Williams for $100 million, including $50 million guaranteed. How's that investment looking now? Williams was shut down neophyte RT Austin Howard, who never had started a game at the position. GM Mike Tannenbaum, who took a lot of heat for botching the Wayne Hunter situation, has to be feeling pretty good about his decision to go with Howard. Howard got some help -- new OT Jason Smith played at least 10 snaps as a jumbo tight end -- but him the credit.
What's ahead: The Jets hit the road to play the Steelers (who open at Denver tonight) in what will be an extremely difficult test.