Jets win ugly, stay in thick of AFC playoff hunt
NEW YORK — The bloody gash on the bridge of Ryan Fitzpatrick's nose summed up the New York Jets' win in Dallas.
It was downright ugly.
But most importantly, the Jets were resilient. And they remained in the thick of the AFC playoff hunt with two games left in the regular season.
"We're developing a way to win games," Fitzpatrick said after the Jets' 19-16 win Saturday night. "We're developing a strength, a confidence."
Fitzpatrick bounced back from a subpar first three quarters and rallied the Jets with a touchdown pass to Eric Decker in the fourth quarter and leading the winning drive that was capped by Randy Bullock's 40-yard field goal with 36 seconds left.
The quarterback did most of his work with a flap of skin on his nose glued shut after it was torn at the end of a scramble.
"I'm done with photo shoots with Decker, I guess," Fitzpatrick joked. "That's out the window. I didn't see it until the game was over when everybody kept telling me I looked ugly. That usually happens during the game anyway."
Looks, fortunately for Fitzpatrick and the Jets (9-5), don't matter much. After appearing headed to a disappointing defeat in Big D, New York had a solid finish and its first four-game winning streak since 2011.
Entering Sunday's play, New York was a half-game ahead of Pittsburgh and Kansas City — both 8-5 — in the race for the AFC's two wild-card spots.
"Right now, we just focus on stacking these wins up," linebacker Calvin Pace said. "We have to win out. There are some scenarios where if some other people win out, they will go. You just have to focus on what we can control. We got this win on the road, a tough one. We have to get two more."
Next up for the Jets is a home game against New England, which edged New York 30-23 in October. They'll close out the regular season at Buffalo, where Rex Ryan will certainly be licking his chops at the possibility of dealing his former team's playoff hopes a key blow.
"We've got a big game coming up," wide receiver Brandon Marshall said. "We can't hang from the rafters right now because of a little win streak. We've just got to focus on our job."
They'll also need to be a lot better against the Patriots than they were in what was a mostly shaky performance against the Cowboys.
Fitzpatrick was inconsistent for much of three quarters, and it didn't help that both Decker and Marshall left briefly with injuries. The running game never really got going with the Jets held to 73 yards overall and Chris Ivory, the AFC's leading rusher coming in, had just 37 on 13 carries.
There were also drive-killing penalties, and Randy Bullock missed a field goal and an extra point. The defense, which has been so stingy against the run all season, allowed Darren McFadden to rush for 100 yards as the Cowboys finished with 133 yards on the ground.
"The biggest thing, we cut down on the penalties in the second half," coach Todd Bowles said. "We got seven in the first half, one in the second half. It was the kind of game we were losing in the first half of the year or the middle of the season that we're starting to win now, so I'm happy about that."
The Jets had four interceptions, including a victory-sealing grab by Marcus Williams in the closing seconds.
Fitzpatrick also got the offense in gear in the final quarter with the help of some of New York's lesser-known players, including running back Bilal Powell (who has scored in three straight games) and wide receivers Quincy Enunwa (who had a 24-yard catch on third-and-14 on the Decker touchdown drive) and Kenbrell Thompkins (who caught a 43-yard pass to set up the winning field goal).
"You win football games all kinds of different ways," Fitzpatrick said.
Entering the fourth quarter, the Jets quarterback was 16 of 29 for 167 yards and an interception. But everything turned around for him and New York in the final 15 minutes, when Fitzpatrick was 10 of 10 for 132 yards and the TD.
Fitzpatrick has driven the Jets to a win or tie in the final minutes of regulation in two of the Jets' past three games.
That's winning football. No matter how it looks.
"It's mental toughness," Bowles said. "You don't nearly blow games when you win them. You blow them when you lose them. You win is how you win. All of them aren't going to be 15-, 16-, 20-point wins. You've got to win the tough, gritty ones and we've won two of those now, so we're building some character."
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