Running back Bilal Powell rushed for 122 yards on 22 carries as the Jets completed their first regular season series sweep over the Buffalo Bills since 2011, 30-10. If you are looking for a bright side, the Jets are undefeated in 2017.
"It was real important for us (to finish on a high note)," said Bowles. "Got a lot of bad taste in our mouths that still won't leave, but for today, finishing the right way, it was a plus."
On New Years Day, the Jets and Bills started Sunday's game seemingly hungover and lethargic. Both offenses were nonexistent - except for Powell. The Jets running back continued to show why he should have received more carries since the start of the season, compiling rushes most notably for 23, 11, and 10 yards in the opening frame. With those runs, Powell reached 1,000 total offensive yards for the first time in his career.
"He's tough. He fought. He came in and played," Bowles said when asked about Powell's performance. "You saw how he played today. He was hobbled a little bit, but he wanted to finish the right way. He made some runs today that kept us in the game and helped us win."
After a scoreless first quarter, New York didn't waste any more time. The Jets responded to Buffalo's punt to start the second frame with a 51-yard pass and catch from Ryan Fitzpatrick (20-for-30, 210 yards, two touchdowns) to Quincy Enunwa (five catches, 81 yards) down the sideline. The green and white moved the ball with ease following Enunwa's reception as Powell rushed for 12 yards to bring the Jets into the red zone. They finished the drive with a 2-yard dump off touchdown pass from Fitzpatrick to Powell to put New York up, 7-0. The drive lasted over four minutes and totaled 75 yards.
The teams exchanged punts on the following two possessions, headlined by Sheldon Richardson stopping the Bills rushing attack in the backfield on an important third and one. Buffalo would respond by halting Powell at the line of scrimmage on a fourth and one - in plus territory - turning the ball over on downs.
While Powell ran successfully on Sunday, he struggled to break the defensive line on two key fourth and one opportunities.
After a lull in the action, E.J. Manuel (9-for-20, 86 yards) used running back Mike Gillislee (15 carries for 40 yards) and wide receiver Sammy Watkins (four receptions for 31 yards) to drive down field in 11 plays, setting up Dan Carpenter for a 34-yard field goal. At the two-minute warning, the Jets were clinging on to a 7-3 advantage.
The Jets aimed to finish on a good note on all cylinders on Sunday.
Looking for more points to end the first half, Fitzpatrick took the Jets down field with the help of Enunwa, Powell and Jalin Marshall (three catches for 22 yards, one touchdown). With 1:45 on the clock, Fitzpatrick utilized the no huddle offense to bring the Jets to Buffalo's territory again. In the waning seconds of the opening half, Nick Folk converted his first of three field goals on the afternoon to give the Jets a 10-3 lead at the break.
"The effort was good. We played smarter football," said Bowles.
Buffalo and New York each punted the football to start the second half but on the ensuing Jets drive, Fitzpatrick connected with Robby Anderson for 15 yards at midfield and Enunwa for six to bring the Jets deeper into attacking territory. But, Powell would be stuffed at the line on fourth down, forcing a turnover on downs.
The Bills couldn't get out of their own way and they showed why Rex Ryan lost his job. They suffered from self-inflicting wounds. It all came full circle when Jordan Jenkins and Corey Lemonier teamed up to sack Manuel and force a fumble. The Jets responded with a Fitzpatrick six-yard touchdown throw to Marshall. For Fitzpatrick, it was his second touchdown of the afternoon to put the Jets ahead, 17-3.
Another Buffalo fumble forced by Richardson gave the Jets solid field position to set up Folk for a 36-yard field goal. In total, New York had 13 points off Bills turnovers on Sunday afternoon. At the end of three quarters, New York led the tilt, 20-3.
"We were just a better team today. We finished today on a high note. We're happy today," said Bowles. "Going forward, we understand what we have with the 11 losses and what we played with during the season."
The final quarter of the regular season embodied the Jets season - ugly. But, the shoe was on the other foot this time around. In the end, it was the Jets benefitting from poor quarterback play, mindless mistakes and turnovers. Cardale Jones entered the game with hopes to turn the game around for Buffalo but to no avail.
Shortly after Folk made it a 23-3 game, on the ensuing kickoff, the Bills forgot a thing or two about the game of football. Folk kicked the ball 65 yards to Gillislee but the returner let the ball enter the end zone after it bounced in the field of play. Doug Middleton hustled to recover the ball in the end zone for a head-scratching touchdown to make it 30-3.
"It wasn't a smart decision but he was thinking the ball rolled into the end zone and it was a dead ball," said interim head coach Anthony Lynn. "You never expect that to happen in the National Football League from anyone at any time."
Gillislee would redeem himself - in a way - scoring a touchdown on the next possession with time winding down to finish the game, 30-10.
The Jets played their most inspired game of the season on Sunday. Jobs were on the line. Fans saw Darrelle Revis make powerful hits and an interception and Richardson force fumbles. The team played with passion. Maybe it was for Bowles; maybe it was to start 2017 on good note. Either way, the organization is confident they can bounce back next season.
When asked if he thinks this team can go to the playoffs next year, Bowles said: "that's always the goal."
Joe Barone is a staff writer for JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@28JoeBarone) or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)