EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ -- He won it just the way he likes, with big defense and a bold strut. Rex Ryan's new team, the Buffalo Bills, beat his old team, the New York Jets, 22-17 on Thursday night at MetLife Stadium.
A Bills jolt. A Jets flop. A Rex Ryan flaunt.
That is what he did when it was over, thrusting his fist into the air and yelling to anyone on the Bills sideline who would listen. Strolling up and down in celebration on the west side of the stadium after becoming so familiar in seasons past with the east side. Ryan's MetLife shuffle from east to west did nothing to make him feel less at home, as his Bills forced two interceptions, recovered two fumbles and returned one for a touchdown. His defense smoked the Jets' offense when it mattered, especially in the game's final 7:23. The Jets were scoreless during that final span, including a moment when Buffalo mishandled the snap on a punt attempt and the Jets got the ball at the Buffalo 13. It was Bills 22-17 then.
Four Jets offensive plays, five total yards. It was 22-17 when that sequence was over.
Jets cooked. Ryan said his team "bowed" their necks.
"It's pretty satisfying, without question," Ryan said about beating the Jets after they fired him. "It's definitely satisfying. And you know what, now I can talk the truth and say the truth. I look at it this way - it's kind of like being dumped by some girl you had the hots for and all that stuff. That's really what it feels like. Hey, you move on and every now and then they call you back, but they can't get you back."
Sounds like Ryan still has the "hots" for the Jets.
I don't know who is calling him from the Jets wanting him back, but it sounds like Ryan, at least, believes he is still being courted after being dumped.
"Hey," Bills running back LeSean McCoy said, "you get fired by a team, you want to beat that team, badly. Of course Rex wanted this game very badly. And we wanted it for him, especially here."
Both teams are 5-4 now. Neither is in the class of the New England Patriots in the AFC East. Both struggle to play a clean, piercing, effective brand of football. There is time left to reach that. But in this matchup neither showed it has the quarterback to do anything special this season.
The Bills' Tyrod Taylor threw one touchdown pass and finished with an acceptable 91.3 quarterback rating. The Jets Ryan Fitzpatrick was inconsistent with a meager 57.6 quarterback rating.
What a pitiful showing for Todd Bowles and the Jets. In big moments, they looked spooked. Their defense exhibited grand moments but slipped too frequently. Their offense looked disjointed from the start with three incomplete passes and a punt on the game's opening drive.
It was the worst kind of defeat for Bowles, whose team has now lost three of its last four games. He is coaching a bunch that has dropped four straight now to Buffalo. But this was the first one with Ryan leading the Bills and it was a crucial game for Bowles.
There is an axiom in this league that states NFL coaches enjoy beating their friends, they love beating their enemies and they must beat the guy they replaced. You don't and whispers arise. Heads turn. If he can't beat the last guy, people in the building wonder if the new guy really is better. It is simply a nasty place for a new NFL head coach to reside.
Bowles' Jets trailed 22-3 in the third quarter.
"Being down 22-3, is just bad," Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis said. "It's pretty bad to fall back behind by that much. We showed a lot of heart trying to fight back."
They also showed a lot of the reasons why few people think they are valid playoff contenders.
"When they had the ball near our goal line after we messed up on the punt, our defense talked and decided, `Let's stand up!"' said Bills linebacker Nigel Brandham. He exhibited the Bills toughness. He attempted a tackle on a running play early in the game, lost his helmet, was smacked sideways in the scrum and had to be helped off the field. The bridge of his nose was gashed. But quickly, he was back in, making a difference.
"We have a nose, a feel for what they like to do," Brandham said. "We really have that for certain situations. We put it on the line for Rex tonight. He deserved that."
His defense won it.
The Jets' final offensive play of the game, with 17 seconds left, was safety Bacarri Rambo's interception of Fitzpatrick at the Buffalo 42. Rex Ryan then lost it.
Rex leaping! Rex tossing his hat into the air! Rex serving the Jets comeuppance!
"It's real," he said.