The night before, Coach addressed them. He implored them to play physically, told them to expect to win, told them, according to linebacker Bart Scott, “to show this league exactly who we are.” Then, seriously, the Jets ate a gosh darn snack.
On Sunday, they proved Ryan’s speech prophetic. They battered Buffalo from the opening kickoff, dominating in terms of passing, rushing and total yardage, time of possession, turnovers, even fantasy football points accrued, culminating in a that begged for a new mercy rule.
At his locker afterward, linebacker David Harris offered a sheepish grin, before answering honestly a question most players avoid.
Reporter: “Was it as easy as it looked?”
Harris: “It was. Yes, it was.”
The (0-4) offered little in way of resistance, even if recent history suggested the perfect conditions for an upset. In fact, the last four times the Jets made the playoffs, the Bills beat them at least once that season, and always with a losing record.
But these Bills were not those Bills, not Sunday. Their new coach, Chan Gailey, termed their performance “awful” and “bad,” while not disagreeing with the first question — Are the Bills the worst team in football? — posed at his news conference.
These Jets are not those Jets, either, not this season. Last year, they also started 3-1, but that felt different, less stable, less certain. Woody Johnson, the Jets’ owner, stood in the locker room Sunday, and he kept pointing — to quarterback , to running back LaDainian Tomlinson, to center Nick Mangold.
“They did it,” Johnson said. “That team usually gives us trouble. But not today.”
With their latest win, the Jets swept their first round of division games in the A.F.C. East. They already hold one more division victory than they recorded all of last season, with three division games left.
But although the Jets expected to arrive at this point, at 3-1, in control of their division, how the first quarter of their season unfolded contained a few surprises. Most notably, the offense.
Last season, the Jets scored 28 or more points in three games, throwing only slightly more than a high school team running a Wing-T. The Jets reached the 28-point mark each of the past three weeks.
On Sunday, that started with the offensive line, of which defensive lineman Trevor Pryce, who the Jets signed last week, said, “I’ve been on the wrong side of those blocks before.”
That line led two backs into the century club, with Tomlinson gaining 133 yards — his first 100-yard game since October 2008 — and scoring two touchdowns, and Shonn Greene amassing 117 yards. The Bills rushed for 114 yards total.
Tomlinson passed Tony Dorsett for seventh on the ’s career rushing list and continued his career resurgence.
On his second touchdown, he shot through the left side of the line, past a diving Donte Whitner, for a 26-yard score that gave the Jets an insurmountable 38-7 lead.
In preparing for Tomlinson and San Diego in last season’s playoffs, Ryan saw all he needed from the supposedly washed-up running back. Ryan signed Tomlinson with high expectations.
“I thought he would be good,” Ryan said. “But he’s better than that.”
Tomlinson exceeded expectations in three games, but the Jets’ defense failed to live up to its self-imposed grand billing. Even after beating Miami, Jets defensive players labeled their performance “horrible,” “embarrassing” and “unacceptable.” Worse, the Jets ranked 31st in getting off the field on third down.
Ryan challenged his players to be better in that area (the Bills did not convert a third down). He challenged them to play better despite missing three starters: cornerback Darrelle Revis, linebacker Calvin Pace and nose tackle Kris Jenkins. The defense responded, holding the Bills to zero passing yards in the first quarter and 223 yards of offense over all.
“We really needed this game to get our confidence back,” safety said. “We wanted to make a statement to the rest of the division, the rest of the N.F.L. We did that.”
The Jets’ passing offense took care of the rest. Sanchez finished with a 106.4 quarterback rating, the result of good decisions and two touchdown passes. Receiver Braylon Edwards and tight end Dustin Keller each scored for the third consecutive game.
Afterward, Sanchez recalled his early success last season, how the N.F.L. seemed easy. He ended up throwing 20 interceptions, or 20 more than he has thrown so far this season (to which Scott knocked loudly on his wooden locker).
“We expected this from him all along,” Keller said. “The scary thing is, he’s capable of playing even better.”
Next week, against Minnesota and the former rent-a-Jet quarterback , they will have the suspended receiver Santonio Holmes back, and probably Revis and Pace, too. The best thing that ever happened to the Jets, Scott said, was losing to Baltimore in the opener, because it sparked them.
The , Scott added, provide the perfect next opponent, because the Jets are not susceptible to a letdown, not against Favre on a Monday night. Scott wore purple loafers made from alligator as he said this, but he did not smile.
“We should expect to play like this,” he said. “There’s no reason to walk around patting ourselves on the back. We expect to beat them all.”