On a rare day for Rex Ryan, the embattled coach of the struggling New York Jets was able to smile after a game for the first time since Week 1.
It’s been that long since the Jets had won, so the relieved Ryan was feeling pretty good after a stunning 20-13 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
“All right!” Ryan exclaimed. “Finally!”
Finally, indeed. Michael Vick threw two touchdown passes and the Jets (2-8) forced four turnovers, including two interceptions by Jaiquawn Jarrett, while shutting down Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers (6-4) and ending an eight-game losing streak.
“This team deserved to win, man,” Ryan said.
Roethlisberger threw six touchdown passes in each of his last two games, and was playing in front of a MetLife Stadium crowd that appeared nearly half-filled with Terrible Towel-waving Steelers fans. But the Jets wouldn’t allow Roethlisberger to get into much of a rhythm.
“There’s nothing mystical about the outcome of that football game,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “We talked all week about why that team struggled: because they were minus in the turnover ratio. … Well, they weren’t today. They were plus-4.
“You’re going to lose football games when you’re minus-4 in the turnover ratio, and we did today.”
Roethlisberger finished 30 of 43 for 343 yards and connected with Martavis Bryant for an 80-yard TD with 1:16 left. The Steelers attempted an onside kick, but Eric Decker recovered to seal it for the Jets — who avoided setting a franchise mark for consecutive losses.
“You can’t turn the ball over, and we did it too much,” Roethlisberger said. “This stings.”
The Jets weren’t happy, though, that Mike Mitchell tried to break up their victory formation, leaping over the top of center Nick Mangold, who slammed the Steelers safety to the ground, causing a brief shoving match.
“It’s a dirty play,” Mangold said.
But the Jets won by playing mostly a clean game Sunday, successful for the first time since beating Oakland on opening day.
“Today,” Vick said, “was going to be our day.”
Vick, who became the first quarterback in NFL history to run for 6,000 career yards, threw touchdown passes to T.J. Graham and Jace Amaro. Vick was 10 of 18 for 132 yards and ran eight times for 39 yards, and Ryan announced that the veteran will start again against Buffalo after the bye week.
The victory might help temper frustrations of Jets fans, one of whom had a banner-toting plane urging the team to fire general manager John Idzik circle the practice field early in the week. There was another one circling the stadium Sunday, which read: “JETS REBUILDING SINCE 1969.”
But, heading into the bye, Ryan’s job, as well as Idzik’s, appears safe — for now.
The Jets looked good on their first possession, but the 14-play drive stalled at the Steelers 5 and New York Nick Folk made a 23-yard field goal.
After Jarrett sacked Roethlisberger on third-and-15 to force a punt, the Jets got right back on the scoreboard. Vick had plenty of time and zipped a perfectly placed pass into the hands of a sprinting Graham, who ran it into the end zone for a 67-yard touchdown.
The Jets got the ball right back when Muhammad Wilkerson forced a fumble by Antonio Brown and Jarrett recovered. Jarrett finished with two interceptions, a sack and a fumble recovery after drawing the late start after first-round pick Calvin Pryor was benched.
After a sack on first down, Vick scrambled for 18 yards, including a shake-and-bake move that buckled Steelers cornerback Brice McCain’s knees. Three plays later, Vick found Amaro and made it 17-0 with 19 seconds left in the opening quarter.
“That’s what happens when you turn the ball over,” Roethlisberger said. “You dig yourself a hole.”
Pittsburgh appeared on its way to its first score with a long drive in the second quarter helped by a personal foul penalty on New York’s Jason Babin. But at the Jets 10, Roethlisberger had his short pass attempt tipped by Marcus Williams right into Jarrett’s hands.
The Jets, who came in with three takeaways all season, got their third of the first half when Brown muffed Ryan Quigley’s punt and Graham recovered. But Folk was wide left on a 45-yard attempt.
In the final quarter, Pittsburgh had first-and-goal from the 1, but was stuffed on four straight plays — including a penalty on the Jets and LeGarrette Blount losing 8 yards on a run. Shaun Suisham’s 27-yarder made it 20-6 with 7:21 left.
“It’s a team we should beat,” Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons said. “But this is the NFL. You have to go in their house and you can’t go in here and win if you have four turnovers and none on defense.”
NOTES: Suisham hooked a 23-yard attempt wide left on the first play of the fourth quarter. … Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell had eight catches for 33 yards, giving him 55 receptions for the season, surpassing John L. Williams (51 in 1994) for the most in team history by a running back. … Brown was held to 74 yards receiving, the first time this season he failed to get 80 or more.
Source: The AP