FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The New York Jets can’t erase three months of bad football in one afternoon, but a victory Sunday would provide a temporary reprieve from the ugliness. Revenge has that power. It can ease the pain for a few hours, maybe a few days.
The Jets want payback. Badly.
Four weeks ago, they suffered one of the worst defeats in franchise history, a 41-10 humiliation to the Buffalo Bills. The Jets were not competitive from the first play to the last, embarrassing themselves against fourth-string quarterback Matt Barkley.
If they have any pride — if there’s anything left in their heart after six straight defeats — they will go up to Orchard Park, New York, and beat the equally dreadful Bills (4-8).
“Cut to the chase, man: It’s personal,” safety Jamal Adams said Wednesday. “They came in and they whupped us. They don’t like us, we don’t like them, so it’s going to be a tough battle.”
Players said coach Todd Bowles reminded them of the debacle when he spoke to them Monday. He brought it up again Wednesday. He might as well bang the redemption drums, because there’s no other tangible motivation. The Jets (3-9) ruined their playoff chances several weeks ago and it’s probably too late to save Bowles, who almost certainly will be a goner when the season ends.
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“They put it to us pretty good the last time,” linebacker Brandon Copeland said. “You don’t get too many chances to get some get-back. … This is like one of those boxing movies where you get knocked out. You get destroyed the first time and you get a second chance to come back. What are you going to do? Are you going to stand up and stand tall? Or are you going to get knocked out again?”
A 31-point loss is bad under any circumstances, but the Jets got played by a team that entered the game in one of the worst offensive funks in NFL history. In a battle of journeyman quarterbacks — Josh McCown vs. Barkley — the Bills outplayed and outcoached the Jets so thoroughly that it nearly got Bowles fired.
“Yeah, I think it’s fresh in a lot of guys’ minds,” wide receiver Quincy Enunwa said. “I think the majority of us will use it as motivation. You don’t want to get beat like that again. You don’t want to get beat at all by them. You don’t forget about that, at least not this soon.”
The Jets haven’t won a division game (0-4). That’s a sad commentary on the state of the team, considering the AFC East is arguably the worst division in the NFL. The last time they went winless in the division was 1996, the infamous 1-15 season. No Jets team, under any circumstance, should want to be mentioned in the same sentence as the ’96 misfits.
This time, the Jets-Bills battle for last place will have a fresh look at quarterback — Sam Darnold vs. Josh Allen, the first matchup between rookie starting quarterbacks this season. Maybe Darnold’s expected return to the lineup can spark the Jets, who have scored only three offensive touchdowns in the past five games, a franchise record for futility.
Forget the matchups. Forget the X’s and O’s. Sometimes it just comes down to will and toughness. No one has posted “41-10” on a bulletin board in the Jets’ facility. There’s no need to.
“We’re not necessarily talking about the score,” Copeland said, “but we are upfront and honest that they whipped us.”
Linebacker Avery Williamson added: “There’s plenty of motivation for us because we got beat bad. We’ve got a point to prove, to come out and get a victory over them.”