ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP)Greg Rousseau and the Buffalo Bills didn’t want to let down Von Miller.
On Sunday, they collectively filled the absence of their star pass rusher by not letting up on Mike White and the New York Jets.
With Josh Allen and the Bills offense having difficulty finding its footing on a slick field, the defense combined for four sacks, forced two turnovers and clinched a 20-12 win by having White turn the ball over on downs by throwing four straight incompletions – the last batted down by A.J. Epenesa.
”We knew we’ve got to step up,” said Rousseau, who had two sacks and forced a fumble in the same week the Bills learned Miller would miss the remainder of the season after having surgery to repair a torn right knee ligament.
”But Von is still with us. He’s still paying attention,” Rousseau added. ”So I mean, we’re doing it for him. We’re doing it for us.”
The Bills were so relentless in getting after White, the Jets quarterback was sidelined twice. He missed one snap after being hit by Ed Oliver. White then missed a series while being evaluated for rib injures after being struck by Matt Milano.
White returned each time and finished the game before boarding an ambulance for a trip to the hospital for what coach Robert Saleh said was for precautionary reasons.
The Bills never trailed in a game during which Allen threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Dawson Knox in the closing minute of the second quarter and then scored on a 5-yard run on Buffalo’s first possession of the third quarter.
The AFC-leading Bills (10-3) won their fourth straight since a two-game skid, which included a 20-17 loss at the Jets. Buffalo has won at least 10 of its first 13 games for the seventh time in franchise history.
”We made a statement that Von is one of our brothers and with or without him we’re going to try to get the job done,” said safety Damar Hamlin, who forced Michael Carter to fumble by punching the ball loose to end a Jets scoring drive at Buffalo’s 28 with 5:34 left in regulation.
”It’s the next-man-up mentality,” Hamlin added. ”Our lineup is deep, down to the practice squad. It’s a standard that we all uphold.”
The Jets (7-6) have lost four of six in a slump that has made their playoff chances shaky. New York, which hasn’t qualified for the postseason since 2010, entered the week as the AFC’s seventh seed, a win ahead of New England and the Los Angeles Chargers. But the Jets fell out of playoff position with the Chargers’ 23-17 victory over Miami.
Saleh refused to count his team out by suggesting the division rivals will meet for a third time this season, in reference to the playoffs.
”Nothing is guaranteed, obviously. I just have so much faith in that locker room. So much faith in the coaching staff. So much faith in everybody that is involved day to day,” Saleh said. ”I don’t think there is a guy in that locker room who doesn’t think we are capable of so much more.”
And though unhappy with the lack of protection White had, Saleh praised his quarterback’s grit, while noting the player was expected to travel home with the team.
”I thought he showed resolve and toughness, everything that we’ve been seeing,” he said of White, who made his sixth career start and third this year since Zach Wilson was benched. ”I think it showed everybody else more than what we already know with regards to how tough he is.”
The game was decided in the second half, and after the elements and both defenses contributed to the teams opening the game with 10 consecutive punts, the most to start an NFL game since 2016. The Bills punted five straight times before Allen capped a seven-play, 70-yard drive with the touchdown pass to Knox.
The Jets were trailing 14-7 when White was sidelined the first time. On the very next play, backup Joe Flacco lost a fumble while being sacked Rousseau. The turnover led to Bass hitting a 38-yard field goal attempt.
Carter’s lost fumble came on the drive after the Jets cut Buffalo’s lead to 20-9 when Jermaine Johnson blocked Sam Martin’s punt for a safety.
BY THE NUMBERS
White finished 27 of 44 for 268 yards and no turnovers, a year after he threw four interceptions in a 45-17 loss to the Bills.
Zonovan Knight scored on a 13-yard run. With 78 yards receiving, Garrett Wilson upped his total to 878, breaking the Jets’ single-season rookie record set by Keyshawn Johnson in 1996.
Allen finished 16 of 27 for a season-low 147 yards. More important, he didn’t turn the ball over as he did twice in Buffalo’s loss to the Jets last month.
With Buffalo facing fourth-and-1 at its own 39 and 1:17 left in the first half, Allen lined up in a shotgun formation when Knox darted under center and drew the Jets offside. Linebacker C.J. Mosley was fooled by what happened and dived over center to tackle Knox, who had yet to take the snap. Knox scored five plays later by vaulting Sauce Gardner and going end over end before landing on the goal line.
Jets: Host the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
Bills: Host the Miami Dolphins on Saturday night.
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