Jets close sea­son with 13-6 win over Bills

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS - By JOHN WAWROW AP Sports Writer

OR­CHARD PARK, N.Y. >> Sam Darnold hit Jami­son Crow­der for a 1-yard touch­down pass in the fourth quar­ter, and the New York Jets avoided fin­ish­ing their fourth con­sec­u­tive sea­son with dou­bledigit losses in a 13-6 win over the Buf­falo Bills’ back­ups Sun­day.

The Jets missed the play­offs for a ninth con­sec­u­tive sea­son, but fin­ished at 7-9 un­der first-year coach Adam Gase for their best record since go­ing 10-6 in 2015.

The play­off-bound Bills had very lit­tle to play for while rest­ing most of their starters, in­clud­ing quar­ter­back Josh Allen after the first quar­ter. Buf­falo dropped to 10-6 — still its best fin­ish since go­ing 11-5 in 1999 — and en­tered the game al­ready locked in as the AFC’s fifth seed.

The Bills will travel to play AFC South cham­pion Hous­ton Tex­ans in the wild-card play­off round next week­end. The Tex­ans were as­sured of the No. 4 seed after Kansas City de­feated the Los Angeles Charg­ers.

Oth­er­wise, the game be­tween the Jets and Bills was a de­fen­sive strug­gle that be­fit­ted the sloppy con­di­tions, with a per­sis­tent driz­zle fall­ing for most of the af­ter­noon.

With the score tied at 3, and fol­low­ing Jets kicker Sam Ficken miss­ing two of his first three field­goal at­tempts, Darnold over­saw

a nine-play, 75-yard touch­down drive, which he capped by hit­ting Crow­der cut­ting across the mid­dle on sec­ond-and-goal with 13:31 left.

The touch­down was Darnold’s 19th of the sea­son, and 36th of his ca­reer. The 2018 first-round draft pick fell one touch­down pass­ing short of match­ing Joe Na­math’s record for most by a Jets player in his first two sea­sons.

Darnold and the Jets had a bet­ter fin­ish to the sea­son than their start. Be­gin­ning by squan­der­ing a 16-0 third-quar­ter lead in a 1716 sea­son-open­ing loss to the Bills, New York opened 1-7 dur­ing a stretch that in­cluded Darnold missed three games due to mononu­cle­o­sis.

Darnold closed strong by go­ing 6-2 in the sec­ond half of the sea­son, in which he com­bined for 13 touch­downs pass­ing and just four in­ter­cep­tions. Against Buf­falo, he fin­ished 23 of 36 for 199 yards, with an in­ter­cep­tion. He was sacked twice by Trent Mur­phy.

Allen lasted two se­ries be­fore backup Matt Barkley and the sec­ond stringers en­tered the game late in the first half.

Barkley was 18 of 35 for 232 yards with two in­ter­cep­tions and a lost fum­ble. In Barkley’s de­fense, he was over­see­ing an of­fense that opened the game mi­nus starters John Brown and Cole Beasley, and with just three ac­tive re­ceivers, all back­ups.

The lack of chem­istry showed on Barkley’s sec­ond in­ter­cep­tion with 5:17 re­main­ing. After gain­ing 45 yards on three plays, Barkley lobbed a pass di­rected to­ward T.J. Yel­don only to have the run­ning back turn the wrong way, with the ball eas­ily in­ter­cepted by Arthur Maulet.

The turnover led to Ficken hit­ting a 47-yard field goal to put the Jets up 13-3 with 2:05 left.

The Bills were un­able to avoid in­juries.

Start­ing cor­ner­back Levi Wal­lace was carted off the side­line with a right an­kle in­jury. He was hurt when his cleat got caught in the turf in in­ter­cept­ing Darnold’s pass that car­omed off the back of team­mate Taron Johnson’s hel­met.

Bills right tackle Ty Nsekhe was also carted off the side­line after hurt­ing his an­kle on the open­ing drive of the third quar­ter. Nsekhe had just re­turned to the lineup after miss­ing five games with an an­kle in­jury.

ALEXAN­DER FAREWELL?

In what could be his fi­nal home game, Bills line­backer Lorenzo Alexan­der stood with his fam­ily on Buf­falo’s side­line while his daugh­ter, Zoie, sang the na­tional an­them. The 36-year-old Alexan­der has said he in­tends to re­tire after com­plet­ing his 13th NFL sea­son.

The Bills also called time­out be­fore the Jets sec­ond se­ries to al­low Alexan­der to come off the field for one fi­nal time on de­fense.

GORE MILE­STONE

Buf­falo Bills run­ning back Frank Gore played his 226th ca­reer reg­u­larsea­son game, ty­ing Em­mitt Smith for most by a run­ning back in NFL his­tory.

Gore was com­ing off his first ca­reer game in which he had no yards from scrim­mage. Start­ing in place of rookie Devin Sin­gle­tary, the 36-year-old Gore was lim­ited to play­ing the first half in which he fin­ished with six car­ries for 26 yards and three catches for 16.

UP NEXT

Jets: sea­son over. Bills: AFC wild-card play­off at Hous­ton Tex­ans.

ADRIAN KRAUS - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

New York Jets kicker Sam Ficken (9) re­acts after miss­ing a field goal dur­ing the first half of an NFL foot­ball game against the Buf­falo Bills Sun­day, Dec. 29, 2019 in Or­chard Park, N.Y.

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