EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ (AP) — The New York Jets pulled off one of their most exciting and improbable victories in years — and still couldn’t fully capitalize on it.
Not knowing that they might have to walk the rest of the way without their leader.
Aaron Rodgers was knocked out in the Jets’ 22-16 overtime win over the Buffalo Bills just four times into his debut Monday night due to what coach Robert Saleh said was an Achilles tendon injury LEFT.
“It caught us off guard,” cornerback Sauce Gardner said. “But we dedicated him to winning the game.”
Rodgers was sacked by Buffalo’s Leonard Floyd and fell awkwardly on his leg. Saleh said Rodgers, 39, will have an MRI on Tuesday after X-rays during the game came back negative.
“Concerned about his Achilles,” said a somber Saleh. “The MRI will probably confirm what we think is going to happen, so prayers tonight. But it’s not good.
It cast a pall over the game — won when rookie Xavier Gipson returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown — and perhaps over the Jets’ season.
“It’s been a roller coaster of emotions,” Gardner said.
New York’s aggressive defense forced four turnovers from Buffalo’s Josh Allen, who was picked off three times by Jordan Whitehead in a wild and often ugly season opener.
“We made it pretty difficult on ourselves,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said. “When you turn the ball over four times, it’s hard to win in this league. You face two opponents: the one on the other side and yourself. That’s what we did tonight and it’s not the right formula to win games.
With the game tied, Micheal Clemons forced an Allen fumble that was recovered by Quinnen Williams, setting up Greg Zuerlein’s third field goal – a 30-yarder – with 1:48 remaining to give the Jets the lead for the first time.
But Allen and the Bills had just enough time to get back into scoring position, and Tyler Bass’ 50-yard kick hit the left upright before going over the crossbar to tie the game at 16 with 2 seconds left in regulation time.
After Buffalo scored three points to start the overtime, Sam Martin threw 42 yards and Gipson fielded it, made a few moves early, then ran down the left sideline, made a few more cuts and s he rushed into the end zone to spark a huge celebration from his teammates.
Saleh was there to swarm Gipson, an undrafted rookie under Stephen F. Austin who made the team out of training camp.
“They gave me the opportunity and gave me the chance,” Gipson said. “I guess it was my time. My time has been revealed.
It was the third punt return for an overtime touchdown in NFL history, joining Gipson joining Arizona’s Patrick Peterson (2011) and Kansas City’s Tamarick Vanover (1995).
Meanwhile, Allen tied a career high with his four turnovers and fell to 0-5 in overtime, including playoff games.
“I cost our team tonight,” said Allen, who went 29 of 41 for 236 yards and a touchdown to Stefon Diggs. “It sucks when you feel like you’re the reason, and I’m the reason we lost.”
The Jets had tied it at 13 with 4:55 left on an acrobatic catch by Garrett Wilson, who tipped Zach Wilson’s pass toward him with his right hand — and Tre’Davious White draped himself all over him — and recovered the ball as he fell on his back in the end zone.
A night that started optimistically for the Jets turned disappointing before the game was even four minutes old.
After a 26-yard run by Breece Hall on the Jets’ opening play, Rodgers threw his first pass after taking heavy pressure from Greg Rousseau. Rodgers threw incomplete on the next play, but Terrel Bernard was called for a defensive holding.
Then, Rodgers tried to avoid a rushing Floyd, who wrapped up the quarterback and took him to the MetLife Stadium turf. Rodgers appeared to look at his leg before trainers attended to him. He got up after a few moments, but needed help to get to the New York sideline.
Rodgers was taken to the blue medical tent to be examined – then sat on a gurney. Halfway to the locker room, he jumped off the cart and limped inside.
Zach Wilson replaced him just 3:45 into the game. Wilson, who finished 14 of 21 for 140 yards, including the TD pass and an interception, is expected to start next Sunday at Dallas.
“My job as a quarterback is I have to step up,” Wilson said. “I have to be as efficient as possible in this attack. Just a lot of emotions.
THE ROOM IS BACK
After Bass’ 40-yard field goal on Buffalo’s second offensive series gave the Bills a 3-0 lead, Zuerlein tied it with a 26-yarder to cap a drive started by an 83-yard run by Hall. The second-year running back had his rookie season cut short last year in Week 7 when he tore the ACL in his left knee.
He spent the offseason working on a comeback and reached the opener — and showed he was healthy just 11 months after a serious knee injury.
He finished with 127 yards on 10 carries.
Dalvin Cook made his debut for the Jets, rushing for 33 yards on 13 carries and catching three passes for 26 yards. He also got bragging rights again over his brother James, a running back for the Bills.
James Cook, who is five years younger, had 46 yards on 12 carries and four receptions for 17 yards.
Dalvin’s Vikings beat the Bills 33-30 in overtime last season in the brothers’ first meeting.
Bills: Host the Las Vegas Raiders in their home opener next Sunday.
Jets: Travel to Dallas to face the Cowboys next Sunday.
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