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3 things we learned about the Jets

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — A familiar sight greeted the new-look New York Jets late Sunday afternoon. Except this time, fans were heading for the MetLife Stadium exits in the fourth quarter with smiles on their faces instead of frowns.

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw two touchdown passes and running back Chris Ivory rushed for two scores as the Jets routed the Cleveland Browns 31-10 in an injury-marred season opener for both teams.

The Jets trailed 7-0 and 10-7 in the second quarter before ending the game with a 24-0 run that began with Fitzpatrick’s first touchdown pass, a 15-yarder to wide receiver Eric Decker in the back of the end zone with 26 seconds left in the first half.

In the third quarter, Fitzpatrick (15 of 24, 179 yards, one interception) threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Brandon Marshall (six catches for 62 yards) and kicker Nick Folk booted a 34-yard field goal.

Ivory, who accounted for the Jets’ first touchdown on a 10-yard run in the second quarter, capped the scoring with a 3-yard run with 10:38 left in the fourth, after which MetLife turned into a ghost town as fans tried to beat the traffic home.

Such sights were familiar last season when the Jets went 2-6 at home during a 4-12 campaign that resulted in the firing of head coach Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik.

“If they want to leave in the fourth quarter, that’s fine — I’d like them to stay, but it’s a good feeling,” Decker said with a grin. “We played good football, good team football, and that’s what we expect.”

The Jets recovered from a slow start on both sides of the ball to dominate the Browns in the first game under the new regime of head coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan.

Offensively, New York collected just four first downs in its first five drives before racking up 14 first downs on its last six possessions. Defensively, the Jets gave up nine first downs and 10 points during the Browns’ first four drives before limiting Cleveland to six first downs in the final six series.

“It’s special because it’s the first team win. I’m very happy for the team,” said Bowles, who was presented with the game ball in the locker room afterward. “By no means are we perfect. We’ve got a lot of corrections to make.”

The Jets may have to make those corrections without two valuable players on defense. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie suffered a non-contact left knee injury in the second quarter and rookie linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin was strapped to a cart and taken to a hospital with neck and head injuries after he was piled on during a scramble for a loose ball in the fourth quarter.

What we learned about the Jets

1. The reunion of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie lasted less than a half. Cromartie suffered what certainly looked to be a season-ending left knee injury midway through the second quarter Sunday. He crumpled to the ground without being touched as Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel scrambled to the opposite sideline. Cromartie banged a fist on the turf and could not put any weight on the leg as he was helped from the field by trainers. Television cameras captured Cromartie laying on a sideline bench with a towel draped over his head. Afterward, head coach Todd Bowles said he didn’t want to speculate on a diagnosis for Cromartie but said “I hope not” when asked if it was an ACL injury. The Jets had big hopes after spending $46 million in guaranteed money in March to bring back Revis and Cromartie — who were teammates with the Jets from 2010 through 2012 — and repair a secondary that was left unattended by former general manager John Idzik. Coincidentally, one of Idzik’s few discoveries, second-year cornerback Marcus Williams, replaced Cromartie and had an interception that led to the first of the Jets’ three second-half touchdowns.

2. Geno Smith will not get his job back if Ryan Fitzpatrick plays like he did Sunday. The bearded veteran was an efficient 15 of 24 for 179 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall bailed Fitzpatrick out of his biggest mistake, a second-quarter interception in which Fitzpatrick badly overthrew Marshall and was picked off by safety Tashaun Gipson. But Marshall stayed with the play, wrapped up Gipson and jarred the ball loose as the two fell to the ground. Two plays later, running back Chris Ivory ran 10 yards for a touchdown that tied the score 7-7. Fitzpatrick masterfully ran a two-minute drill at the end of the first half when he was 7 of 8 for 65 yards and a 15-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Eric Decker that capped a 72-yard march. Fitzpatrick was efficient in the red zone (3 of 4 for 33 yards and two touchdowns) and led the Jets to points on each of the first five times New York moved inside the Browns’ 20-yard line. The game ended with Fitzpatrick taking a knee with the Jets at the Cleveland 10. More performances like Sunday from Fitzpatrick and the only hope Smith will have of getting on the field once he returns from his broken jaw in October is in the fourth quarter of lopsided games.

3. So far, so good for the more composed Jets. New head coach Todd Bowles preached maturity and accountability throughout the preseason and the Jets passed their first real test Sunday when they committed just four penalties. Bowles was also decidedly less demonstrative after his first NFL win than Rex Ryan has ever been after any of his 51 wins. While noting he was happy with the win, Bowles said the Jets still had plenty of work to do — a phrase echoed in the locker room by guard Willie Colon, who was one of Ryan’s leaders the last two seasons. “It’s good, but it’s only one game,” Colon said. “Nobody’s throwing a parade. We’ve got a long, long way to go.”

Etc.

–CB Antonio Cromartie (left knee) might have suffered a serious injury in the second quarter of Sunday’s 31-10 win over the Browns. Cromartie crumpled to the ground without being touched on the left sideline as Browns QB Johnny Manziel scrambled for 6 yards along the right sideline. Cromartie could not put any weight on the leg and was helped off the field by two trainers. Head coach Todd Bowles didn’t have an update afterward but said “I hope not” when asked if it was an ACL injury. The Jets signed Cromartie, 31, to a four-year deal in March in hopes he and CB Darrelle Revis — who played with Cromartie in New York from 2010 through 2012 — could revitalize a dormant secondary.

–LB Lorenzo Mauldin (concussion) was carted off the field in the fourth quarter Sunday of the Jets’ 31-10 win over the Browns. Mauldin was hurt when he was trampled on immediately after teaming up with DE Muhammad Wilkerson to sack Browns QB Johnny Manziel, who fumbled the ball to create the stampede that enveloped Mauldin. Jets S Calvin Pryor, who played at Louisville with Mauldin, said the rookie was breathing but not responding very well when trainers tended to him. The Jets said later Sunday that Mauldin was diagnosed with a concussion but that he has feelings in all of his extremities and that he does not have a neck injury. The Jets selected Mauldin in the third round of this year’s draft.

–C Nick Mangold dodged an injury scare Sunday when he missed a snap in the third quarter of the Jets’ 31-10 win over the Browns. Mangold was laying on the field for a few minutes after a second-and-goal play from the Browns’ 1-yard line. But Mangold got up without assistance and walked on his own to the sideline. The Jets have no backup for Mangold, so second-year offensive lineman Dakota Dozier made his NFL debut by entering and snapping on the next play, when QB Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to WR Brandon Marshall. Mangold returned to the field for the Jets’ next series and played the remainder of the game. He has played in 142 of 145 possible games since the Jets selected him in the first round of the 2006 draft.


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