EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker)—The Buffalo Bills were burned by Chad Morton the first time they faced the New York Jets. On Sunday, they will have to worry about two Chads - Morton and Pennington.
Morton returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, the second a 96-yarder 14 seconds into overtime, in the Jets’ 37-31 victory over the Bills in the season opener for both teams.
A third-year player in his second season with the Jets, Morton became just the second player in NFL history to return an overtime kickoff for a touchdown and the fifth to return two kickoffs for a score in a game. In the second quarter, Morton scored on a 98-yard kickoff return 14 seconds after the Bills had built a 10-0 lead.
“Those returns killed us,” Bills linebacker Eddie Robinson said. “Hopefully, you would only give up one return per year, if that. To have two in one game was unthinkable.”
Aside from those special teams breakdowns, the Bills dominated the game statistically, totaling 26 first downs and gaining 384 yards compared to 266 yards to the Jets.
Last week, Pennington was brilliant, completing 21-of-26 passes for 229 yards and four touchdowns with one interception in the Jets’ 31-14 win at Detroit.
“There was a lot of skepticism around him that he couldn’t do this,” Jets coach Herman Edwards said. “A lot of people said he wasn’t my guy because I didn’t draft him. He’s my guy, he’s on the Jets. For him to take advantage of his opportunity, it’s outstanding.”
A first-round pick in 2000, Pennington has completed 75 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions and a 110.2 rating as a starter.
“With every start, I get more confident in my teammates,” Pennington said. “They’re making more and more plays across the board. The offensive line, everyone just keeps getting better and better.”
Pennington now duels Bledsoe, who has passed for 3,027 yards in 10 games, just 67 yards fewer than Dan Marino had through 10 games in 1984, when he set an NFL record with 5,084. In the season opener against the Jets, Bledsoe completed 26-of-39 for 271 yards, but was intercepted twice.
The NFL’s top receiving tandem - Moulds and Peerless Price - combined for 15 catches and 192 yards against New York’s secondary. Moulds has 66 receptions for 889 yards and six touchdowns and Price has 64 catches for 878 yards and seven scores.
But the Jets can’t just focus on the pass after being victimized by Travis Henry, who rushed for 149 yards and three touchdowns on 31 carries in the season opener.
Last week, Henry recorded his fourth 100-yard game of the season, gaining 126 yards on 24 carries in Buffalo’s 17-16 loss at Kansas City.
New York’s Curtis Martin has been hampered by a sprained left ankle he suffered when linebacker London Fletcher fell on his knee after he caught a screen pass in the season opener. Due to the injury, Martin has just two 100-yard games this season, the latest a 112-yard performance last week at Detroit.
The Bills and Jets are tied with New England for second place in the AFC East, one game behind Miami. The Bills host Miami next week and follow with a visit to New England.
Buffalo leads the overall series, 46-37.