Negating the effects of 25-plus mph winds blowing off Lake Erie, McGahee led Buffalo’s ball-control offense with a career-high 132 yards rushing and a touchdown in the Bills 22-17 win over the New York Jets on Sunday.
“He can run,” left tackle Jonas Jennings said. “He’s got vision. Our job is to get him past the first level. And he and the receivers do the rest.”
McGahee continued to downplay his string of strong performances, the starter in all three victories for Buffalo (3-5), in which he’s had 100 or more yards each time.
“We’re all getting comfortable right now,” said McGahee, who supplanted Travis Henry as the starter two weeks ago. “We know what it takes to win. And we know what we have to do.”
McGahee’s 37 carries tied him for second most in a game in franchise history, and most since Thurman Thomas had 37 on Nov. 8, 1992 against Pittsburgh; O.J. Simpson, with 39, holds the record. That’s impressive for Buffalo’s 2003 first-round draft pick who missed his entire rookie season recovering from reconstructive knee surgery.
Buffalo won its third game in four outings, and third straight at home. And the weather has played a factor in all three, in which winds of 25 mph or stronger swirled around Ralph Wilson Stadium.
“We’re supposed to be a bad-weather team,” receiver Eric Moulds said. “Teams don’t want to come in here and play in this situation. We know that, and we have to use it to our advantage.”
The Bills beat the Jets (6-2), a team coming off a 41-14 win over Miami last Monday, and attempting to match its best start in franchise history.
The Jets’ problems might be worse than the game’s outcome. Quarterback Chad Pennington bruised his right shoulder and did not return after he was sacked for a 13-yard loss midway through the fourth quarter.
Pennington said he was initially hurt in the first quarter, when he scrambled up the middle for a 12-yard gain before he fumbled. He finished 7-of-15 for 141 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown to Justin McCareins.
Pennington approached coach Herman Edwards to pull him after his last two drives ended with an interception and a sack.
“There’s a fine line, stay in there and suck it up, but maybe hurt the team,” Pennington said. “It just felt like I was hurting the team more than I was helping the team.”
Pennington will have further tests Monday, but plans on playing next week against Baltimore.
The Bills responded with an eight-play, 37-yard drive to run out the clock. They might have caught a break in extending that final drive when officials ruled Lee Evans kept both feet inbounds on a 27-yard reception up the right sideline on third-and-8 with 2:31 remaining. But the Jets were unable to challenge after having used their three timeouts.
Edwards shrugged his shoulders when asked about the call, adding that he would’ve challenged the play.
“I think the whole team is frustrated,” Edwards said. “We knew we were going to have to play well to win the game. And we didn’t do that.”
With the game tied at 10 at the half, the Bills took the lead for good when Drew Bledsoe capped a 13-play, 77-yard drive with a 4-yard pass to Evans to start the third quarter.
The Jets had little response.
Except for Moss’ touchdown, New York combined for 16 yards offense on its five other second-half possessions. Moss led the Jets with a season-high 157 yards receiving.
New York’s Curtis Martin, who entered the game the NFL’s third-leading rusher this season, was limited to a season-low 67 yards. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Martin was tackled by Pat Williams in the end zone for a safety.
Bills right tackle Mike Williams sustained a neck injury in the third quarter and had to be driven off the field in an ambulance. Tests taken in the Bills training room were negative, and Williams was walking around while wearing a neck brace following the game. … Jets PK Doug Brien hit a 41-yard field goal, but was wide left on a 36-yard attempt. Bills PK Rian Lindell hit from 20 and 30 yards. … McGahee’s touchdown came on a 12-yard scamper 10 minutes into the game, converting on fourth-and-1.