With Thomas Jones(notes) and Jay Feely(notes) on their games, plus the NFL’s second-ranked defense shutting down the sputtering Bucs, Clemens didn’t have to give the Jets more in his ninth career start.
“I feel good about it, but I’d be lying if I said that I hadn’t come in with a little bit higher expectations,” Clemens said after completing 12 of 23 passes for 111 yards and no interceptions.
“I did what was necessary—no turnovers and made good decisions in the run game, got us in and out of a couple of plays that we didn’t want to be in. So, I did my job. I don’t think I blew the top off of anything, but I did what was required.”
Jones rushed for 99 yards and two touchdowns, Feely kicked four field goals, and the Jets intercepted rookie Josh Freeman(notes) three times while holding the Bucs to 124 yards, including just 43 on the ground.
“I thought Kellen did a great job in the huddle. I thought he did a great job of making the plays when he needed to make them,” Jones said. “It’s his first game in a long time, so I thought he played well. Hopefully, he can continue to get better each week.”
Ideally, he won’t have to.
Jets coach Rex Ryan said there’s a chance Sanchez may be able to return from a knee sprain next week against Atlanta.
“We’ll see how it goes. I’ve got confidence in Kellen, obviously, but we’ll see how Mark is when we get back,” Ryan said. “I think he’ll be ready to go, but I’m not sure.”
The Jets (7-6) climbed over .500 for the first time since beating Oakland to improve to 4-3 on Oct. 25. The Bucs (1-12) lost for the third straight week to a backup quarterback, with Freeman continuing to experience the growing pains of a young passer.
Freeman was intercepted five times during a 16-6 loss to Carolina last week. He was 14 of 33 for 93 yards and sacked three times by the Jets, who got interceptions from David Harris(notes), Darrelle Revis(notes) and Kerry Rhodes(notes).
Revis returned his fourth-quarter pick 54 yards to the Bucs 7, setting up Jones’ second TD on the next play. Jones also scored on a 33-yard run that put New York up 16-0 in the second quarter.
“I would never imagine having a two-game stretch like this,” said Freeman, the 17th pick in this year’s draft.
“It’s all on me,” the 21-year-old added of Tampa Bay’s offensive struggles. “I’m the quarterback. I’ve got to find a way.”
The Bucs were held 15 yards total offense in the first half. They didn’t manage a first down until the middle of the third quarter, and that came on a penalty.
Feely kicked field goals of 40, 24, 49 and 49 yards to help the Jets lead 19-0 at the break. The Bucs were fortunate to be that close.
Sione Pouha(notes) forced a fumble that New York’s defense was unable to recover inside Tampa Bay’s 10 late in the first quarter, and Clemens overthrew a wide-open Jerricho Cotchery(notes) in the end zone before settling for the shortest of Feely’s field goals.
When Freeman kneeled to end the first half, drawing boos from the announced crowd of 62,731 that included a large number of Jets fans, it left the Bucs with minus-1 net yards in the second quarter.
The Bucs had zero first downs until New York’s Bart Scott(notes) was penalized for unnecessary roughness after the Jets sacked Freeman on third down to stop a possession at the Tampa Bay 44. Earnest Graham’s(notes) 2-yard run on fourth-and-1 gave Tampa Bay a first down at the Jets 30, setting up Connor Barth’s(notes) 43-yard field goal.
Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris said his team set the tone for a sloppy performance with a poor practice on Friday.
The league’s youngest coach stated the obvious when asked what the past two weeks—with Freeman throwing eight interceptions while producing just three field goals—say about the Bucs.
“You’re not good enough. You’ve got to do a better job coaching, got to do a better job on the field,” Morris said. “That’s the bottom line.”
NOTES: The 124 yards were not a season low for the Bucs. They were held to 86—19 in the opening half—during a 24-0 home loss to the Giants in September. … Calvin Pace(notes), Donald Strickland(notes) and James Ihedigbo(notes) had sacks for New York. … The Jets, No. 1 in the league in rushing, finished with 175 yards on the ground.