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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - It was the cherry on the sundae for the New York Jets' defense.
Starting the second half with a 27-7 lead and having picked off Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick twice in the first 30 minutes, the Jets completed their interception hat trick when Antonio Cromartie got as easy a pick six as you'll see, racing 40 yards for a touchdown that put the game out of reach.
"It was big for us. Our coverage that we played, I was the squatting corner," Cromartie said of the play. "The guy [Bills receiver David Nelson] released outside, then I knew what kind of route we were going to end up getting. It just played into our hands well. It was a great call by coach [Rex] Ryan and coach [Mike] Pettine."
Bills coach Chan Gailey took the blame for the play.
"David broke out and Fitz thought he was gonna go out. Cromartie squatted on the outside route there," he said. "We read that as a turn in. When he broke out he threw it to him and Cromartie was sitting right there. It was a miscommunication and that's my fault. I'm responsible for the communication."
Cromartie said the Jets thought they'd get some opportunities to make plays against Fitzpatrick, who led the NFL last season with 23 interceptions.
"Kyle Wilson had a [good] day, [Darrelle] Revis had a pick," he said. "We had a fumble recovery and things like that on the back end."
The Jets' scouting report of the Bills was on point.
"Some of the things they ran, they kept it true. When you're studying film and everyone gets a beat on it, and you know the things that you need each other need to do, it makes things a lot easier," Cromartie said.
The Jets did not sack Fitzpatrick, but hit him five times.
"He's a quarterback that's extremely talented," Jets linebacker Aaron Maybin said. "Very mobile. And he's somebody that gets the ball out fast, so we realized early on that we probably weren't going to be able to do as much in the area of pressuring and sacking him as we did with other quarterbacks."
"But we knew that if we could get some free runners on him and get some hits that we would get him to make some ill-advised throws, which we did. We were able to get hits on him early in the game and really throughout the entire game. We were able to get pressure and get contact, so that forced him to make some bad decisions and our secondary was able to capitalize on it every time."
The Jets have now beaten the Bills six straight times. What was billed as an AFC East showdown never lived up to the hype. Cromartie, though, said his team wasn't focused on making a statement to their upstate rivals, but rather to critics who wondered what the Jets' chemistry would be like after last season's implosion and the addition of backup quarterback Tim Tebow.
"We wanted to show everybody that they want to call this a circus and everything, but we know how to play as a team," he said.

email: jskurski@buffnews.com