EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The bravado was back, even if just for one happy postgame press conference.
Rex Ryan was downright giddy after the New York Jets ended an eight-game losing streak with a stunning 20-13 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
"For people that count this football team out, you do so at your own risk," Ryan said. "This team is tough. I’ve said it the whole time."
The Jets (2-8) got two touchdown passes from Michael Vick and avoided setting a dubious franchise record for consecutive losses. It also made Ryan and his bunch feel a lot better before they head into their bye-week break.
"Not that this win will catapult us in to the playoffs, but it’s a big win for us because we’ve been working extremely hard," Ryan said. "Quite honestly, this was the best week of practice we’ve had since I’ve been here — and it finally meant something."
New York’s locker room was pretty thrilled, too. Just ask linebacker Calvin Pace.
"It’s like we won the Super Bowl," he said. "It took us so long to get win No. 2."
Ben Roethlisberger came into a Terrible Towel-filled MetLife Stadium having thrown six touchdowns in each of his last two games, and he was going against a Jets secondary that has been shaky all season. The stage seemed set for another big day for Big Ben.
The Jets were having none of it.
Roethlisberger finished 30 of 43 for 343 yards, but was intercepted twice by Jaiquawn Jarrett. The Jets also recovered two fumbles, both by Antonio Brown, after coming in with three takeaways all season.
"There’s nothing mystical about the outcome of that football game," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "We talked all week about why that team struggled: because they were minus in the turnover ratio. … Well, they weren’t today. They were plus-4.
"You’re going to lose football games when you’re minus-4 in the turnover ratio, and we did today."
Roethlisberger connected with Martavis Bryant for an 80-yard TD with 1:16 left for his only scoring pass of the game. New York kept Pittsburgh’s offense out of rhythm almost all afternoon.
"You can’t turn the ball over, and we did it too much," Roethlisberger said. "This stings."
Here are a few other things to know about the Jets’ surprising victory over the Steelers:
STEPPING UP: Jarrett started over struggling rookie first-rounder Calvin Pryor, and the move turned out to be huge.
Jarrett, in his third NFL season, had the first two interceptions of his career Sunday. He also had 10 tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery.
"We were trying to line up guys that we think deserve it, whether it’s in the classroom, on the practice field, or in meetings, being on time for meetings," Ryan said. "The guy does a great job. He’s dependable and has been playing well."
THEY LIKE MIKE: Vick played his second straight game without a turnover, and Ryan announced he will start at Buffalo after the bye-week break.
He became the first quarterback in NFL history to run for 6,000 career yards, threw touchdown passes to T.J. Graham and Jace Amaro, and was 10 of 18 for 132 yards passing and ran eight times for 39 yards.
Ryan wasn’t happy about a few non-calls in which Vick was hit a bit late, in his opinion, including one that knocked off the quarterback’s helmet. The coach, who was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after a play by Vick, was also caught on TV using an expletive as he walked toward midfield after the game ended.
"In this league, there is a huge emphasis on protecting the quarterback, protecting all players, as they should," Ryan said. "I’m not so sure our quarterback was protected as well as the other quarterback today. I think I got a little upset with that."
SHUT DOWN: Roethlisberger wasn’t the only Steelers offensive player who didn’t have his usual big day.
Brown had eight catches, but was "held" to 74 yards receiving, the first time this season he failed to get 80 or more. He was looking to become the first player in NFL history to reach five catches and 80 yards in each of the first 10 games of a season.
VICTORY FORMATION: With the Jets kneeling on the ball to close out their victory, Steelers safety Mike Mitchell came flying over center Nick Mangold, who tossed him over his shoulder and to the ground.
The Jets players weren’t happy, and they got into it briefly with Steelers players before things were broken up. But New York was still steaming after the game.
"It’s a dirty play," Mangold said. "And that’s what it is."
NON-BELIEBERS?: Blame it on Justin Bieber.
At least that’s what a lot of Steelers fans on Twitter were doing during the game after the pop star visited his favorite team Saturday night. Bieber, a Steelers fan, met with several players during the team’s Bible study session at the Steelers hotel. A handful of players tweeted about meeting him, and even posted pictures with him.
Sure enough, as the Steelers fell behind 17-0 in the first quarter, the hashtag #BlameBieber was trending on Twitter.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_NFLTags: car, football, game, player, today, tv