EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — This one got away from the Buffalo Bills.
Even after it appeared the New York Jets were doing everything they could to hand them a victory.
After chipping away and tying the game in the fourth quarter, the Bills gave up a go-ahead 69-yard touchdown pass from Geno Smith to Santonio Holmes as the Jets overcame a team-record 20 penalties to hang on and win 27-20 Sunday.
"We had a huge momentum swing there and couldn't capitalize on it," Bills receiver Stevie Johnson said. "They ended up making more plays in the end. We competed for all four quarters. We just didn't get it."
Smith, who also ran for a score, slightly outplayed EJ Manuel in a matchup of the first two quarterbacks selected in the NFL draft. But this one was tough to watch with the barrage of penalties. The Jets (2-1) rolled up 168 yards in penalties, and nearly gave it away against the Bills (1-2).
New York became the first team to get called for that many penalties and win since the Browns beat the Bears in 1951 despite 21 penalties.
"We made our mistakes, but they made 20 penalties and we didn't win," Johnson said. "We have to find a way to get it done with that kind of help."
Capping a drive kept alive by four straight penalties on the Jets, Manuel connected with Scott Chandler for a 33-yard touchdown, then hit Johnson with a pass for a 2-point conversion that tied it at 20 with 10:39 left in the game.
"We were able to get the game to 20-20," Bills coach Doug Marrone said, "but then we were not able to make the plays to get us over the hump."
Smith got the Jets right back onto the scoreboard with his big heave to Holmes, who broke away from Justin Rogers as he caught the ball and zipped into the end zone.
"We knew that we had to score," Smith said.
Added Rogers: "I just have to turn my head around and make a play on the ball."
Manuel, who went No. 16 overall as the first quarterback drafted, was 19 of 42 for 243 yards and the score. But he couldn't make the plays down the stretch as he did last week in a comeback victory over Carolina.
He was also sacked eight times after going down just once in the first two games.
"I have to get the ball out of there, unless I want to get hit," Manuel said. "I needed to be able to get it out there so the receivers could make plays. I have to do a better job. I didn't execute well enough.
"I just have to get better."
And, so do the Jets.
Ryan lost two challenges in a span of three plays in the third quarter and it ended up hurting New York. Manuel scrambled for 21 yards but lost the ball when he was hit by Dawan Landry, and Jaiquawn Jarrett recovered. But officials ruled Manuel was down – and Ryan had no more challenges, with replays showing Manuel appeared to fumble.
New York then had a horrendous sequence of four straight penalties, three on Kyle Wilson, who was benched briefly after the last of the calls. That kept Buffalo's offense on the field. It appeared Fred Jackson also had a fumble during the drive that the Jets recovered, but penalties also negated that and put the Bills in position to tie.
Smith, the second quarterback drafted at No. 39, finished 16 of 29 for 331 yards and had two interceptions. Bilal Powell ran for a career-high 149 yards on 27 carries, and Holmes had a career-best 154 yards receiving.
"I love the fact that our team found a way to win," Ryan said. "We persevered and we won. That's really encouraging to me. That tells you about the fight and spirit of this football team, and that's what I'm most proud of."
It was a costly defeat for Buffalo, which lost cornerback Leodis McKelvin to a hamstring injury, defensive tackle Marcell Dareus to an ankle injury, and defensive end Alex Carrington was carted off late in the game with an apparent left knee injury.
C.J. Spiller also left with a knee injury and finished with just 9 yards rushing. Mario Williams – who had 4 1-2 sacks last week – played sparingly late in the game, although the Bills had no immediate word on if he was injured.
"In all three games, we've given ourselves the ability to be in a position to tie or win a game," Marrone said. "And we've just got to keep working to get over that hump despite what anybody else may say or think."
NOTES: Jets DB Ellis Lankster saved Ryan Quigley's 40-yard punt from going into the end zone, and Isaiah Trufant downed it at the 1 with 21 seconds left. ... It was Marrone's first loss to Smith after his Syracuse team beat West Virginia three times with Smith as the starting QB.
AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org