It was McGahee's 57-yard touchdown run, a career-long, that got Buffalo on the scoreboard in the first quarter and touched off a series of big plays that carried it to a 31-13 victory, its most lopsided win in two seasons.
At 6-7, the Bills stayed pace in a tight wild-card race with three weeks to go. They host Miami (6-7) on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Jets (7-6) failed to move within a game of New England (9-4), which lost to the Dolphins 21-0.
In addition to McGahee's 57-yard TD run, the Bills scored on a 77-yard pass play from J.P. Losman to Lee Evans and a 58-yard interception return by Nate Clements. It was just the third time in Bills' history they had three scoring plays of 50-plus yards in the same game, enabling Buffalo to dominate on the scoreboard a game that was close statistically.
"We've said all year we needed to get more chunk yardage and we had some big plays," said coach Dick Jauron, whose team is 4-2 since its bye week. "We needed to do that. I give our guys a lot of credit to hang in and fight. We anticipated a very tough game. We were really impressed with the Jets and their play and how they've been coached. So it's a pretty happy locker room in there."
Nobody was more happy than McGahee, who had just one 100-yard game this season, a 150-yard effort in a loss to the Jets in September. His critics were becoming louder and louder.
"People will think what they want and you all will write what you want," said McGahee, who broke three ribs on Nov. 5 against Green Bay. "I can only control what I can do and that's go out there and play."
On the Bills' third series, McGahee ran left through a huge hole created by guard Mike Gandy and tackle Jason Peters. Once in the secondary, he shifted to a high gear not seen before and outraced a horde of Jets to the end zone, including safety Kerry Rhodes.
Afterwards, McGahee took ill on the sideline and was seen eating a sandwich to regain his strength. He returned in the second half and keyed a big fourth-quarter drive to a field goal with some tough yardage.
"It's not often in an NFL game you see a player sit down eating a sandwich. But we had to get some food in him," Jauron said. "It was a strange sight but he came back and played well."
"My stomach got upset. It just came on me and I was feeling light-headed and weak," McGahee said.
It was the Jets who felt ill by the time the game ended.
Despite missing four starters on defense at one point, the Bills were able to execute a strong game plan against the Jets' trademark short-passing game. Quarterback Chad Pennington wound up just 22 of 35 for 182 yards with two sacks, one touchdown, two interceptions and a 61.8 rating.
With linebacker Angelo Crowell (broken leg) going on injured reserve earlier in the week and cornerback Terrence McGee (ankle) and strong safety Donte Whitner (hamstring) unable to dress, backups were called upon. Keith Ellison, Coy Wire, Kiwaukee Thomas, Jim Leonhard, Mario Haggan and Ashton Youboty all played key roles in holding the Jets to 277 yards in total offense.
"They held the ball little longer than last time," said Schobel, referring to the Jets' 28-20 victory in September when Pennington was sacked just once. "We took away some quicker stuff in the secondary and that gave us a chance up front. I think we played solid all around and it feels good. Today, we made up for it (missing starters) with effort and speed."