ORCHARD PARK — Todd Bowles, in his four seasons as the Jets head coach, has never, ever — not even once — been mistaken for any kind of riverboat gambler.
Yet there were the Jets, trailing the Bills 23-20 in the midst of their six-game losing streak facing a fourth-and-goal from the Buffalo 1-yard line with 1:22 remaining in the game Sunday at New Era Field.
The head coach, sure to be fired the day after this season ends regardless of what happens the next three weeks, went for it, went for the touchdown and the win. And he got it, rewarded with a 27-23 victory that turned the residents of his locker room into the most jubilant 4-9 team on the planet.
“No decision whatsoever,’’ Bowles said when asked if there was a go-for-it-or-kick-the-game-tying-field-goal conversation on the sideline after the third-down play — a Sam Darnold 3-yard keeper that fell a yard short of glory — had failed.
“We came here to win,’’ Bowles said.
And so they did.
“I knew coming off right after that third down I kind of saw that look in Coach Bowles’ eyes and knew that we were going to be able to go for it and that they felt confident going for it,’’ Darnold said.
Receiver Quincy Enunwa was on the sideline yelling to whomever would listen, “Man, let’s get it done now.’’
The Jets, inserting backup offensive linemen Dakota Dozier and Brent Qvale in as “eligible’’ players, dialed up a run play to running back Elijah McGuire, who did a masterful job of being patient and letting the elephants up-front open a hole for him and he danced over the goal line off right tackle for the winning points with 1:17 remaining.
It was McGuire’s first touchdown of the season and only the second of his career.
“I did not know we were going to go for it,’’ McGuire said. “I was on the sideline just waiting to see what the play was and when they sent the offense back on the field I heard the play and we got it done. You’ve got to have determination. It’s got to be inside you. Fourth-and-short is do-or-die, you win or go home. That’s what it was.’’
McGuire said the run called was an outside zone play, which they hadn’t run all game.
“It started up front with those guys getting on their blocks and then me being patient waiting for them to get set up,’’ McGuire said. “I found me a hole and I got it in there. I told ‘Cro’ [fellow running back Isaiah Crowell] after that play, ‘If I was in a rush to get there I probably wouldn’t have gotten it in there.’ It was a good thing I was being patient and let everything happen.’’
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McGuire said the entire play was all about the will of the offensive line.
“Those guys up front told the coaches, ‘Let’s run the ball,’ ’’ McGuire said. “They had a fire burning inside them that they were confident they’d get it in there and they did just that.’’
Left tackle Kelvin Beachum said that play was particularly rewarding because it involved every offensive lineman that dressed for the game.
“It’s not too often that the whole offensive line — everybody in the room that was active today — was in on that play to win the game,” Beachum said. “It was a special moment for the offensive line to get that on the last play of the game for us. I told Elijah, ‘Make sure you celebrate with us after you score.’ ’’