TAMPA, Fla. — The longest completion of the day was thrown by a wide receiver to a safety, and that was just fine with the Jets.
Kellen Clemens didn't have to be spectacular filling for injured rookie Mark Sanchez during a 26-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. He got the job done by relying on lots of help from his teammates.
Thomas Jones ran for two touchdowns, Jay Feely kicked four field goals and the Jets defense limited the struggling Bucs to 124 yards total offense to support Clemens in his first start in two years.
"We came down here and did what we set out to do, leave with a W," receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. "We still have a lot of room for improvement. But at the end of the day, we got the win and we are very happy with that."
The Jets (7-6) have won three straight to revive their division and playoff hopes.
Tampa Bay (1-12) lost for the third straight week to a backup quarterback, with rookie Josh Freeman throwing three more interceptions and failing to get his team into the end zone for the second game in a row.
"I would never imagine having a two-game stretch like this," said Freeman, who threw five interceptions during a 16-6 loss at Carolina last week.
"It's all on me," the 21-year-old added of Tampa Bay's offensive struggles. "I'm the quarterback. I've got to find a way."
Clemens completed 12 of 23 passes for 111 yards and no interceptions in his first extensive playing time since 2007, when he made eight starts and was still regarded as New York's quarterback of the future.
"I feel good about it, but I'd be lying if I said that I hadn't come in with a little bit higher expectations," Clemens said.
"I did what was necessary — no turnovers and made good decisions in the run game, got us in and out of a couple of plays that we didn't want to be in. So, I did my job. I don't think I blew the top off of anything, but I did what was required."
Receiver Brad Smith had the Jets' longest completion of the day — 27 yards — when he threw to Eric Smith on a fake punt play. Jones rushed for 99 yards, and the defense held the Bucs to 43 yards rushing and 0-for-14 on third-down conversions.
The 124 yards were not a season-low for Tampa Bay, which gained 86 during a 24-0 loss to the Giants in September.
In their pair of lopsided losses to the New York franchises, the Bucs were outgained 707 yards to 210 and were 0 for 23 on third-down conversions.
Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris said his team set the tone for a sloppy performance with a poor practice Friday.
The league's youngest coach stated the obvious when asked what the past two weeks — with Freeman throwing eight interceptions while producing just three field goals — say about the Bucs.
"You're not good enough. You've got to do a better job coaching, got to do a better job on the field," Morris said. "That's the bottom line."
Jones scored on runs of 7 and 33 yards. Feely kicked field goals of 40, 24, 49 and 49 yards for the Jets, whose playoff prospects looked bleak after a three-game losing streak dropped them to 4-6.
Sanchez sprained his right knee against Buffalo in New York's last game. There's a chance he may be able to return next week against Atlanta.
"We'll see how it goes. I've got confidence in Kellen, obviously, but we'll see how Mark is when we get back," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "I think he'll be ready to go, but I'm not sure."
Freeman finished 14 of 33 for 93 yards and was sacked three times. He was intercepted by David Harris on the first play of the game, then picked off by Darrelle Revis and Kerry Rhodes in the fourth quarter.
The Bucs had zero first downs until New York's Bart Scott was penalized for unnecessary roughness after Freeman was sacked on third down to stop a possession at the Tampa Bay 44. Eight plays later, Connor Barth kicked a 43-yard field goal.
Scott blamed himself for the Jets losing a shutout.
"Other than myself," the linebacker said, "I think everybody else did a great job making plays and getting off the field on third down."
NOTES: Calvin Pace, Donald Strickland and James Ihedigbo had New York's sacks. ... The Jets had 175 yards rushing. ... Tampa Bay didn't allow a TD passing for just second time. New York's 135 yards net passing were the second-fewest against the Bucs this season.