The Bills offense was empty calories while the Jets were a wholesome meal.
The 3 best plays of the game belonged to the Bills; Tyrod’s two long throws and Robey-Coleman’s fumble return for a touchdown. The problem is that the next 20 plays on the list belong to the Jets. The Bills for all of their big plays lacked consistency of quality from play to play and drive to drive. The big plays kept them alive and provided the crowd with a thrill. But they were sandwiched in between 3 and outs and complete defensive breakdowns. While the Jets, despite dealing with their disaster plays, never stopped producing, carving up the Bills secondary consistently.
The Jets had a functioning offense attacking the Bills down the field, a foundation that can be built on. The Bills had a heave and hope offense that relied on breakdowns and their quarterback improvising. That why despite scoring 31 points, Thursday wasn’t a good performance by the offense at all. 7 points from from turnovers, 7 from the Jets playing prevent at the end of the game. 2 bomb touchdowns against the run of play. Only a few extended drives all game. Tyrod Taylor once again looked tentative but in a different way than against the Ravens. He was willing to throw down field this time, not as much as he should but he did take some shots. However, the middle of the field might as well not exist to him. He still can’t get the ball to his playmakers. 2 catches for Sammy Watkins. 5 yards per catch for Charles Clay. 1 catch for Robert Woods. The Bills offense was stopping and starting all game like a car that’s about to break down. However, even with their inconsistency and failures on offense, 24 to 31 points should’ve been enough against Ryan Fitzpatrick, except that…
Ryan Fitzpatrick played the best, most aggressive game of his life. Once it was established that the Bills secondary could do nothing to stop Jets receivers Fitz became emboldened. A quarterback known for having a pop gun arm turned the Jets offense into a vertical passing game, taking shot after shot downfield with great success. He had an astounding 11 yards per passing attempt on Thursday. To put that perspective, a great day at the office for a quarterback is averaging 8 yards per an attempt. He truly made it look easy. At a certain point it even seemed like they were running the same play continuously with great success (pretty sure Eric Decker just caught another pass up the seam). You kept expecting for him to have trouble eventually, even in the second half after a solid 1st half, not as disrespect to him, but simply playing the odds, and for once we were wrong when it came to Fitz. The Jets offense couldn’t be stopped with the Bills only forcing 1 punt all day. 1 punt?! To Fitz?! That was without hyperbole the best a quarterback has played against the Bills since Tom Brady in week 2 of last season. A list with Tom Brady and Ryan Fitzpatrick on it. What a time to be alive. Words can’t express how painful it is to give up 374 yards to Fitz, and Rex Ryan and his defense let him have it easily.
Rex and the Secondary’s Embarrassing Thursday
How lucky are Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby that Revis got burned early for a TD? While America was laughing at his demise and making Revis Island puns, “the best cornerback duo in the NFL” (something I’ve written without quotes often) were getting straight up roasted. About a quarter and half later Twitter finally caught up to the real disasters playing cornerback Thursday night and adjusted accordingly. I’ve spent a lot of time during these first two game recaps talking about surprises and subversion of expectations. But this takes the cake. Never in my wildest dreams would I have guessed that Ryan Fitzpatrick would have thrown for 374 yards and couldn’t be stopped on 3rd down because the Bills secondary failed them. Gilmore spent a lot of the offseason talking about how he wanted to be considered one of the best corners in the league. Oops.
While the Bills star corners failed big time Thursday night, the blame isn’t entirely on them. I gave Rex credit for a solid defensive performance last week. He gets equal blame for a disgraceful performance this week. Once again, where were the adjustments? Once it becomes apparent that the corners could not hold up in coverage against Marshall, Decker and Enunwa, doesn’t it make sense to switch to a scheme that gives them some help? The Bills were playing this odd defense that simultaneously managed to get zero pressure on the quarterback while also leaving the corners on islands. It’s one or the other Rex. Ryan Fitzpatrick, who had struggled famously with Rex’s defenses dating back to when Fitz was a Bill and Rex was a Jet, had smooth sailing. He knew where the coverage was going to be each time and knew for the most part he’d have all the time in the world. Add in the level of comfort he had that his monster receivers would be able to go make a play for him, Fitz was allowed to be comfortable and make all the throws he wanted. An utter failure by the defense, coaching and players.
A hideous 4th and 1 call
The oddest part about Thursday’s loss to the Jets was despite everything listed above being emphatically true, the Bills still had a decent shot to win the game. Down by 6 with 9 minutes to go in the 4th quarter, the Bills appeared to have a good drive going. A couple nice runs by LeSean McCoy found the Bills around midfield in a position to take the lead back if Tyrod and the offense could put one drive together. Enter EJ Manuel to convert a 3rd and short play. The Bills had converted a short play for a first time out of this bizarre gimmicky two quarterback set earlier in the game, and while I hate these kind of tricks and unnecessary misdirection to pick up a single yard at least it had worked previously so it makes some sense to try it on 3rd and 1. Of course EJ fumbles, and the Bills were lucky to recover it giving them another shot at 4th and short, and when the Bills decided to keep the offense on the field I was excited.
When they lined up EJ Manuel under center to pick it up again I was less excited.
When EJ tried to draw the Jets offside with a hard count and wasted a timeout I shook my head with disgust.
When the Bills lined up in their jumbo package to run the ball straight up the middle I wanted to punch my TV.
What a hideous set of plays and decisions by the Bills. They somehow managed to be unnecessarily creative and cute with their EJ Manuel set and display a mind numbing lack of creativity by trying to run the ball through all 22 players on the field in the span of two plays. This 1 minute of football symbolized everything the Bills have been for 16 years: flailing around trying to solve problems that really shouldn’t be this complicated. The Bills either play dumb, caveman football or cutesy, unnecessarily complicated football, with no in between.
After two games like that I’d feel like a fool talking about playoff implications or how big the next game is. Right now the Bills aren’t in a playoff race with anyone else, they’re facing an internal battle to try figure themselves out. Not a single player or coach on the team is immune from this criticism. However this season turns out, I expect this game to stick out pretty vividly in the memory of fans and ownership alike. This is the type of game that gets people fired.
They have 10 days to get themselves together before Arizona comes to town, and I have zero expectations. It would be nice if they don’t get run out of the building I guess. But other than that, I’d like to finish with this amazing fact: the season started 5 days ago. 5! We’re less than a week into the season and we already feel like this. That’s pretty incredible efficiency Bills. At least hockey season starts in a month.
– Evan Sally (Twitter)