In front of a national audience on Thursday Night Football, the Buffalo Bills failed to bounce-back after a disappointing week one loss to the Ravens when they fell to the Jets 37-31 in their home opener.
The Jets first offensive possession laid the foundation of what was to come Thursday night. The Jets capitalized on one-on-one matchups down the field, controlled the clock, and converted on numerous third-downs.
For the Bills, the first series presented a great opportunity for the defense to force a punt and gather momentum in the early going. Facing third-and-long, Ryan Fitzpatrick threw up a perfect lob over Stephon Gilmore to connect with Quincy Enunwa to kick-start a field goal drive that erased over half of the first quarter (8:19).
On that ensuing drive, Stephon Gilmore arguably made it worse for the Bills with a holding call and a critical missed tackle on third down.
Not all is to be blamed on Gilmore however, as the Bills failed to recover a pair of fumbles they forced on the Jets opening drive—Both coming inside Bills territory. Summing it up, the treacherous first series was only the beginning of a long night for the Bills defense.
The pass defense, specifically, proved to be the major liability. Throughout the night, supposively one of the ‘best corner tandems’—Which includes Gilmore and Ronald Darby—Were getting exposed by the Jets two-headed monster at receiver.
After, having the upper hand in last year’s matchups head-to-head, the size and talent of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker were on full display.
This was one of many contested balls that were hauled in by the Jets receiver’s. Once again, the size, route-running, and experience outweighed the youth, athleticism, and very raw corners of the Bills. In Rex’s defense, the system puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the corners to stack up one-on-one with receiver’s, and when you include the talent the Bills possess on the outside, it’s easy to picture how much faith Rex has in Gilmore and Darby. However, even the best are due to have a disappointing game, and it appears Gilmore and Darby were victims of this on Thursday night.
After the game, Stephon Gilmore admitted the secondary didn’t ‘make the necessary plays’ and that the Jets receiver’s ‘had their way’ in Thursday’s tilt:
“It wasn’t their size or their routes. It was we just didn’t make the plays. We played them before and we did a good job against them, but this time they did whatever they wanted to.”
Just like Gilmore, Darby was of the same tune; admitting they were outplayed by the Jets receiver’s:
“Yeah, they are a NFL team, the best of the best. They are not afraid of us and they are going to go after us. Yeah, we were just off. We are human and we make mistakes.”
Despite returning a fumble 36 yards for a touchdown, Nickell Robey-Coleman wasn’t satisfied with the outcome versus the playmaking receiver’s:
“No, the matchup is not the problem. We can match up with any one of their receivers. We can match up with 15 (Brandon Marshall). We can match up with 87 (Eric Decker). Today they just got the best of us. You know, tonight was just a hard time for us in the secondary, and you’ve got to get better.”
Ryan Fitzpatrick would finish the night completing 24-of-34 passes for 374 yards, and a TD—Including a 116.5 passer rating. Eric Decker led the way with six receptions for 126 yards and a TD. Brandon Marshall hauled in six receptions for 101 yards, while Quincy Enunwa reeled in six receptions for 92 yards. Matt Forte also demonstrated his value in the running game— Especially in the red-zone—Gathering 100 yards rushing on 30 carries while finding the end zone three times. In addition, the Jets were 8-for-13 on third-down—Equating to a 62% success rate.
All together, the Jets successful ‘air-raid’ opened up their running game—Enabling an unpredictable and balanced attack that certainly overwhelmed the Bills defense.
The Bills were undoubtedly better on offense in week two. Surprisingly, the Bills were able to rack up 31 points on a top-flight Jets defense compared to the measly seven they mustered against a less talented Ravens defense.
After two very weak play calls, the Bills went right after a struggling Darrelle Revis on third-down, in which Tyrod Taylor flashed his beautiful deep ball when he connected with Marquise Goodwin for a 84-yard touchdown to put the Bills up 7-3.
Afterwards, the Bills failed to build upon their strong opening possession with several three-and-outs. Part of this is due to the ground game not being established, which forces the Bills to pass on down-and-distances. Although the Bills possess the playmakers to attack vertically, it doesn’t matter when your quarterback can’t hit fairly routine ‘Out’ route patterns.
For a quarterback that received a $90 million contract this past offseason, it’s mind-boggling how Tyrod cannot exploit the short-to-intermediate area’s of the field. His deep ball is second-to-none, but those opportunities are not available as often as they were because every team in the league has now ‘cracked the code’ on how to stymie Tyrod’s style of play. There are times when you have to utilize the quick passing game to set-up those deep shots.
The blessing that comes with Tyrod is his ability to generate something out of nothing. While Tyrod was attempting to sit in the pocket and patiently looking to deliver the ball down field, once he gets flushed from the pocket, his dual-threat ability comes into play. As a defender, you have to respect his ability as a runner and a passer.
In this case, Tyrod escapes the pocket, runs to his right while keeping his eyes down field, and finally locates a wide open Greg Salas for a 71-yard touchdown strike to put the Bills back in the game in the beginning of the third quarter.
The Bills offense would be assisted by a Nickell Robey-Coleman 36-yard fumble-return for a touchdown. They would go on to take a 24-20 lead, and momentum was in Buffalo’s favor.
After getting the ball back on a ‘rare’ punt from the Jets, here is where the Bills blew a big opportunity to blow the game wide open, or at least grasp serious control. The drive starts with a jet sweep to the left side with McCoy that results in a three-yard loss. Next, Tyrod takes a deep shot to Sammy Watkins on second-down which ends up incomplete. On third-down, Tyrod misses McCoy badly on a check down pass. They proceed to punt, and put the Jets back at their 16-yard line. The field position made little difference as Fitzpatrick orchestrated a 12-play, 84-yard drive to retake the lead 27-24. It was another long session for the defense on that particular drive. The Jets also ‘ate’ a significant chunk of time off the clock in the third quarter with that scoring drive—Another example of the Jets seemingly dictating the pace of the game with ease.
It was all downhill from there. The Bills couldn’t establish any rhythm to sustain any drives. Questionable decisions came in the fourth quarter. After E.J. Manuel failed to gain one-yard on third-and-one, the Bills called a timeout to think about what they would attempt on fourth down. The Bills ran out with an I-formation in hopes to power their way for a single yard. The result? McCoy falls just short. The next Jets possession resulted in Forte’s third rushing touchdown on the evening to officially end any chance of a comeback. The Bills would march down the field to score a touchdown with Mike Gillislee on a Tyrod pass, but would eventually fail to secure the onside kick to fall to 0-2 on the season.
After the game, Jets safety Calvin Pryor reiterated their game-plan was the exact same as the Ravens on Sunday; Make Tyrod play quarterback:
“You just have to keep him in the pocket and make him be a quarterback. We gave up a couple big plays. One was a broken coverage where the receiver got behind us, but other than that, I thought we did a great job.”
Tyrod Taylor reflected upon the status of the offense:
“We can be better. I definitely think we took strides from week one. Week one we couldn’t get anything going. Didn’t have over 200 yards’ total offense so, we definitely did a better job with moving the ball tonight. We had some big plays which is part of our offense, put up 31 points, it just wasn’t enough for tonight.”
When asked upon which areas of the offense he would like to see improve, Tyrod had a simple, yet constructive answer:
“Just work on execution. When the defense is on the field early in the first quarter, it takes thirteen minutes to get into the groove, but that’s how some defenses go. We just have to do a better job executing every time where we get our chance on the field.”
While the Bills certainly made some strides in their week two contest with the Jets, they still appear to not be able to put it all together for an entire 60 minutes. Both sides of the ball (not just the defense) were almost unbearable to watch.
Offensively, the top ranked rushing unit from last season seems like a distant memory at the moment. It’s also puzzling to see Tyrod struggle in year two of what was a Greg Roman offense (Roman was resigned Friday). After witnessing the greatness Watkins displayed in the last half of 2015, I’m not sure how he hasn’t been a focal point in the offense, as he only received 11 total targets through two games (granted he’s dealing with a foot injury). In addition, I’m not sure why rookie running back Jonathan Williams hasn’t been active on game days. He’s the type of runner that could complement McCoy and boost the offense’s overall efficiency. What’s also strange is the lack of involvement of Mike Gillislee. He’s a strong, north-south runner with great ability as he showed in 2015, but once again a player is being underutilized. Also, how come the Bills keep shying away from throwing over the middle game-in, game-out? Is Tyrod’s height (6’1”) really a problem? Was Roman too scared to call plays exploiting the middle of the field? Or is it both? On top of that, Roman’s play-calling was atrocious. How come you run up the middle, right into the heart of the Jets defense, on fourth-and-one with a ‘back like McCoy? Once again, where’s Gillislee, or why not activate Jonathan Williams? They’re better suited for a ‘play-call’ of that design. Finally, the game-management by Rex and/or Roman were horrible. The Bills had to burn a timeout in the fourth quarter to decide what they wanted to do on fourth down. The Bills play calls on both offense and defense are not coherent with the type of situation they’re in. For example, on third-and-one you’re going to throw a deep ball to Watkins, which in essence ended up getting intercepted anyways? Where’s the ‘ground-and-pound’ mentality, Roman? This lack of situational awareness keeps consistently plaguing the Bills year-in, year-out. This is what separates elite teams from the not-so-good teams, and that starts with coaching.
One positive I can take away from Thursday’s contest was the pass protection. I was surprised at the time Tyrod had on some plays to locate an open receiver. With the Jets recording seven sacks against the Bengals, one would think they could’ve matched that number against a suspect offensive line missing left tackle Cordy Glenn. However, the Bills contained what was a pretty ferocious Jets defensive line featuring Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, and Leonard Williams. On that matter, neither team recorded a single sack.
Defensively it was just as ugly, if not uglier. I had no problem with the run defense (for the most part). They shut down Matt Forte and the run from gaining any significant yardage for most of the game. That is until the pass coverage was getting eaten alive to the point where the Jets could take advantage of softer defensive fronts called by the Bills. The pass coverage was obviously disappointing. I can’t believe how Gilmore and Darby got man-handled from a physical and fundamental standpoint via Marshall and Decker. It’s obvious the young corners still are developing and improving upon their technique, but seeing how they contained Fitzpatrick and the passing attack last year puzzled me as to why they fell off big-time in front of a national audience with a game that already felt had playoff-like implications? If you also consider the suspension of Marcell Dareus, his absence could be a direct link to the season being at least 1-1 or possibly 2-0. Yes, one player doesn’t necessarily cover the poor play on both sides of the ball, but the lack of a big interior presence is clear here. Dareus is the guy they’re missing. The extra push up the middle of the pocket, in my opinion, is the difference between a win against the Ravens, or Jets, for that matter. Jerry Hughes has been outstanding through two games as far rushing the quarterback. Now if he had a little help, the pass coverage could benefit mightily, too. The suspensions and injuries are already beginning to negatively affect the Bills in the early-going.
Facing an 0-2 hole this early in the season isn’t the end of the world for the Bills. However, the schedule doesn’t get any easier. The Bills next game will be against a superbowl-caliber team in the Arizona Cardinals at home, and after that it’s off to New England to take on the Patriots to round out the first quarter of the season. With the way things are heading, the Bills would be lucky to secure at least one win in these next two games. With 10 days off, the Bills will have time to regroup, and hopefully have enough time possibly to figure out what’s going on with this team before Arizona comes rolling into Orchard Park.
- Running backs coach, Anthony Lynn, will take over as offensive coordinator.
- Despite conflicting reports, Rex Ryan says the move to fire Greg Roman was his decision that included ‘ownership support’—Not pressured.
- Marquise Goodwin broke two records in one play. His 84-yard touchdown in the first quarter is now the longest score in Bills history, while his speed of 22.3 MPH on that very play is now the fastest ever recorded. It’s no surprise as he’s a track-star and a border-line Olympian.
- Teams that start off 0-2 have a 12% chance of making the playoffs.
Next Game: Arizona Cardinals visit the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, September 25th at 1:00 PM EST.
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