Thursday Night Football this past week saw the Buffalo Bills defeat New York Jets, 22-17.
In a game marred by four Jet turnovers, the opportunistic Bills capitalized on New York miscues and celebrated HC Rex Ryan’s return to the NY/NJ metro area by winning an important division game, and announcing their return to the AFC playoff picture. Throughout the Thursday Night Football game in front of a national audience, it felt like the two teams were going in opposite directions.
The Bills – plagued by early season injuries to their playmakers, RB LeSean McCoy, QB Tyrod Taylor, and WR Sammy Watkins – seem to be healthy and ready to make a second half push. Meanwhile, the Jets have lost 3 of 4 now, and while banged up themselves, appear to have regressed both offensively and defensively.
The Jets jumped out to a 3-0 lead behind some early success in the running game and some inspired defense. Buffalo rallied when S Corey Graham intercepted a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass, bobbled by Brandon Marshall. K Dan Carpenter hit 47-yd FG to tie the game, and the Bills went ahead to stay when S Duke Williams recovered a fumble by Jet KR/WR Devin Smith on the ensuing kickoff, and ran it in for a TD from 19 yards out; Buffalo K Carpenter missed the PAT, giving the Bills a 9-3 lead. Another Carpenter FG (41 yds) closed out the scoring in the first half, with Buffalo leading 12-3.
In the second half, the Bills seized control on their first possession, with rookie RB Karlos Williams hooking up with QB Tyrod Taylor on a 26-yd TD pass, pushing the lead to 19-3. After RB Chris Ivory fumbled, K Carpenter hit his third FG (29 yds) of the night, extending the lead to 22-3. The Jets finally held onto the ball, and it resulted in an 80-yd scoring drive, capped off with a Fitzpatrick to Marshall 14-yd TD pass. Now trailing 22-10, the Jets defense held Buffalo to a ‘three and out’, and MetLife Stadium came to life early in the 4th quarter.
The Jets drove the ball to the Buffalo 20, but with over fourteen minutes remaining, HC Todd Bowles elected to go for it on 4th down-and-2 (a theme throughout the second half). The Jets failed to convert on a short pass to WR Brandon Marshall that actually lost two yards and re-aggravated a nagging injury to Marshall’s ankle. Two Jets’ series later, RB Chris Ivory started to accumulate chunks of yardage, and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick threaded a beautiful 19-yd 4th down pass to WR Eric Decker between two Buffalo DBs, sustaining the drive. Several plays later, Fitzpatrick found Decker for a 31-TD pass, closing the gap to 22-17.
Key sequence: The Bills started to leak even more oil, when, after a 3-and-out, an erratic snap to P Colten Schmidt on 4th down would not allow him to get a punt off, and the Jets received the ball back on downs at the Buffalo 13 with 5:17 remaining in the game. That proved to be the high point of the night for New York. A combination of poor execution, unimaginative play calling, and sound Bills defense stopped the Jets – who again elected to go for it on 4th down, with 3:02 remaining and possessing all three of their timeouts. Bills DB Baccari Rambo picked off QB Ryan Fitzpatrick with :24 remaining, and Rex Ryan’s celebration was on.
For the Jets, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick was 15 of 34 for 193 yards, 2 TDs, and 2 INTs; he also rushed 3 times for 30 yards. WR Eric Decker continued his fine bounce back season with 6 receptions, for 85 yards and a TD. WR Brandon Marshall was covered tightly and dropped a few balls; he finished with 3 catches for 23 yards and 1 TD. RB Chris Ivory was a factor early in the game, and the Jets went back to him late in the 3rd / early in the 4th; he ran 18 times for 99 yards.
For the Bills, QB Tyrod Taylor was 17 for 27, 158 yards, and 1 TD. RB LeSean McCoy looked healthy again, and followed up strong game against Miami (112 yards), with another 19 carries and 112 yards against the Jets; McCoy also had 47 yards receiving. CB Darrelle Revis was matched up against Bills WR Sammy Watkins; Watkins had an opportunity early, but only finished with 3 receptions for 14 yards. DE Muhammad Wilkerson was a force for Gang Green, sacking Taylor two times.
Bills-Jets Postgame Notes.
• In the AFC Wild Card picture, the Bills are now 5-4 (5th seed) and hold the tiebreaker on the Jets (6th seed), also 5-4. Around the AFC, Pittsburgh is 5-4 as they host Cleveland (2-7) in Week 10; the Steelers will likely be without QB Ben Roethlisberger (foot)…QB Landry Jones (Virginia Tech) appears set to start in his place. Oakland is 4-4, and will host 6-2 Minnesota (T-1st NFC North). Kansas City and Houston, both 3-5, are on the periphery of the AFC Wild Card race
• Bills rookie RB Karlos Williams has now scored a TD in each of his first six NFL games; he is the second player to accomplish this – former New England RB, Robert Edwards was the first, in 1998
• Bills DE IK Enemkpali served as a Team Captain for the game and represented Buffalo during the Coin Toss; this was Enemkpali’s return to MetLife Stadium after breaking Jet QB Geno Smith’s jaw during a pre-season fight
• Jet QB Ryan Fitzpatrick planned to have surgery on his injured left thumb on Friday, looking to utilize the 9-day gap between this week’s Thursday night game and next week’s Sun matchup vs. Houston (22 Nov)
• Ryan Fitzpatrick (Harvard) threw the 138th TD of his NFL career on the 31-TD pass to WR Eric Decker in the 4th; this set a new record for NFL QBs from an Ivy League school, passing Bears Hall of Famer, Sid Luckman (Columbia)
• New York injury update. Jet RB Zac Stacy sustained a broken left ankle during a kickoff return at the end of the first half – he will be lost for the remainder of the season; RB Stevan Ridley was active for the second straight game; RB Bilal Powell (ankle) was not active. OG Willie Colon (knee) was placed on season ending Injury Reserve last week. S Calvin Pryor (ankle) did not play, nor did CB Antonio Cromartie (thigh). K Nick Folk (quad) was also placed on IR; K Randy Bullock (Free Agent – last with Houston) handled the kicking duties, and was 1/1 on FGs, and 2/2 on PATs
• The NFL’s “Color Rush” – the Jets wore all Green and Buffalo (for the first time), wore all Red – received some complaints from color-blind fans, who critiqued the difficult matchup, and lack of contrast, between the green and red. The NFL is testing the “Color Rush” theme; they plan to roll it out for three more games this season, including next Thursday night’s clash between the Tennessee Titans and Jaguars.
Mike Lalor can be heard talking New York sports on the Spadora on Sports radio program. His blog can be found at SpadoraOnSports.com.