Final Thoughts on Bills/Jets Week 9: Some Good, Mostly Bad and a Handful of Ugly

A puncher's chance: The Jets threw plenty of punches in Sunday's 27-11 win over the Bills, but it was the Bills who displayed a punchless effort at home

– As a fan, these are the hardest games to have to witness.  When your team is just getting its rear end handed to them and there’s nothing you can do about it.  It’s a sucky, helpless feeling.  I waited all week long to finally be able to have the Bills nationally televised and they lay that kind of 60-minute stinker.

– I’d be naive to say that I’m surprised by what the Jets’ gameplan coming into Sunday would be.  As Dennis Green so famously put it, they are who we thought they were.  New York is probably the most physical football team outside of Pittsburgh and Baltimore.  They’ll beat you up and rub your nose in it for 60 minutes.  They want to ground and pound, and have Mark Sanchez smartly take chances and make plays down the field when they’re available.  And most of all, their backbone is playing good defense and elimating what your offense excels at.  That’s exactly what the Jets did yesterday.  That’s exactly what they’ve done in the past to Buffalo.  And it’s very evident, aside from one terrible, five-interception game by Sanchez in the team’s first meeting in 2009, New York has Buffalo’s number and the Bills really have no idea how to get past the Jets.

– Sunday was a big time disappointment for everyone involved with the Bills.  Maybe I’m piggypacking on my first thought, but this was a great moment for the Bills to solidify their spot in not only the AFC East race, but the AFC playoff race as well.  Instead, they were embarrassed and outdone by the Jets in every category.  They let the Jets back in the race for the division title and the Bills’ playoff prognosis took a blow yesterday afternoon.

– I’m not sure how many times Harvard guys get confused, but that’s the best way I can describe how Ryan Fitzpatrick looks against Rex Ryan and the Jets defense.  Yesterday was the most completions (15) and passing yards (191) Fitzpatrick has thrown against the Jets in four games versus New York since 2009, which isn’t exactly a vote of confidence.  He was just 4/12 for 24 yards and two interceptions in the first half.  New York’s coverages and ability to eliminate the outside receivers and deep passes down the field, while taking away the underneath routes made it a nightmare afternoon for Fitzpatrick.  He had no easy passes and the Bills couldn’t find anything over the middle of the field.  Fitzpatrick’s kryptonite right now is the Jets defense.  Four games and four equal clunkers.

– I haven’t said this many times this year, but I absolutely hated just about everything the Bills did yesterday on offense.  I hated the play calling.  The Bills never got into any rhythm on offense.  They took shots down the field few and far between, allowing the Jets to invade the line of scrimmage.  How many screens did you see?  C.J. Spiller was a nonfactor in the passing game.  Brad Smith was a no-show.  What his role is in the offense is a complete mystery to me.  Gailey showed absolutely no creativity or imagination.  It was about as vanilla as it gets, and looked like the kind of offensive showings we’ve seen the past few seasons.

– I have some mixed feeling about the defense.  Buffalo’s offense was lousy and the defense couldn’t make up for their shortcomings.  They were on the field too long, as the Jets held possession for almost 38 minutes in the game and capitalized on their chances for some big plays.  The Bills helped them out a bit with two costly pass interference calls that put the Jets on the Bills’ 1-yard line.  But the Bills didn’t lose this game because of their defense.  With all things considered, for my money Buffalo’s defense put forth a good enough effort to win had they received any help from the offense.  The defense held New York to a field goal and a punt to start the second half.  They held their own through the third quarter.  But they couldn’t bail out the offense which turned the ball over three times and produced only one touchdown when the game was long out of their reach.

– Speaking of the defense, that was a much better job against the run.  The Jets ran the ball 35 times for 129 yards good for a 3.7 yards per carry average.  Despite two rushing touchdowns, both from the Bills’ 1-yard line, the longest run from scrimmage the Jets had was for 10 yards.  Considering the Jets had run all over the Bills in the previous four meetings (1,116 yards for an average of 279 yards per game), this was a dramatic improvement.

– It’s getting harder and harder to tell what exactly is a penalty in this league anymore.  Yes, the Bills were flagged for two deep pass interference calls.  One I can live with, the other was questionable.  But how about Plaxico Burress practically mugging one of Buffalo’s corners to get open near the sideline right in front of the official?  No flag, that was acceptable now play on boys.  Consistent, these officials are not.

– Two, and perhaps the only things, I liked yesterday:  the pass protection and the play of Jairus Byrd.  I’ll start with Byrd who is growing each week and getting better as a safety each week.  He came up the first interception, which was a bit of a gift from Sanchez.  But he’s becoming very good in supporting the front seven against the run and he has no fear taking on opposing blockers and making plays.  Fitzpatrick can’t say he had a bad day because he didn’t have time to throw and make plays.  The Jets had just five hits on Fitzpatrick in 31 pass attempts.  They got some sporadic pressure at different points in the game, but never pressured Fitzpatrick consistently to the point where all he could see was a sea of green and white when he had the football.

-Much like their draft last year, I expect Buffalo’s 2012 draft to be defense heavy if the draft were to take place tomorrow.  Ditto for their free agency plans.  Their lack of playmakers at the outside linebacker position as a well as ongoing problem finding pass rushers on the edge continues to plague the defense.  Now that the Bills have committed themselves to Fitzpatrick, it’s time to find him a legitimate tight end receiving threat.  I like Scott Chandler down near the red zone, but the only time he’s utilized is from the 20-yard line and goal to go.  We’re in an offensive age in the NFL we haven’t seen in a while.  Teams are stockpilling receiving weapons and tight ends are becoming vital.  Green Bay’s Jermichael Finley.  New Orleans found Jimmy Graham.  Dallas has Jason Witten.  New England has not one, but two dynamic receiving tight ends in Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.  That continues to be a missing ingredient in Buffalo’s offense.

-Okay, so eight games are in the books and the Bills are still in way better shape that we imagined at 5-3.  They remain in the playoff picture and hunt for the division crown.  This is the first loss at home and their first loss by more than three points.  Eight games lie ahead for Buffalo.  They still have four games left in the division with rematches against New York and New England.   It’s up to the Bills to rally and rebound starting next Sunday in Dallas.

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