The only way to characterize the Week 3 matchup between the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets would be as a debacle. Even the Jets’ head coach Rex Ryan could only say that they will get better, and the Jets won the game. He better hope the Jets will get better, because 20 penalties in one game is a terrible accomplishment. Even the Oakland Raiders of old would be impressed.
The Bills? They only lost by seven, courtesy of those 20 penalties. The offensive line, especially left guard Colin Brown, seemed to do its best to leave quarterback EJ Manuel shellshocked and the running backs in the backfield. Manuel, who had impressive escapes from pressure in the first two weeks, spent more time on his back staring at the sky than upright throwing passes. He even managed a few of those escapes and yet still was sacked eight times. However he continued to be largely inaccurate on deep passes which ultimately led to failed drives, including the final last-gasp effort from their own one yard line.
On the defensive side of the ball, there were more bright spots than not, which only served to highlight both the inadequacies of the offense and the two major breakdowns for the defense. Rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso had his second interception in as many games and set up the offense with great field position. Safety Jim Leonhard also had an interception. Both times the offense was only able to muster field goals.
The two defensive breakdowns highlighted the issues at cornerback. Justin Rogers, who has already been victimized a couple times in the first two games, gave up long touchdown passes of 69 and 51 yards. On the 69 yard touchdown that proved to be the game winner, Rogers had great coverage but never turned to look for the ball and fell down instead of tackling Jets receiver Santonio Holmes. Add Leodis McKelvin’s injury and suddenly the cornerback depth chart looks like a college roster (and not an SEC one at that.)
So through three weeks, the Bills are now 1-2, 0-2 in the division, and starting to fill up the injury report. On top of McKelvin getting hurt, running back CJ Spiller, defensive linemen Marcell Dareus and Alex Carrington left the game, Carrington on the injury cart. The biggest needs to be addressed player-wise appear to be cornerback and left guard. Hopefully the Bills bring some players in for workouts this week. Unfortunately the Bills’ best corner, Stephon Gilmore, is still recovering from wrist surgery and will continue to be unavailable for at least a couple more games.
The other biggest issue to be addressed is playcalling. It’s hard to call out the coaching staff this early in their career, but there appear to be some problems with the run game. Most run plays seem to be dives up the middle that don’t go very far. The offense is built around trying to wear down the defensive line, yet that was completely ineffectual against the Jets. The coaching staff needs to work on ways to get the ground game going early in games. Doing so will not only help make the game easier for a rookie quarterback, but it very well could help the Bills avoid falling behind in the first half which has plagued them through all three games this season.
Next week, the Bills face another stiff test in the Baltimore Ravens. After getting beaten badly by the Denver Broncos in the season opener, the Ravens’ defense has played quality football. The Bills need to get their offensive issues and the cornerback mess straightened out in a hurry to bounce back.