Could the Bills have had a more frustrating Sunday? Maybe a couple extra injuries, questionable play calls, and wayward throws would have increased the frequency and volume of cursing by Buffalo fans. But provoking an even more irked response would’ve been a challenge. The Emmy Awards followed the day’s real broadcast of ultimately underwhelming tension, as the team failed to cope with Jersey’s biggest drama queen.
Not enough changed during the game even as the ball moved and points accumulated. A lack of adjustments by the Bills created enough stagnation to preclude beating a sloppy team that was begging for it. Mike Pettine finally knows what it’s like to be gashed by the Jets, although it sadly happened once he escaped the swamp for Erie County.
The defense needs a more dominant performance from the front seven if the back four is struggling to mark their assignments. Nothing new can be added to the wholesale criticism of Justin Rogers, who literally stumbled into infamy. Who’s left to cover wideouts? With former Bills increasingly unavailable, maybe Doug Whaley can see if Antoine Winfield’s favorite restaurants in Erie County are still open and entice him to postpone his retirement for 13 more games with a return to his initial team.
Other than the defense, the only part of the Bills to underperform was the offense. And that’s only two things wrong! Buffalo’s best run was arguably by Kiko Alonso in a lamentably ideal summation of the game.
As should be occasionally expected from a rookie, EJ Manuel was on a different page. It happened on a day that Buffalo’s playbook seemed to fit on a single sheet. The same throw to the sidelines following the same run up the middle made it appear that Nathaniel Hackett insisted on repeating calls due to some OCD tic. The plans were not helped by linemen that, in honor of New York City, played like subway turnstiles. Andy Levitre is earning his paycheck as a left guard. It’s too bad he’s not doing so with the Bills.
Coaches should be willing to lean on the supposed backup if he’s outperforming the chart’s first name. C.J. Spiller was ineffective even before he officially left the game, in part because he’s still being sent between the hashes instead of trotting to the sidelines.
He could start plays out there: align Spiller in the slot while deploying Fred Jackson in the traditional tailback manner. The duo would be most effective if they drew attention from defenses simultaneously. Critics could detract from Mister Action’s effort by saying he didn’t gain much if you subtract the big run. But you don’t subtract the big run. He still advanced the ball 72 yards after handoffs even if 59 of them were at once.
The confounding loss irritatingly permitted more boasting from an empty-helmeted squad which won in spite of an endless parade of mistakes. The Jets flaunt all of New York’s bravado with few of the achievements, which is especially galling for a team in Jersey. I’m with the Garden State’s governor who reminds us that the NFL has precisely one franchise in New York. The virtue of location makes the non-Giants franchise in MetLife Stadium worthy of arrogance, at least if you ask them. Meanwhile, Kyle Wilson is probably still getting flags thrown at him.
Yet a tough outing shouldn’t cloud the future. It doesn’t take a delusional Mafioso to still think Manuel will pull ahead of Geno Smith despite Sunday’s result. Give Mark Sanchez’s replacement that much time against that thin of a secondary, and he better look at least occasionally sharp. Smith may still be too flighty and myopic to be successful long-term, especially compared to someone judicious like Manuel, who for one afternoon wasn’t provided necessary support on multiple fronts. Observers could picture Buffalo’s designated savior calmly improving his accuracy while his divisional counterpart tries vainly to focus under a circus tent.
Meanwhile, the chief reaction here in New York City has been shrugging, as people seem to care as much about sports as they do about littering laws. It’s hard to find fans who don’t attend games; leave the venue, and the teams may as well not exist. I may get dirty looks for wearing a Bills New Era cap around town this week, but that’s no different from how many of my fellow Gothamites usually behave regardless of which hats their neighbors don.
Predictability in execution will help Buffalo become unpredictable in strategy. For now, they’ll have to use out-imploding a divisional foe who specializes in it as motivation.