The Buffalo Bills did enough on Thursday night to get by division rivals the New York Jets and provide head coach Rex Ryan with a proper homecoming against his former team. At one point it looked like it was going to turn into a lopsided affair, but Todd Bowles’ crew fought back to within a touchdown before being put away 22-17 on a game-clinching interception by Bacarri Rambo.
The third-year safety drew first and last blood on the night, responsible for three takeaways and two personally including the late-fourth quarter pickoff that sealed the deal. A strong defensive performance by Rex’s unit along with a second-straight 100-yard rushing game from LeSean McCoy and timely play by the offense highlighted the big win for Buffalo.
Here are our individual player grades for week 10:
Bacarri Rambo: Similar to the Green Bay Packers game last season, Rambo came through in the clutch and then some against the Jets. First the safety forced a fumble on a kickoff return that led to a Duke Williams scoop and score touchdown. Then he literally manhandled Chris Ivory, ripping the ball away for a fumble recovery and finally snatched Ryan Fitzpatrick’s errant throw out of the air to end the game.
The ball-hawk wasn’t perfect on the night as he was late rotating over on Erick Decker’s touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter, but three tackles, another pass defended and three takeaways is more than enough to earn one of the game balls. Grade: A+
Ronald Darby: The rookie looks like he’s getting better each and every week as he had another shutdown performance in New York. Darby made multiple plays in coverage as he went step for step with Brandon Marshall on a deep ball effectively breaking up the pass and also showed excellent timing on a third and long, arriving at the same time as the ball to force the incompletion.
His recognition and instincts are impressive and he’s also proving to be a tough defender against the run, coming up and making big tackles in the open field. Darby finished with three tackles, three passes defended and was targeted five times, only allowing one catch for -2 yards. Grade: A+
LeSean McCoy: Games like Thursday night are precisely why you pay LeSean McCoy his money. Along with dicing up and running by the Jets defense throughout most of the night, Shady was able to put the game on ice with a couple clutch first down pickups late in the fourth quarter.
McCoy bobbed and weaved his way to 112 yards on 19 carries and also caught five balls for another 47 yards. It was a great performance from the speedy running back and just what Buffalo needed to get by New York. Grade: A+
Stephon Gilmore: The second-half of the “two-dreaded monster” was also up to the task on Thursday night as he had a busy but impressive game. New York tested Gilmore often and he responded with blanketing coverage that included two pass breakups and defense that directly aided Corey Graham’s interception.
I think the big cushion that Stephon occasionally gives receivers still drives everyone crazy as he’s shown the ability to consistently play closer to the line of scrimmage, yet playing off led to a few decent gains for the Jets. At the end of the day however, who’s to question a professional that continues to rack up top-notch performances on defense? Grade: A
Marcel Dareus: The big fella plugged up New York’s running lanes a few times and recorded the only sack for Buffalo’s defense. Often taking on double teams, Dareus continues to be a problem for the offensive line on the inside as he’s either eating up space, getting into the backfield or forcing the play to another player. Marcel finished with three tackles, a sack and one QB hit. Grade: A-
Jerry Hughes: Jerry was one of the more consistent sources of pressure along the Cold Front as he bull rushed and stunt blitzed Fitzpatrick for most of the night. He had a big hit on the quarterback along with a nice tackle for a loss on another play as well.
Hughes finished with three total take downs and although he didn’t record a sack, his speed forced Fitzy to move in the pocket throughout the game Grade: B+
Preston Brown: Preston played a solid middle linebacker in the prime time spot as he led the Bills with eight tackles and made his biggest mark defending against the run. Brown was in the hole ready to meet the Jets’ running back a few times including a big hit for no gain. He was barely noticeable in pass coverage (good for a defender) and even though he did miss a tackle on Ivory in the backfield it was overall a stout performance from the second-year backer. Grade: B+
Nigel Bradham: He started off quiet but finished the game strong totaling seven tackles along with a couple big collisions. Bradham did get beat as he was late in coverage on a swing pass out of the backfield which has been a problem for Buffalo’s linebackers so far this season. Other than that it was a solid showing from Nigel. Grade: B
Charles Clay: Clay was one of the more reliable targets in the passing game as he reeled in five catches for team-high 52 yards. The tight end made most of his plays on quick flare routes along the sideline which allowed him to rack up yards after the catch. He also worked himself wide open in the middle of the field but was overshot by a pressured Taylor. Clay continues to play as advertised. Grade: B
Karlos Williams: The rookie running back picked up right where he left off as he darted for an 8-yard gain on his first carry. While it was his longest run of the night, Karlos was able to make in impact through the air as found the endzone on a 26-yard touchdown reception from Tyrod Taylor. Williams only finished with 24 yards on seven carries but extended his scoring streak of consecutive games with a touchdown to six, which is currently tied for the NFL record. One area Karlos still needs to improve in is his pass protection. Grade: B
Sammy Watkins: Watkins took a trip to Revis Island on Thursday and despite working himself open on multiple occasions, only caught three passes for 14 yards. The very first play of the game Sammy shook loose deep across the middle on what could have gone for a score, yet Taylor put the ball in a bad spot and the receiver was unable to make the play.
All the pressure from New York’s defense didn’t give Taylor much time either but #14 did have 1-2 drops that didn’t help. In the end however, Sammy came through on this ridiculous move to get open and convert the much-need 3rd-down late in the game. Watching the tape it’s easy to see that Sammy is a freak and he could have had an even better stay on the Island. Grade: B-
Ron Brooks: The reserve defensive back was all over on special teams serving as a gunner/flyer. Brooks was the first defender down the field on punts a few times and made some big tackles that made the Jets star its drive deep in their own territory. It’s a very valuable aspect of the game. Grade: B-
Duke Williams: The Dukester has been quietly playing well as of late and on Thursday that continued as he finished with two tackles including a big hit for a loss in the running game. Williams made his biggest contribution of the night on special teams when he scooped a fumble on the kickoff and ran it into the endzone for pay dirt. Duke is well-suited to defend the running game and was quite in coverage which is typically good for a defender. Grade: B-
Corey Graham: The Buffalo-native played soundly against the Jets as he racked up five tackles, a QB hit and one pass defended. He was late in coverage rotating over to cover Decker deep but luckily the throw never made it. Graham also was in the right place at the right time to intercept a pass intended for Marshall. The safety can continue to get better in pass coverage but overall plays a solid safety. Grade: B-
Offensive Line: As a whole the offensive line had a decent day but they struggled to pass protect as Taylor was hit eight times and sacked another four. Richie Incognito got blown up on one of those plays as the Jets decided to wait around for the quarterback to run instead of flying up field. It was a good strategy but luckily the offensive line was able to adjust and open up holes in the running game.
Buffalo ran for 148 yards on 33 carries for an average of 4.5 yards per clip against the number one defense in the NFL. Rookie guard John Miller opened up a few big holes and also had a huge block on David Harris that sprung McCoy on a screen pass. Cordy Glenn had one of his better games of the season while Eric Wood struggled with pressure up front at times. Incognito was also whistled for a big holding call as he didn’t have his best game. Overall it was good enough, as the team’s running attack looks potent and the passing coverage should improve with time. Grade: B-
Manny Lawson: Manny almost made a huge play in the second quarter as he jumped into Fitzpatrick’s throwing lane and nearly intercepted the pass that may have gone for a score if he caught the ball. Despite not completing the play Lawson also chipped in two tackles with one going for a loss. When playing defensive end he did fly up field a little too far on a decent gain by the New York offense, but overall it was a good game for #91. Grade: B-
Tyrod Taylor: It wasn’t the strongest performance by Taylor by any means as the quarterback spent most of the evening running for his life. New York did a good job of not blitzing too far up field so when he would look to escape the pocket there really wasn’t anywhere to go. It was a struggle without the mobility as Tyrod started off the game by missing an open Sammy Watkins on the first offensive play. The receiver got wide on a deep post but the quarterback didn’t lead him enough on what could have easily led to points.
Outside of that Taylor made some tough throws like on a rollout pass to McCoy along the sidelines that set up a short 3rd-down. He also displayed good timing on a third-down conversion to Robert Woods and seems to be scanning the field now more than ever.Tyrod does need to get better at throwing the ball away instead of taking a sack, but no turnovers against a tough defense was a huge part of the victory. He is now 5-2 in his first seven career starts. Even when not playing at his peak, Taylor gutted out the performance and it looks like Buffalo has found its QB of the future. Grade: C+
Leodis McKelvin: His second game of the season started off a little rocky as McKelvin let a punt go instead of catching it which led to the Bills starting its drive from about 15 yards further back. He later redeemed himself with a nifty 11-yard punt return and also made some plays on defense.
He was beat once in pass coverage but otherwise had a solid evening and totaled 4 tackles including a big stick on Ivory in the fourth quarter. His insertion back into the lineup should continue to help Buffalo’s defense and special teams each week. Grade: C+
Nickell Robey: He had the tough assignment of guarding Decker on multiple occasions and started off well with tight coverage on a long incompletion. Robey got beat later in the game however as Decker grabbed a couple balls including the touchdown catch over the middle. Grade: C