Everything was pretty much as predicted on Sunday, except for the injuries. Some rookie jitters, some blown assignments, some big plays, an auspicious debut, the Bills played as their fans had hoped, and the Jets played as their fans had feared. 1-0. On to Miami.
On a perfect day, this would have been a blowout – total blowout. The Jets had no chance against the Bills defense. Well, they had one chance – LeVeon Bell. Once he went down with a hamstring injury, they had no chance. The Bills won, 27-17, but it wasn’t that close.
The Bills scored on three straight possessions in the first half, and the only reason it wasn’t five straight was Josh Allen being Josh Allen. Two costly, unforced fumbles by Allen kept the score from being 27-0 or more in the first half. In addition, Allen’s two bad over throws into the wind in the open-end end zone also cost the Bills points. The Bills should have had 40, because the Jets couldn’t stop them, but there will be no blowouts until Allen starts playing like a grown-up.
One thing was apparent early, and throughout the game: Stephon Diggs is who Brandon Brandon thought he is. He seems to get open at will, and he makes catches consistently. Even better, Allen already seems to understand how Diggs runs his routes, because Allen found him early and often. And, as Bills fans had hoped, the presence of Diggs meant that Brown and Beasley could get open consistently, too. The trio had 18 receptions for over 200 yards. And just for icing on the receiving cake, rookie Gabriel Davis had two nice receptions, including a big third-down catch where he flashed his big-target credentials and his toughness. It all added up to the long-awaited first 300-yard passing day for Allen.
Allen, for his part, did fine. Not outstanding – the two missed touchdown passes looked like JV-high-school play, but in general Allen was good in the pocket, escaped well, and found the right guy. He completed over 70% of his passes, and if he’d completed the two gimme touchdown passes his 107 passer rating would have been 123.
The running game struggled. Singletary popped a couple of runs in the second half, but other than that neither he nor Moss saw much daylight. Moss often was on the field on third down, perhaps a sign of things to come. The two were in the backfield together occasionally. The guy the Bills don’t want to lead the team in rushing, Josh Allen, was the leading rusher again. If he were an actual running back, he would never see the field, because he puts the ball on the ground altogether too often.
The defense was what Bills fans have come to expect: A lot of three-and-outs, few missed tackles, excellent coverage, consistent pass pressure. They gave up a long scoring drive at the end of the half, but they redeemed themselves with a big takeaway in the second half when the Jets were showing a little life. Oh, and we saw the same occasional weak tackling by Edmunds. His missed tackle on Jamison Crowder gave the Jets their only serious chunk play of the game, a 69-yard catch and run on third and seven. The touchdown added the insult to his shoulder injury.
The bad news, of course, was that both Edmunds and Milano left the game with injuries. The character of the Bills defense will change dramatically if both are off the field for multiple weeks. Klein and Matakevich completely change the character of the defense, giving up multiple steps each to the two starters.
Oh, and Tyler Bass. The rookie certainly was shaky, going two for four on field goals in the Bills Stadium wind. Actually, maybe three for four, but no matter – his kicks were anything but down the middle.
Bottom line, the Bills were fortunate to open the season with something that felt like a preseason game. They might have a second next week in Miami; the Dolphins couldn’t do much of anything against the Patriots, and not because the Patriots dominated.
Editor’s babble: Josh Allen being Josh Allen… we saw this at Wyoming. One or two totally boneheaded plays a game. And he better put a lid on the ‘fumblitis’ once and for all. Do what he did with the INTs. It’s time for that crap to stop. Otherwise, the game was a great primer of good things to come. Thanks to Mark Korber for his terrific contributions to our blog. You won’t find Mark on Twitter, but you can find him posting on twobillsdrive.com’s Stadium Wall Message Board.