The 6-1 Buffalo Bills traveled to New Jersey to take on the 5-3 New York Jets. With the unfortunate ACL injury to rookie sensation Breece Hall, New York’s offense has struggled to put up points. The defense, led by defensive linemen Quinnen Williams and rookie corner Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner, has taken over games and on average, gives up under 20 points per game this season. Buffalo would be missing All-Pro safety Jordan Poyer, linebacker Matt Milano (who’s been playing like an All-Pro this season), and starting right tackle Spencer Brown in this AFC East showdown.
Ups and Downs on the Opening Drive
After throwing two…confusing interceptions last week against Green Bay, Josh Allen started the game on that same note. The first two plays of the game actually went in Buffalo’s favor. Braden Mann slipped on the opening kickoff, barely getting a piece of the ball, and kicking it only 20 yards. On Allen’s first pass attempt, he hit Stefon Diggs down the sideline for a 42 yard gain. From New York’s 13, the Bills ran a play action bootleg to the right where Allen forced a pass to tight end Dawson Knox who was covered by safety Jordan Whitehead. Allen either didn’t see the defender or thought he could get it to Knox, but regardless, it was intercepted. Thanks to a Greg Rousseau tackle for loss on first down, Buffalo’s defense forced a 3-and-out to get the ball back into the hands of Josh Allen.
Allen’s Legs Give Buffalo a TD
The QB led a 14 play, 67 yard drive to find the end zone and take the lead. Allen connected on short passes to Diggs, Devin Singletary, and Knox to methodically march down the field. Facing 3rd and 10 from the 12 yard line, Allen escaped a collapsing pocket and ran up the middle for an 11 yard gain, falling inches short of the goal line. On the very next play, Allen performed a quick QB sneak to get into the end zone.
Allen’s Legs Give Buffalo a TD (Part 2)
Greg Zuerlein nailed a 53 yard field goal to get the Jets on the board. The teams then exchanged punts after neither team could get deep enough into opposing territory to attempt a field goal. Allen leaned on Singletary and Diggs to drive down the field from their own seven yard line. The two combined for 57 yards before Allen’s bootleg run on third down went 36 yards for his second rushing touchdown of the game. Initially, Singletary lined up to the left of Allen, before being motioned over to the right. With Diggs, Davis and McKenzie already lined up on the right side, the left side of the field remained empty. Rodger Saffold and Mitch Morse pulled towards that empty space, while the rest of the offensive line and Dawson Knox sealed the edge. Allen’s speed left him one on one with Whitehead, who was left in the dust thanks to a small juke from Allen. It was a perfectly executed play and a great design by Ken Dorsey. Buffalo took the two possession lead up 14-3.
New York Takes the Lead
The Jets orchestrated a 13 play, 75 yard drive that saw rookie Garrett Wilson catch three passes for 41 yards to help move them downfield. The Jets found the end zone when running back Michael Carter ran untouched up the middle for a 6 yard score. With just 32 seconds left in the first half, Allen got Buffalo into field goal range thanks to a 15 yard hookup to Gabriel Davis and a 17 yard completion to Dawson Knox. However, Tyler Bass missed the 55 yard field goal attempt and it remained 14-10 going into the half.
New York threw the ball extremely efficiently to start the second half. A pass that Tremaine Edmunds nearly intercepted and a fake punt kept the chains moving for the Jets. Wilson went 6-7 for 53 yards before Von Miller made his signature impact play of the game. Miller rushed off of Wilson’s right side, and the QB lost sight of him as he tried to roll to his left. Von punched the ball out as he sacked Wilson, and AJ Epenesa was able to fall on top of it.
Unfortunately, two plays later, Allen threw his second interception of the game, and this one was just as questionable as the first. Allen was standing in the pocket and wasn’t facing pressure when he threw a pass that appeared to be intended for Gabriel Davis. Instead, the pass seemingly went directly to Sauce Gardner, who ran 16 yards the other way before being tracked down by Davis. Four plays later, and the Jets were in the end zone with a slip screen pass to newly acquired running back James Robinson.
4th Quarter Fallout
Buffalo answered with a 51 yard field goal from Bass to tie the game at 17. Allen ran three times for 23 yards to move the ball downfield. Incomplete passes on 2nd and 9 and 3rd and 9 forced the long field goal from the Bills.
Both teams exchanged punts on their following possessions. Buffalo forced a three-and-out, but couldn’t advance far enough downfield to attempt a field goal. Allen was sacked twice on the drive, and only threw two completed passes (both to Isaiah McKenzie for a total of 12 yards).
The Jets, getting the ball back at their own 4 yard line with about eight minutes remaining, played the clock game and ran the ball all the way down the field. Robinson carried the ball six times for 39 yards, Carter carried the ball three times for 36 yards, and Wilson had one six yard scramble. The Jets only had one pass attempt on the entire drive, which was a 12 yard completion to Denzel Mims. Buffalo forced a field goal thanks to Damar Hamlin’s timely sack on 3rd and Goal. The Jets settled for a field goal to take a 20-17 lead with 1:43 left in the game (and no timeouts for Buffalo).
Allen’s first pass of the potential game winning drive was a 25 yard strike down the sideline to Diggs, but it was ultimately wiped out by a questionable holding call on Dion Dawkins. Allen hit Davis for 18 yards on 1st and 20 to bring up 2nd and short, but the clock was ticking. On 2nd down, edge rusher Bryce Huff beat backup right tackle David Quessenberry (filling in for the injured Spencer Brown) and stripped the ball. Ryan Bates was able to fall on top of the fumble, but it was a 19 yard loss on the play with under a minute to go in the game. On third and 21, Allen threw an incomplete pass that went off the hands of Davis. Even if the catch was made it would’ve been fourth down from Buffalo’s own 35 with under 30 seconds left. The final play of the game, a fourth and 21 from Buffalo’s own 14, Allen desperately heaved a bomb downfield to Davis, who was one-on-one with Gardner. The ball miraculously hit Davis in the numbers, but due to the hand fighting between the two, Davis couldn’t come down with the catch. The game was over. The New York Jets had beaten the Buffalo Bills.
Not only were injuries a major story heading into the game, but it’s an even bigger one after the game. When Bryce Huff stripped Allen late in the 4th quarter, Allen was visibly in pain, holding his arm after he threw a pass on the ensuing play. The good news is that on fourth down he was able to attempt a pass that traveled nearly 70 yards down field, so hopefully the injury isn’t too severe. However, Allen had a similar looking injury during his rookie season that caused him to miss a month of football. The severity of the injury is unknown at this time. Greg Rousseau left the game with an ankle injury and is week-to-week with a high ankle sprain. Hopefully Buffalo will get healthier with the returns of Matt Milano, Jordan Poyer, Spencer Brown, and Tre’Davious White all in the near future.
Can we start a petition to have the Bills NOT play on daylight savings day? Last year, the clocks were turned back and Buffalo lost 9-6 to Jacksonville. This year, the clocks turn back and Buffalo loses 20-17 to the Jets, where Allen throws two uncharacteristically bad interceptions. I think what separates this loss from the Jacksonville one is the talent of the opposing team. The Jaguars last year were bad – especially with Urban Meyer as the head coach. This Jets team is miles better. They’ve been rebuilt the right way under GM Joe Douglas and HC Robert Saleh. New York’s defense is one of the best in the NFL, and we shouldn’t be pressing the panic button just because a good defense played well against the Bills.
The last six quarters (including the second half of the Green Bay game) have been ugly for Buffalo. The team has struggled against the run and have turned the ball over too many times. It doesn’t help that Buffalo was missing their two most impactful defensive players (Milano and Poyer), but the defensive line needs to step up against the run regardless of who’s playing linebacker and safety. It’s unfortunate that Buffalo’s two losses this season have come against AFC East opponents, but it’s a long season and no team goes undefeated (Philadelphia is going to lose at some point, right?).
Offensive Player of the Game: Stefon Diggs
Diggs was the only receiver that seemed capable of creating separation against a tough Jets secondary. He led the team in targets (10), receptions (5) and yards (93). He had 60 more receiving yards than anyone else on the team, thanks in large part to the 42 yard catch on the first play of the game. He is still one of the best receivers in the league, and will consistently generate positive plays for this offense.
Defensive Player of the Game: Damar Hamlin
Hamlin has played well this season in place of the injured Micah Hyde. He certainly doesn’t have the coverage skills that Hyde does, but he brings an element of physicality and great tackling that no other defensive back (other than Taron Johnson) can offer. He recorded 12 tackles and a clutch third down sack to keep New York out of the end zone. Whether it’s filling in for Hyde this season, or potentially Poyer next season, Bills fans should be confident in Hamlin’s abilities going forward.
MVP: No One
Can anyone who watched that game tell me that someone on the Bills proved to be the “most valuable”? Von Miller had a great strip sack, but was otherwise silent. There’s no other forced turnovers to look at, no touchdown scorers other than Allen (who had his worst game of the season), and Tyler Bass even missed a field goal. Again, this doesn’t mean it’s time to hit the panic button – the Bills simply need to execute better on both sides of the ball. They still have the best roster in the league, led by one of the best QBs in the league and a future Hall of Fame pass rusher. It really seems like all the team is missing is a talented LSU wide receiver who has a knack for getting open and making absurd one handed catches…
What’s Next: Bills vs Vikings on 11/13
Buffalo hosts the 7-1 Minnesota Vikings in what will hopefully be a bounce-back game for the Super Bowl favorites. Minnesota has a plethora of offensive weapons, including Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and newly acquired TJ Hockenson. The return of Milano, Poyer, and White would definitely help against this star studded offense, but the availability of QB17 should be the number one focus heading into next Sunday.
Editor’s babble: What a horrible game! However, we are grateful for Colin Richey’s contributions to our blog. You can also find Colin on Twitter @whatthef00tball.