Bills-Jets Game Review

The Buffalo Bills secured their first win against the Jets at Met Life Stadium, en-route to a 43-23 rout in a key divisional matchup. Coming into the game, the 1-6 Jets were three point favorites, according to Vegas, against the 4-3 Bills – essentially the Bills were being called frauds by the betting community. Buoyed by an impressive defensive performance, including a staggering six turnovers, the Bills put that notion to rest in a definitive way. They still have some work to do on the offensive side of the football but the Bills defense, as has been mentioned repeatedly this year, will keep this team alive in every game they’re in. At the season halfway point the Bills are now 5-3, only their third winning record after eight games in the past decade.

OFFENSE

The offense really didn’t have to do much in this game as they were gifted great field position for most of the afternoon, thanks to the defense. The play-calling, however, was very concerning to me as the team seemed to be playing “not-to-lose” rather than delivering the knockout blow and letting the Jets hang around for far too long in this game. On seven different occasions (not counting the final drive), the Bills called run-run-pass plays which was agonizing to watch and it’s easy to see that they wanted to go conservative. Had the Bills faced competent QB play from the Jets, this one could’ve been a meltdown of epic proportions. Opposing coaches will certainly make note of this and the Bills must draw up some high percentage throws and vary their play-calling if their offense is to have a chance at being consistent.

The Bills only called 19 pass plays in this one (including the two Orton scrambles), and ran the ball 30 times, but still managed eight scoring drives (five touchdowns and three field goals).  Despite the 30 rushing attempts the Bills struggled mightily, yet again, to run the ball with any success. Not having their best two running backs did not help, but as the weather turns colder this team needs to figure out how to impose their will in the running game sooner rather than later if they want to keep playing games in January. The passing game consisted of several big plays as the Orton-to-Watkins connection is a real thing (more on Watkins later).

Quaterback: Kyle Orton  continued to provide the Bills with solid quarterback play. His favorite target (though it’s hard to pinpoint a “favorite” on just 17 pass attempts) was Sammy Watkins who made Orton look much better on the stat sheet with a couple of plays where the former racked up yards-after-catch. Orton relies on his pre-snap reads and usually makes the correct decision and throws with anticipation. When his pre-snap reads fails him, however, he has a tough time finding the open receiver and ends up holding on to the ball too long and taking a sack. Orton also won’t give the Bills in terms of escapability, but he did turn in a nice six-yard run in the first quarter after finding nobody open down the field. Like everyone else on the offense, he has a few things to clean up heading into the bye-week, but the decision to bench EJ Manuel in favor of Orton has been a no-contest thus far.

 

Offensive Line:

Who stood out: The offensive line wasn’t asked to pass block much, but failed to get much push in the running game. Kraig Urbik proved to be an upgrade over rookie Cyril Richardson, but it’s not like he dominated in this game. Nobody in particular stood out to me as playing well, though Eric Wood turned in his usual solid performance.

Who needs work: Despite calling just 19 pass plays, the Bills gave up four sacks to the Jets on Sunday. The pass protection missed Fred Jackson sorely, as at least a couple of those sacks were due to blown assignments by the running backs. But all-in-all, I tagged the offensive line with 2.5 sacks given up, which needs to be improved upon badly. In the first quarter, Sentreal Henderson failed to pick up Calvin Pace who combined with Quinton Coples (Bryce Brown didn’t even attempt to block him) for the Jets’ first sack. Right guard Erik Pears got entirely dominated by Muhammad Wilkerson that resulted in the second sack. And Quinton Coples essentially walked left tackle Cordy Glenn into Kyle Orton’s lap, resulting in a sack on the first play of the third quarter.

Running Backs/Tight Ends:

Who stood out: Nobody in particular. Scott Chandler had a touchdown on his only reception of the day, and Lee Smith had a couple of catches including his first touchdown of the year. But, all-in-all, these were nothing to write home about.

Who needs work: The Bills sorely missed Fred Jackson in this game as both Brown and Dixon blew blocking assignments that resulted in sacks. The Bills run game was non-existent, despite 30 rushing attempts. While some of the blame has to fall on the offensive line and the conservative and predictable play-calling, the Bills running back tandem of Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon failed to break any big gains on the ground.

Wide Receivers:

Who stood out: Sammy Watkins, asides from an important learning moment, finally showed us his big play capability. The impressive rookie wide receiver finished the day with just three catches but turned those into 157 yards and two one touchdown. His biggest blunder of the day (and hopefully the last time we ever see him to this) was an early celebration on what should have been a 90-yard catch and run for a touchdown. Instead, he was caught from behind at the six yard line as he was showboating his way into the end zone. Luckily the Bills were able to turn that into a touchdown and the play wound up as nothing other than an important learning moment for the rookie.

Robert Woods also had a decent day at the office, despite missing a good chunk of the game due to an injury, and finished the day with three receptions for 50 yards and a touchdown. He continues to draw single coverage and play a complimentary role to Watkins.

Who needs work: It’s hard to point fingers at any of the wide receivers when the Bills call just 19 pass plays, and attempt 17.

 

DEFENSE

 The Bills defense, as impressive as they have been this year, had yet to play a complete game coming into this one. Their run defense had been stellar after seven games, but the pass defense had failed to make a statement yet. All of that changed on Sunday as the defense held Geno Smith to five yards passing and picked him off three times, prompting Rex Ryan to bench him for Michael Vick, who was also held to 153 yards passing and committed three turnovers of his own. If it wasn’t for a lack of preparation for Vick’s running ability, the Bills run defense would have had another marquee day. They held the Jets running game to 106 yards rushing on 25 attempts (4.24 YPC), but much of that was late in the game when the Bills were ahead by multiple scores. The run defense did allow it’s first rushing touchdown of the year (they allowed three on the day).

Defensive Line:

Who stood out: Kyle Williams finally had his rebound performance after back-to-back clunkers. He looked much more like his usual self as he was in the backfield disrupting plays more often than not. On Geno Smith’s first interception, it was Williams who pressured the Jets quarterback causing a throw off the back foot. Williams also had an impressive sack of Michael Vick in the open field, backing the Jets up to their own two-yard-line. He finished the day with 1.5 sacks and caused several inaccurate throws by Smith and Vick on Sunday. Later in the game, he came very close to sacking Vick in the end zone which would’ve likely resulted at least in a safety, if not a fumble for a touchdown.

Jairus Wynn turned in an impressive performance in limited spot-duty as he sniffed out a couple of read-option plays and also sacked Vick once.

Who needs work: I couldn’t pinpoint anyone on the defensive line as having a bad day at the office. The front-four was creating pressure all afternoon, and even the reserves got in on the action.

 

Line Backers:

Who stood out: Preston Brown was all over the field on Sunday. He finished the day with 8 tackles and an interception. He impressed me with his block-shedding, which has been much improved since opening day. The game seems to have slowed down for him a little bit as he doesn’t seem to be hesitating as much any more. He’s playing down hill, but with control and not overrunning too many plays which is a good sign for a rookie linebacker. On his interception, he stayed step-for-step with a tight end near the sideline and kept himself in great position to pick off the under-thrown football.

Who needs work:
Nigel Bradham had a game to forget. He had a taunting penalty in 1st quarter cost the Bills a possible FG. He brings a lot to the table as an every-down linebacker, but mental mistakes continue to be his achilles heel. His speed was on full display on Sunday as he came close to stopping Vick for a loss several times and also beat him to the edge once and delivered a big hit causing a fumble, which the Bills recovered. But he doesn’t play with good balance or control which causes him to overrun plays often. When he hits on those, it’ll usually be a big play for the defense, but more often than not he whiffs and runs right by the ball carrier.

Bradham had a roughing the passer penalty late in the 2nd quarter that gave the Jets offense an easy goal-to-go situation that they converted for their second touchdown.

 

Defensive Backs:

Who stood out: The entire Bills secondary had, collectively, their best game of the season. They took advantage of some misfires and always were in position to make the play. Both safeties Aaron Williams and Da’Norris Searcy, and corner back Stephon Gilmore each had a pick. Duke Williams also had a fumble recovery. The held the Jets longest receiving play to 20 yards on busted coverage, and tackled pretty well for the most part on Sunday.

Who needs work: Nobody in particular (see above).

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

Who stood out:

Who needs work: Dan Carpenter was pretty strong in the kicking game for most of the afternoon, but he hit the uprights on an extra-point attempt – that’s inexcusable.