The Buffalo Bills, trailing 10-6 to the winless New York Jets at halftime, faced a gut check for their whole season. The game wasn’t pretty, but the Bills tightened up their fundamentals, shut out the Jets in the second half, and gritted out an 18-10 win.
Buffalo entered the weekend in dire straits. After two consecutive losses, their pride was badly bruised, and so was their roster. Injuries and a COVID-19 infection had decimated their cornerback, linebacker, and tight end units. The uneasy feeling that this team might lose to the league’s worst team, and see their season rapidly spiral out of control, carried right into the game.
The Bills were all out of sorts early in the game. Offensively, the team was unbalanced. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll called 14 consecutive passes to start the game, and Josh Allen wasn’t connecting with his receivers. Allen’s blocking didn’t hold up, and he lost the ball on a strip sack in the second quarter. Defensively, they let the Jets control the clock, with 10 points scored on the first three drives.
Things began to turn at the end of the first half, when rookie cornerback Dane Jackson picked off Sam Darnold near the sideline. Allen found his hot hand, and the Bills moved 43 yards on six plays like clockwork, finishing with a field goal as time expired.
The Buffalo Bills’ defense, much maligned this year, suffocated the New York Jets in the second half. All the frustration of long runs, third-down conversions, and missed opportunities were channeled into a dominating stretch of two quarters. The Jets had 190 yards in the first half. In the second half, they had negative 6. After Frank Gore opened up their second-half offense with a 13-yard gain, the Jets went three-and-out, three-and-out, three-and-out, three-and-out, and closed out the game with an interception on the third play of their final drive. The Bills were relentless in a complete, team effort. There was pass rush: six sacks! Pass defense: 2 interceptions! 6 passes defended! The running game, looking like a legitimate threat in the first half, finished with 22 carries for 99 yards.
The Bills’ offense woke up, too. After 199 yards in the first half, the team had 225 in the second half. They completely owned time of possession in the second half (thanks in part to their defensive domination). The team had five drives before they kneeled out the end of the game, and scored on four of them.
Of course, it wasn’t perfect by any stretch. The Bills had 11 penalties accepted for 106 yards. And the team could not reach the end zone. Out of ten drives, five reached the red zone, and not a single one ended with a touchdown. The team relied on rookie kicker Tyler Bass, and he delivered, for the most part. Bass kicked a franchise record eight field goal attempts, and completed six, which ties the single-game record set by Steve Christie.
Outside of the field goal unit, special teams was another key differentiator. Corey Bojorquez wasn’t needed for a single punt, but Andre Roberts was a star returner against his old team. He had a 58-yard kickoff return and a 15-yard punt return.
The Bills righted the ship with another divisional win and advance to 5-2 on the season. They’ll play the New England Patriots next week, and if they win that game, will have a 6-2 record and a clean 4-0 divisional record. Pretty great place to be, if they can pull it off.
Nothing major to take away from this game, although Micah Hyde created a nasty collision with Breshad Perriman late in the fourth quarter. Hyde came off the field from that point on, although it wasn’t clear if he was also hurt or just shaken by Perriman’s injury.
- Congratulations to rookie cornerback Dane Jackson, playing in his first career game and snagging his first career interception.
- Tyler Bass made eight field goal attempts, a record for the most attempts in team history. He converted six of them, missing from 37 and 45. Six successes is tied with Steve Christie for the franchise record.
- Tremaine Edmunds was “close but no cigar” all day. His outstretched hands nearly landed on three passes, but he couldn’t haul in an interception on any of them.
- Zack Moss, back to health from his toe injury, looked more dynamic today. He had a career-long 26-yard run, and had 72 yards on ten touches.
- Cole Beasley was on fire today—turning in one of the best receiving days of his career. Josh Allen went to him early and often, and Beasley finished with 11 catches (a career high) for 112 yards (ties a career high).
- Jerry Hughes will savor this day. Buffalo’s best pass rusher the last few years hasn’t always been rewarded with stats, but today paid off. Hughes had two sacks and caught a game-clinching interception. He also led the team in tackles.
- Tyler Kroft, who avoided possible COVID infection when his wife gave birth this week, caught four passes for 64 yards. He nearly had a walk-in touchdown, but caught his pass off-balance and stumbled before he could reach the end zone.