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Buffalo Bills 17, New York Jets 20: Rapid recap and notes

The Jets bruised and beat down the Bills, who couldn’t break their game script

The New York Jets welcomed the Buffalo Bills into MetLife stadium and roughed them up a little before sending them home with a 20-17 defeat on Sunday afternoon. Josh Allen played like he was back in his rookie season, with Jets quarterback Zach Wilson looking poised and prepared in a startling contrast. The Jets pounded the Bills into submission with their rushing attack (34 carries for 174 yards) and their powerful defense, following the formula that has, now, taken them to a 6-3 record on the season. For the Bills, it was a wake-up call that every team relishes the chance to knock them to the ground, every week.

Things started out in Buffalo’s favor when the Jets’ kicker tripped on the opening kickoff. His weak kick barely reached midfield, where the Bills recovered it. In a flash, the Bills were knocking on the door of the end zone, as Josh Allen connected with Stefon Diggs on a 42-yard deep throw behind New York’s zone defense. But then Allen made the first of several bizarre throws on the day—rolling to his right, dodging a pass rusher, then tossing the ball right into the arms of safety Jordan Whitehead.

The first half played out like the blueprint of a game the Jets would plan to win. While the Bills were able to rack up 250 yards of offense, they only came away with two touchdowns, both set up by Josh Allen’s running. Through the air, Allen really struggled. His only reliable hookup was with Stefon Diggs, who caught five of his six first-half targets for 93 yards. Throwing to everyone else, Allen couldn’t get on the same page—he was 6-of-12 for 38 yards and his interception.

Though the Bills led 14 to 3 in the second quarter, the Jets strung together a remarkable six-minute, 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. It left the Bills with 32 seconds, and to their credit, they were able to advance to the periphery of field goal range, but Tyler Bass hooked his 55-yard field goal attempt to the right, and Buffalo headed into the locker room with a four-point lead.

The Jets emerged from halftime and doubled down on their belief that they were tough enough to stand with this Bills team. They ground out the third quarter with a 14-play drive that took them from their 20-yard line to the Buffalo 18-yard line. In the process, they converted a 4th & 1, a 3rd & 9, and a 3rd & 2. Finally, a Bills player stepped up—and who else but Von Miller? He screamed into the backfield, strip-sacked Wilson, and A.J. Epenesa recovered the ball to kill the drive.

But then Bad Josh made another appearance. Only two plays later, he threw another bewildering interception to Sauce Gardner—it seemed like Allen misread the defense, expecting Davis to break inside. The Jets returned right back to their grind-it-out offense, taking advantage of the short field to score that touchdown they missed the first time. Suddenly, it was 17-14 Jets.

Taking over possession, and trying to re-establish a tempo after the interception, the Bills slowly advanced downfield on a mixture of running plays and quick passes to the running back. Once they were in field goal territory, an attempt at a wide zone play only gained a yard for running back James Cook. Allen was forced to throw away his next pass, and then he attempted a deep throw to running back Nyheim Hines, which was way off the mark. The Bills settled for another field goal attempt, and this time, Tyler Bass was successful on the 51-yarder that tied the game at 17.

Buffalo had a chance to re-take the lead when they forced a quick punt, but after Allen was sacked for the second time on that drive, he missed two deep throws to Diggs (one of which should’ve been intercepted), and the Bills punted back to the Jets.

With the game still tied midway through the fourth quarter, the Jets finally applied the backbreaking pressure they’d been building all day. Though they started at the four-yard line, they ripped off runs gaining nine, seven, 16, and 17 yards against the worn-out Bills. An encroachment penalty put them nearly in field goal range with five full minutes to go. The Jets went into clock-killing mode, and the Bills still couldn’t stop them. Their next four plays, all runs, gained 24 yards, then Zach Wilson perfectly placed a pass to wide receiver Denzel Mims on a slant route that gained 12 on 3rd & 5. To the credit of Buffalo’s defense, they did exactly what they needed to, once they’d given up the field goal range: three plays, 17 seconds elapsed, and the Jets forced to settle for a field goal and the 20-17 lead. But despite the low score, it’s clear who won that battle between the Jets and the Bills today.

And then came the Bills offense, hapless once more. Allen hit Diggs for a 26-yard toe-tapping gain that was wiped out by a holding penalty. An 18-yard pass to Gabe Davis almost made up the difference of the penalty yardage. But on the next play, Bryce Huff strip-sacked Allen, who dove onto the ball all the way back at the 14-yard line. An attempt for Diggs was thrown several yards short, skipping in the dirt, and that set up a last-ditch bomb to Davis, who (literally and figuratively) dropped the ball and ended the comeback attempt.

The Bills drop to 6-2 on the season and, unfortunately, 0-2 in the AFC East. All the extra breathing room from their earlier AFC wins has been exhaled. They need to get healthy and knuckle down for the long remainder of the regular season, if their Super Bowl goals are to remain intact.

Bills Injury report

  • Taron Johnson was slow getting up after Michael Carter cut blocked him in the second quarter, but he returned to action after a short stint on the sideline.
  • Greg Rousseau suffered an ankle injury at the end of the first half. He remained on the sidelines with his helmet on, but the Bills called him questionable to return. His absence meant more snaps for Boogie Basham and Shaq Lawson.
  • Kaiir Elam injured his own ankle in the third quarter. Like Rousseau, Elam was labelled questionable to return. The Bills had Christian Benford slot into his place in the lineup. Late in the fourth quarter, Elam returned to the field.
  • The reason Elam returned to action, with four minutes left in the game, was in part because Dane Jackson was injured on a play. Helped up by trainers, he walked over to the sidelines without any obvious ailments.
  • Josh Allen took a hard hit while throwing the ball near the end of the game, and his next throw skipped into the dirt short of his receiver. He was able to air out a hail mary at the end of the day, but grasped at his elbow and grimaced before that point.

Quick hits

  • Buffalo Bills at halftime: 14 points scored, 251 yards gained. Buffalo Bills after halftime: 3 points scored, 66 yards gained.
  • Josh Allen’s 36-yard touchdown run was his longest since 2019, and tied for the second longest of his career. In his rookie year, Allen broke free for a 45-yard scamper against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
  • By finishing today without throwing a TD pass, Allen broke a streak of 10 games (including playoffs) where he threw a touchdown, dating back to the January 2 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
  • The Jets’ defense was as scary as advertised—Allen took five sacks, fumbled the ball twice, and threw two interceptions. He was playing unevenly all afternoon, and a lot of that performance should be credited to the players—like Sauce Gardner and Quinnen Williams—on that team.
  • With Matt Milano inactive, rookie Terrel Bernard started the first game of his career. He wound up with seven tackles, two solo.
  • If the Bills’ offense had been able to deliver a score, Von Miller could’ve made a case for game MVP. His strip sack killed a long Jets drive just when the Bills needed it to end.
  • Rough day for Tyler Bass, who didn’t just miss a field goal (without any wind in the stadium), but also had a kickoff land out of bounds.
  • Newest member of the Bills, Nyheim Hines, didn’t have much of an impact in this game. He returned one punt for 18 yards, had two fair catches, and attempted (and failed) to make a leaping catch on a deep throw down the sideline on his only target.

Looking to Week 10

The Bills head home for a 1:00 PM Eastern matchup with the Minnesota Vikings. Minnesota squeaked by the Washington Commanders, 20-17, and they’ll head into this game with a 7-1 record. They’re easily in first place in the NFC North.