Ugly. Brutal. Demoralizing. Embarrassing. Pick any adjective with a negative connotation and you are correctly describing the Bills’ performance against the Jets in the 34-21 loss. The Bills gained a lot of national attention this week, but this performance will put the breaks on that. Even Tony Romo, who boldly predicted in the first quarter that the “Buffalo Bills are going to the playoffs this year” was trying to backtrack by the end of the broadcast, specifically when looking at their remaining schedule. There were not many highs and a ton of lows in this one, so let’s dive right in.
Finally, the Zay Jones that we were all expecting has arrived. After 6 games going as bad as they can go for a receiver, these last two games have been much better for Jones. His stat line was 6 catches for 53 yards and 1 TD for Jones. Jones made many difficult catches in the game and withstood some hard hits, as well. His TD route was a thing of beauty and the TD celebration was top notch, as he channeled his inner Star Wars abilities. Zay finally getting going is great news for the Bills, especially now that Zay will be in a comfortable role not having to take on WR2 duties once Benjamin suits up.
Another great night for this Bills WR who was signed just three weeks ago. He has played 3 games for the Bills, and has lead them in receiving in two of those games. Thompson has proven to be a reliable target for Taylor, one who is willing to make the tough catches. It is too bad that his TD at the end of the game didn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of the game.
The success rate for an onside kick in the NFL is about 20%. Going into this game, the Bills didn’t have a successful onside kick since 2012. Trailing 34-14, Stephen Hauschka successfully executed an onside kick twice (they had to redo the kick after the initial recovery due to a questionable offsides penalty). After the penalty was enforced the Bills recovered the kick again. Last night, the Bills were way above the league average for onside kicks.
This unit was terrible. And quite frankly, they have been terrible most of the year. Outside of a few games where McCoy broke loose, the offensive line has been dominated on many Sundays. Tonight they were literally blown off of the ball on almost every play. With the exception of his first run, which was totally created by himself, McCoy struggled to find the holes (mainly because there were no holes created for him). Coming into the game, the Jets had 11 sacks on the year. The Bills gave up 7 tonight. For the Jets, it took 8 games to get to 11, and 1 to get more than half their season total. There was no protection for Tyrod all night, he rarely had a pocket to throw from. Cordy Glenn, whom the Bills opted not to trade, probably had the worst game of his Bills career. Vlad Duccasse, who Sean McDermott refuses to bench, once again played terrible. There were plays that the offensive linemen were in the backfield before Tyrod finished his drop. To make matters worse, after the game Richie Incognito decided to complain to reporters and claim that Thursday night games “weren’t fair.” I don’t know Richie, the Jets didn’t seem to have an issue. This is not a good look for Incognito, who is grasping at straws to make excuses for his awful play.
Pass rush? What’s that? Outside of the Carolina game, this unit has struggled to get to the quarterback. Bills fans should be sick of this defensive line allowing quarterbacks like Josh McCown to look like Joe Montana. McCown had all night to throw on almost every one of his dropbacks. Similar to the offensive line, the defense was blown off of the ball all night. The fact is, the Bills were dominated at the line of scrimmage in this one, and it was ugly because of it.
Every decision that this team makes is a collaboration between these two men. So both should share part of the blame for the inexcusable performance tonight. Sean McDermott made some questionable decisions leading up to the game that, in my opinion, played a roll in the final outcome. First, I can’t understand taking Brandon Tate off of the field. This is the 3rd game that he has been a healthy scratch, and the Bills have lost 2 of those 3 games. He is dynamic in the return game and last week had one of the best effort plays that you will see, causing the now infamous sideline reaction. I don’t like taking him off the field, especially with putting your starting safety out there to take bit hits in the return game. I also don’t agree with the decision to sit Kelvin Benjamin. While he probably wouldn’t have made a difference in the game, just having him out there in certain situations would have opened some things up for the offense. Another issue I have is the continued playing of Vlad Ducasse. You have a two year starter in John Miller that is a healthy scratch every week for Vlad, despite him under-performing in every game. This just doesn’t fit with McDermott’s approach of prove yourself weekly. As far as Beane, to have Mike Tolbert has your 2nd running back is irresponsible. You saw it tonight when McCoy was out for a series. If LeSean every goes down with an injury, the Bills are in big, BIG trouble. Maybe Beane should have kept Jonathan Williams on the roster.
Every week I am reminded why Broncos fans wanted Dennison fired despite their Super Bowl victory 2 years ago. There were some seriously awful play calls last night. Dennison reminds me of Nate Hackett with his weird obsession with calling run plays when the team has no business running the ball. Back-to-back runs by Mike Tolbert at the 50 yard line with the Bills down 7-0 is a head-scratching decision. The Bills got away from what was working for them, moving the pocket and allowing Tyrod to extend plays. I know the Jets worked hard to not allow the Bills to do that, but I would have liked to see more rollouts and options last night.
Here they are again. Honestly, penalties have been an issue for the Bills this year, but with the team winning they are the first thing that we forget about. The Bills were extremely undisciplined in this one. With McDermott’s emphasis on accountability, I am interested to see what comes of Jerry Hughes, who took another unsportsmanlike penalty last night.
The Bills’ formula for winning is to force turnovers and don’t turn the ball over themselves. All week, the media said that the Bills turnover ratio of +14 was not sustainable and we should be on watch for what happens when they can’t force turnovers. Well, Thursday night was that game. The Bills did not force a turnover. In fact, Leonard Johnson let an easy interception fall right through his hands. On the other side, the Bills did turn the ball over. Jordan Matthews knocked the ball out of his hands with his own body, and Nick O’Leary fumbled as well. In both situations, the Bills were driving. Tyrod Taylor also fumbled on a strip sack in the second half. Not the formula for winning, especially if you are the Bills.
I am an optimist, but I also have seen this movie before. Fans will tell you all week that the Bills are still in it, that 5-3 is a great record, that they just need to duplicate that in the second half of the year to have a shot at ending the drought. I am here to tell you that the Bills’ best opportunity to end the drought didn’t get off the plane last night. 6-2 is a lot different than 5-3. The Bills have a difficult 2nd half of the season, and they gave us no reason last night to believe that the 2017 squad isn’t going to fall into the “Same Old Bills” category. Fans on social media will criticize you for saying these Bills are the “same old Bills” but I think it is completely fair to say that until they prove otherwise. They still have a decent shot at the playoffs, especially if they turn around and beat the Saints, but last night is one that they would have liked to have. I fear that we’ve seen this movie before…and we know that when the credits are rolling we are walking out of the theater disappointed.