Well, at least it wasn't a blowout this time around.
The Buffalo Bills came in to Sunday's game as heavy underdogs to the New York Jets, and hung around right through the closing seconds of the contest.
Much to their credit, they had a chance to win a game over a team that dominated them just three weeks prior, and were handicapped by key injuries. But the tale of the tape will prove to highlight mental errors, penalties and an awful play-call on one of the most important plays of the game.
The Bills of course fell to the Jets 28-24, and dropped their fourth consecutive contest. Let's analyze the game that was a bit more closely:
- Stevie Johnson stole the show on Sunday for both good and bad reasons. The good? His footwork to get himself open against the best cover corner in the NFL, Darrelle Revis, was borderline criminal. Johnson had Revis guessing before he even got in to his routes. But his eight catch, 75-yard and one touchdown performance against the league's best will be overshadowed by two moments. The first? Giving his Ode to Plaxico upon scoring his touchdown and faking shooting himself in the leg, and following it up with a jet crashing to the turf. He got flagged for going to the ground during a touchdown celebration and put the Bills in a spot where they felt like they needed to perform a squib kick. The second moment, of course, is a drop on a potential game-winning touchdown pass from the arm of Ryan Fitzpatrick. A lapse in concentration forced a perfectly thrown ball through Johnson's hands and to the turf. Let's get something straight: That late first half touchdown isn't solely on the shoulders of Johnson. Dave Rayner, an employed kicker in the NFL, botched a routine squib kick up the middle of the field. The defense, on that very drive, allowed Plaxico Burress to get wide open in the end zone. Stevie deserves some blame, but not all of it. With the drop? Well, that's simply inexcusable. He had the game in his hands and he dropped it. He owned up to it after the game, but man, is that a bad big-moment trait to have. Like the Pittsburgh game, we'll just have to see how he bounces back from it.
- Completely overshadowed by number-13's shenanigans throughout the contest is what I believe to be the key moment of the contest. 3rd-and-11. The Bills' defense has the Jets in a very bad position late in the fourth quarter and down by a field goal. Rather than keeping their cornerbacks -- who were both having an above average day -- on their receivers, defensive coordinator George Edwards dials up a corner blitz, leaving 6-foot-5 Plaxico Burress singled-up against an undersized safety. Even after Sanchez checked out of his play because he saw the blitz coming, the Bills did nothing and let it happen. The team wasn't able to generate pressure during the game, so why start right then? It's not a strength of the Bills. Make Sanchez beat you by making him make a good decision. He didn't do that a lot on Sunday, and they bailed him out. Edwards is on the way out, and that play call will stick in my mind for quite some time. Yes, I feel that was a bigger gaffe than Stevie Johnson rolling around on the ground after a touchdown. You pick your spots with a heavy blitz. With a lack of personnel to generate pressure, that's a comical call by the defensive coordinator.
- Well, the nightmare of Bills' fans came true on Sunday. Aaron Maybin provided a consistent pressure off the edge and brought down Ryan Fitzpatrick twice. That's twice the amount that Shawne Merriman brought down the quarterback this season. Worse yet, his on-field antics got in to the mind's of a few of the players and they took dumb penalties as a result. Maybin was a good antagonizer for New York Sunday, it caused a lot of missteps by a normally poised Buffalo offensive line.
- Speaking of the offensive line, how about taking asinine penalty after penalty against the Jets. Erik Pears, Chad Rinehart, Chris Hairston -- it didn't matter who. All those penalties added up to cost the Bills either precious yardage and/or time. The maturity during this game just wasn't there from Buffalo.
- I love watching games with the folks on Twitter... but there was something in the water between the hours of 1 and 4 Eastern. The vitriol being slung back and forth throughout the game was as intense as I'd ever seen it. It's amazing what an actual competitive game will do, but man, it was an intense day of tweeting. This is all I could think about Twitter Sunday:
- I really liked the game of C.J. Spiller against the Jets. Am I the only one? I thought as the game progressed, he was getting better and better at diagnosing where he needed to take the ball and showed the patience to get there. The numbers don't indicate a strong performance, but against a good defense like New York's, I thought Spiller more than held his own.
- You think Ryan Fitzpatrick has it tough sometimes here, can you remember a quarterback that threw four touchdown passes that was boo'ed more than Mark Sanchez was by his home crowd? He was terrifying at times, and I certainly wouldn't want him as the Bills' top quarterback, but that crowd was ready to pounce all over him with the smallest mistake.
- He got burned on one touchdown pass, but I'm getting to be a big fan of Da'Norris Searcy. In just his second start, Searcy ran up and tapped Kellen Heard on the behind to tell him to get in the right gap on a clear-as-day running play by New York. Searcy adjusting Heard over to the left helped force Shonn Greene out to the edge and he couldn't find any room for the run. It's a small play, but things like that aren't seen by someone that young in to their career.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick had a major bounce-back game for the Bills. His receivers bailed him out a couple of times (i.e. Brad Smith's TD), but for the most part Fitzpatrick was on target all game long. He got Stevie Johnson involved early, made Scott Chandler a priority outside of the red-zone and was able to consistently move the ball down the field. He technically couldn't pull it out to get the win. But hey, that ball was right in Stevie Johnson's hands. He catches the ball, he runs in for six. End. Of. Story.
Bills' MVP: Stevie Johnson - 8 catches for 75 yards and a TD on the best cornerback in the league Bills' LVP: Stevie Johnson - As Lit so eloquently said, "It's no surprise to me I am my own worst enemy." Stevie was just that.
Up Next: Sunday December 4 vs. Tennessee Final Thoughts
- It was a polarizing game that will likely spiral the Bills' season to yet another losing record and one without a playoff appearance. I think the main thing to take away should be this: The Bills can hang in games and develop a game plan to potentially beat some of the better teams in the league. Until they stop getting out of their own way in numerous capacities, then they'll have a huge mountain to climb. A stinging loss, but one they can learn from.