That's the sound of the collective bubble of optimism bursting after a three-hour outing resulting in the worst possible scenario. The Buffalo Bills lost by 20 points to the New York Jets, but the distance between the two sides felt a lot farther than that.
The Jets came in to their home stadium, faced their AFC East division rivals, and quite simply punched them in the mouth. There is no other way to put it.
While there were a couple of bright spots, this one got away from them -- and quickly.
Here are some of my thoughts from the game:
- Heading in to the contest, our pre-game host Jeremy White pointed to the fact that this was an ultimate gauge game for the Bills, and then asked for an individual part to the game that would be an important one as the game got closer. Quite simply, I chose Ryan Fitzpatrick and the passing offense against the likes of the New York Jets. He has yet to beat the Jets as a member of the Bills, and it was this team that really exposed their offense in 2011 setting the 'blueprint' for teams to copy to try and slow them down. With that in mind, Fitzpatrick took all the nerves and optimism of the off-season, and turned in a performance that many, including myself, would call abysmal. The three interceptions thrown were all his doing, and snatched any momentum the Bills may have had. The first interception was late, lofted and baited by Darrelle Revis. He eyed down David Nelson and also threw it behind him for interception number two. And the third? Well that was just a complete breakdown of communication between the quarterback and wide receiver (Nelson). He racked up some meaningless touchdowns and yardage at the end of the game with the Jets in a 'don't get hurt' mode, but that all doesn't matter. Fitzpatrick was the biggest reason the Bills lost this game. He put the defense in bad positions and didn't put together a meaningful drive until all hope was lost. He needs to be better. A lot better. He'll be the first to tell you that.
- Head coach Chan Gailey wouldn't use the excuse of his starting cornerbacks being young as reasons why the team was so ineffective at stopping the Jets receivers from roping in the ball at will. He probably should. Stephon Gilmore and Aaron Williams, at least from my perspective down there, did not fare well throughout the ball game. Gilmore tried to jump the route on the Mark Sanchez pump-and-go to Stephen Hill and got beat for a touchdown. That would be one of those growing pains I've been talking about all preseason about when it comes to starting a young cornerback in the NFL. If he's going to be a good one, he'll learn from it. In the meantime though, he's going to make some mistakes. I think, perhaps, those that suggested a certain notion should put all the 'Gilmore Pro Bowl' talk on hold for the time being. In the case of Williams, it's been a struggle for him and the Bills have taken precautionary measures. If you noticed, Terrence McGee came in for Aaron Williams for a series here and there. If the Bills pass rush doesn't get their act together, the pass defense could prove to be a liability as the season progresses.
- Well isn't that just a nice little segue! As I'm writing this, I haven't been able to review the footage of the game to see if Mario Williams was indeed getting punched in the face a majority of the time as he alleged afterwards. Even so, that defensive line has to put forth a far better effort than they did. The Bills invested a lot of money in to that group and it vastly underperformed as a pass rushing unit all game long. The reason the Bills feel as confident as they do in sticking a couple of young cornerbacks in the starting lineup is partially due to all the money they chucked in to the defensive line in the off-season. Williams had one solid pass rush late in the first half, while Mark Anderson and Chris Kelsay were nowhere to be found. The collective job done by that unit, like most others in this game for the Bills, left fans with the bitter taste of disappointment in their mouths.
- The old saying is 'adding insult to injury,' but for the Bills it was the other way around. Buffalo's offense has struggled to get out of the starting gates and now they may be down two important pieces to help move the ball on a weekly basis. Running back Fred Jackson and wide receiver David Nelson both had to leave the game with knee injuries, and both have MRIs scheduled for the coming week. Neither injury looked pretty from field level. Admittedly so, I was plugged in to the Jackson situation as it was happening more so than the Nelson one. Jackson tried as hard as he could to convince the trainers he was okay and could go back in the game. They made him put all his body weight on his right leg and lift up with his toe. He went through a series of change of direction drills on the sidelines. At the very least, he made it look good. However, as soon as he was done with those change of direction drills, a likely realization of pain came over him. He yelled out and clapped out of frustration as his eyes began to well up, made a beeline for the bench and put a towel over his head. He knew his day was over, and likely feared the worst. Nelson was spotted with crutches in the surrounding locker room areas after the game. We'll find out more as the week goes along.
- The lone bright spot only came to pass because of the injury to Fred Jackson. However, C.J. Spiller was electric for the Bills as soon as he stepped foot on the field for number-22. If we're judging it off his performance against the Jets (which is all we have to go by at this point), Spiller looks like the confident runner that we saw late in the 2011 season. My favorite part about his game on Sunday was that he was breaking arm tackles with ease. On his 56-yard touchdown run, Spiller busted loose after Bart Scott attempted to strip the ball and went high on him. He shrugged him off and scampered in to the end zone for six points. I can't blame Spiller too much for the fumble on his long reception. Another step and the ball likely would have been transferred to his left arm. It was just one of those bang-bang plays that went against him. My main criticism regarding Spiller is less about him and more about personnel decisions. In the second half, Spiller busted off a huge run that brought the Bills down within the five-yard line. Rather than letting him finish off the drive, the Bills trotted in Tashard Choice, who proceeded to get stuffed two plays in a row. I understand that they don't think Spiller is a goal line running back, but I trust him to get the ball to pay dirt more than their third-string running back. If he's going to be the guy, let him be the guy.
- Speaking of personnel decisions, what the heck was the point of dressing Brad Smith and Dorin Dickerson in that game? Again, I've yet to review the game footage, but I don't recall seeing Smith or Dickerson out on the field once. Those are two active roster positions that went unused, while a player that they brought in to conceivably stretch the field (T.J. Graham) stood on the sidelines in shorts and a Bills t-shirt. Maybe they had a Wildcat package lined up for Smith and they decided to scrap it because they were down so much so early, but give me a break. Graham could have provided a bigger spark -- at the very least as a decoy -- than either of those players did on Sunday. Poor job by the coaching staff there.
- You know it was just one of those days when even Brian Moorman has an afternoon to be forgotten. His first punt of the afternoon was one he wanted back immediately. Throughout training camp and the preseason, Moorman has been booming his punts and specializing in the hang time department. That wasn't the case on his first attempt, which gave Jeremy Kerley enough time to wiggle his way around and find a seam on his punt return. It didn't help things that Ruvell Martin got his socks knocked off by Kyle Wilson as the gunner closest to the play. Again, just one of those days.
- I do think there were some positive things to take away from the game, though. I know, I know -- hear me out. I've talked a bit about Donald Jones and how I think he's been noticeably improved in the pass catching department. He proved it against the Jets, often times having to adjust to throws that weren't on target. I liked his day for more than just his touchdown. I also thought Scott Chandler had a strong game, continuing along on his solid stretch from late July to now mid-September.
- Here's one more bit of positivity. The run defense was actually pretty good. That was a big area of concern heading in to this game especially considering what the Jets are known for on offense. I thought the linebackers and defensive tackles really excelled in getting to the point of attack and bringing down the ball carrier in a timely manner. The Jets only averaged 3.3 yards per carry. That's a short-term improvement, but an improvement nonetheless.
- And finally, Leodis McKelvin. I felt as though the touchdown caught on him was a clear push-off from Kerley as the play occurred. While that wasn't necessarily his fault in my opinion, he let it affect him for the rest of the game. On the ensuing kickoff, McKelvin dropped a low-pressure catch in the end zone. He also got beat consistently by his assignment for the rest of the afternoon. After having such a strong training camp and preseason, this was a definite step back for the former first round pick.
LVP: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick - 0 touchdowns to 3 interceptions when the game actually mattered.
Up Next: Sunday, September 16 vs. Kansas City at Ralph Wilson Stadium (1 pm)
- By no means was that the result anyone expected from a team that bred optimism throughout the off-season. However, I need to stress how early it is in the season. The Bills have two winnable games coming up against Kansas City and Cleveland, so the opportunities to get right back in it are there. However, this is a dejected team that deflated its fan base after that loss. They can't get away with any more clunkers like this again. The sky isn't falling, but that hammerhead cloud that plagued the USC-Syracuse game just a day before might as well hover over western New York for the duration of Monday, September 10. That's what it will feel and sound like.