East Rutherford, NJ (WGR 550) -- As the old adage reads, Rome wasn't built in a day. And as we've been so gently reminded by Sunday's results, the revival of the Buffalo Bills franchise into what they were in the glory years won't be either.
For fans of the team, Sunday had to be rather frustrating for seeing the same mistakes made over and over. Somehow, though, the Bills were right into the game until late in the fourth quarter. They just couldn't find the same magic as they harnessed during Week Two.
There were a few bright spots, but they'll be dimly lit in comparison to the glaring weaknesses of the Bills in their 27-20 loss to the New York Jets.
Manuel is still a rookie, folks
- If the Buffalo Bills were likened to a coming-of-age sitcom that taught life lessons, EJ Manuel might as well be their modern day Kirk Cameron. Following up his last-minute drive that claimed the first victory of his young career, Manuel struggled finding his way against an aggressive Jets defense that was after him all game long. The rookie quarterback never looked comfortable in the pocket, and many of his throws were the results of that exact fact. It's fairly obvious at this point that Manuel still has some learning to do and some experiences to go through to become the quarterback that every fan of the team hopes he will. He's just not there yet. Manuel was constantly dared by the Jets to throw it deep, and the Bills were only able to take advantage of the man-to-man coverage once deep down the field. For the majority of the game, he just couldn't find the range and continuity with his receivers. There were times, like his second half touchdown drive or his big pass play to Robert Woods over the middle of the field, where Manuel flashed his potential. For the most part, he just looked like a rookie who was out of answers against a really good Jets defense. Yet another early lesson for Manuel. Once again, it's how he handles the adversity next week when he'll likely see more of the same.
The difference between one rookie to the next
- Through their first meeting, Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith looked like the more polished player. That could be a result of a few different factors: offensive philosophies, defensive talent, injuries to defense that allowed for big gains. Whatever the mixture was, Smith was able to have a career day and took successful chances down the field. For any quarterback to develop long-term success in the NFL, they have to be able to deliver passes successfully that only 15 other people in the world can do. Smith fed a few of those passes into tight spots throughout the game. That was the biggest difference between he and Manuel, and ultimately helped the Jets to victory. While he did make a pair of mistakes -- interceptions, to be exact -- Smith did enough for his team to win the game, and take pressure of his running game.
The Justin Rogers experience
- A negative player through the first two weeks, Rogers had perhaps his worst game as a professional against the Jets on Sunday. Even before Leodis McKelvin left the game with a hamstring injury, Rogers was turned around on a big gain to wide receiver Stephen Hill on New York's first third down attempt of the game. Then once the Bills lost McKelvin for the day, Rogers failures were amplified. No matter if it was Hill or Santonio Holmes that marched over to the left side of the defense after the huddle, the Jets were attacking Rogers all game long. And they had success… all game long. Burned deep for both Hill's touchdown and the game-winner to Holmes in the fourth quarter, Rogers just couldn't get it under control in coverage. Last week, he was able to hide despite being beaten by Ted Ginn multiple times thanks to an outrageously prevalent pass rush. He had no such luck against the Jets.
Kiko doing Kiko things once again
- As stated before, there were a few bright spots to the game for the Bills. One of them just so happened to be another solid day from rookie inside linebacker Kiko Alonso. Constantly in on rushing plays, Alonso showed off his natural instincts for the second straight game with an interception that was brought back into the red zone. That play really could have turned the whole game around, but the Bills offense struggled with three straight plays that went nowhere, resulting in a field goal. Despite that negative result, Alonso proved once again that he is a real player in this Bills defense.
Wilkerson busts loose against Colin Brown
- Coming into the game, there was a real chance that New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson would completely take over the game. He was on the cusp of becoming a dominant defender in the NFL, and had a matchup that he could exploit against the Bills. And boy oh boy, did he ever. Colin Brown was no match for Wilkerson, to the tune of six tackles, two tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble. Brown has been the least valuable player for the Bills in both the Patriots and Panthers games in the 'Upon Further Review,' film study. Something indicates that he'll be up for those honors again and battling Justin Rogers toe-to-toe for them.
No time in the pocket
- Colin Brown was a part of the offensive line that completely broke down throughout the game. The Jets decided to send the house at EJ Manuel, daring him to take advantage of the matchups down the field, and he just couldn't. The quarterback couldn't get comfortable in the pocket and was just constantly looking at one or two reads, tucking and scrambling for his life. It was an A-plus game plan by Rex Ryan, who now improves to 7-1 lifetime against rookie quarterbacks. Don't count that defense out, ever.
Early third down trouble, but righted the ship
- Originally a negative for the Bills, their abilities on third down became a big-time bright spot as the game progressed. The Jets started off the game converting on all three third-down opportunities on their first drive of the game (a touchdown drive). They then split the next two to have an 80-percent conversion rate through two drives. As the game went on though, the Bills stopped the Jets on eight of their next nine third-down chances. Whatever adjustments the defense made in that capacity, it worked. There were some penalties that extended drives, but when playing a clean, straight up game, the Bills were able to find themselves on third downs.
Injuries, injuries and more injuries
- In Week Two, the Bills escaped scott free and had no injuries to speak of. Welcome back to the regression to the mean. The injury bug was not kind to Buffalo on Sunday, ending the evenings of four different players prematurely. Cornerback Leodis McKelvin left in the first quarter with a hamstring injury, defensive lineman Marcell Dareus left the second half with an ankle injury, running back C.J. Spiller also in the second half with a knee injury and defensive lineman Alex Carrington in the final minutes with a knee injury. Not to mention, Mario Williams was spotted after the game walking gingerly in the tunnels at MetLife Stadium. There will likely be some major adjustments to the starting lineups this week with all the notable injuries.
Bills MVP: ILB Kiko Alonso
- The rookie linebacker proved once again why he's a bit ahead of the curve, becoming one of the most dependable defensive players on the Bills roster in just a few months.
Bills LVP: CB Justin Rogers
- Fans will have nightmares about Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill roasting Rogers for the next week or so. To make matters worse, he may be the top cornerback on their roster when the Bills take on the Ravens.
Up Next: Sunday, September 29 vs Baltimore Ravens, 1 pm
- The Bills faced their second divisional test and couldn't find a way to win despite having the chance late in the game. Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel and the defense has shown flashes through the first three weeks, but have failed to withhold the consistency that playoff teams are made of. Due to injuries and game planning errors, there are many adjustments to be made in the coming week in Orchard Park. How the Bills battle back from the adversity of a bad loss will be telling of the kind of culture that exists in the locker room at One Bills Drive.