What a difference a week makes. As energized as I was last Monday by the Bills come from behind victory over the Carolina Panthers, I was as deflated by yet another debacle at the hands of the New York Jets in the Meadowlands.
Ever since the 2013 schedule came out and all through the pre-season, this was a lock win for the Bills in my estimation. I pegged the Jets as the worst team in the division. They'd be dragged down by a moribund offense and distracted by the buzzards circling over the head of Rex Ryan who is said to be on the hot seat after missing the playoffs the last two seasons.
Sure, its a road game against a division foe. Yes, the Jets were 6-2 against the Bills since Ryan took over. I knew it was EJ Manuel's first ever regular season road game too. True, the Jets might be bad on offense but Ryan always fields a strong defense. They've been ranked in the top eight in each of the previous four years.
But that didn't matter. The Bills defense was improved and would rattle their rookie quarterback, Geno Smith. Manuel and the Bills offense might struggle against the Jets defense but the Bills have much better talent at the skill positions and they'd be able to make just enough plays to give Buffalo the slight edge.
That was some serious, life-sucking football exhibited by the Bills. Across the board it was unbelievably bad from coaching to quarterback play to the defense. There were many, many culprits as the Bills dropped to 6-25 against AFC East foes since 2008.
Let's start with Manuel who for the first time looked overwhelmed by the task at hand. He was off target most of the day and looked very uncomfortable in the pocket. The pressure by the Jets clearly rattled the rookie who ended up completing just 19 of 42 passes and was an unsightly 3-11 on third down passing.
But the worst part of the day for me was watching Manuel throw passes that landed out of bounds. I counted at least five with one being so far out, it hit a foot of one of the officials. Another pass landed on the far edge of the white out bounds area, along the Jets sideline. The Jets would bring pressure and Manuel would lob the ball into the air, hoping one of his receivers would catch it but they didn't even have a chance to bail out their skittish QB because the passes were coming down out of play.
Manuel didn't get any help from his offensive line which couldn't open up any holes in the run game and eventually fell apart when it came to pass protection, even when the Jets only rushed four.
CJ Spiller was a non factor, perhaps because of a knee injury, but he managed a mere nine yards on 10 carries and one yard on his one reception.
Fred Jackson had the big 59 yard run but oddly it came on a run up the middle that was stuffed by the Jets defense. Jackson was somehow able to bounce outside before the Jets knew he had gotten free. If you take out that huge play, Spiller and Jackson's other 16 rushes went for a total of 22 yards.
The offense stunk in the red zone, getting three field goals in their three trips inside the Jets 20 yard line. Even drive starts at the Jets 21 and the Jets 13 couldn't help the offense find their way into the end zone. The series that began at the 13, after the Kiko Alonso interception, was one of a few times where it seemed Offensive Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett became too conservative. It was Jackson up the middle for four yards, Jackson to the right for one yard and an incomplete pass on a slant to Stevie Johnson where it appeared the Jets confused Manuel by dropping a linebacker into coverage rather than having him rush.
What made Manuel's day even worse was the fact we had to watch Geno Smith carve up the Bills secondary which went from suspect to begin with, to depleted when Leodis McKelvin was lost for the game on the first series.
Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine did an outstanding job of masking the deficiencies of the secondary(working without its two best players in Stephon Gilmore and Jairus Byrd) in the first two games but lack of talent back there caught up to the Bills in a big way in this game.
Smith and company had seven pass plays of 18 yards or more, five of which came against Justin Rogers. Four of those plays went for more than 40 yards and three of the four came against Rogers including the fatal 69 yard game winner to Santonio Holmes.
The secondary was exposed because the pass rush wasn't able to get to Smith who was sacked 9 times in the Jets first two games but wasn't sacked once by the Bills. To his credit, Smith did a much better job of getting the ball out on time than he did in his first two games but he also made some terrific throws, especially on the deep passes.
The Bills probably shouldn't have been in this game but the Jets did their best to hand it to their division rivals with 20 penalties and two silly challenges by Ryan which cost him the ability to challenge what would have been a Manuel fumble/turnover.
Oh by the way, Bilal Powell became the latest in a seemingly long list of running backs who have their career best days against the Bills as Powell rushed for 149 yards on 27 carries. A Jets offense that was supposed to be one of the worst in the NFL this season, rolled up 513 yards against the Bills.
I'm left hoping that the Jets defense will be perhaps the best the Bills will face this season and it will be easier from here on out for Manuel who hopefully gained invaluable experience from this miserable game.
As to the cornerbacks, does anyone have Terrence McGee's number on speed dial?