By Sal Capaccio
A miserable loss to end the season for the Bills, 30-10 at the Jets in a game that didn’t even seem as competitive as the 20-point deficit on the scoreboard. The final game to a disappointing season, and the final Arrow Up/Arrow Down column, as well. Once again, unfortunately, for the ninth time this season, I begin with the Down Arrows….
Anthony Lynn didn’t deserve the effort that took place, both mentally and physically, from many of his players at MetLife Stadium. I really believed going into the game players would try to show and prove they are a better team than one that had its head coach fired. But that didn’t happen. There were glaring physical mistakes and mental errors. And there was simply no energy on the sidelines all afternoon. It was as bad as it appeared from TV and on the scoreboard. If not for the Jets missing on a couple fourth down opportunities, it might have been a lot worse.
Manuel was hoping to have a good enough showing to not only impress the Bills enough to convince them to bring him back, but also show the rest of the league that he could once again be a viable starting QB option. it was the worst possible performance and result for the fourth-year pro. It wasn’t Jacksonville-game-in-London-train-wreck bad, but it was about as close as you could get without the picks and fumble-6. EJ missed open receivers consistently. He sailed balls high, threw them low, and tossed them into wide open spaces. When he did hit a pass catcher, it was often in a spot he had to adjust pretty handily to get to, and usually was unable to. The final stat line for Manuel was 9-for-20 for 86 yards, two sacks, one lost fumble, and three points scored. It was an awful day for the former first-round pick.
Kickoff recovered by Jets for TD
Of all the plays and moments of the now-seventeen year playoff drought we mock, laugh at, or think to symbolize the futility, this one may go to the very top of the list. It was just inexcusable for something like that to happen in a professional football game. First, the communication was so poor on the kick return that no one was near the ball to field it. Then, after it started bouncing around, Mike Gillislee (or someone) had to know that once the ball goes ten yards it’s live and free. It isn’t declared dead or a touchback once it crosses the goalline. Clearly, Gillislee thought that was the case. If he wasn’t taught that, it’s a miserable failure by the Bills coaching staff (especially special teams staff), but my guess is he had been told and simply had a lapse in judgement.
Where was the top rushing attack in the NFL? A total of 28 carries for 68 yards for only 2.4 yards per carry. No Bills running back averaged better than 2.8 yards per carry by himself. That’s downright terrible.
On the flip side to the above, the Bills were consistent in allowing an opposing back to rumble through their front-seven. Bilal Powell ran for 122 yards on just 22 carries, an average of 5.5 yards per run. Over the last four games of the season the Bills allowed, as a team, rushing yards per play: 5.7, 5.1, 6.9, 5.5.
Two lost fumbles
Coming into the game the Bills had a chance to set an NFL record for the fewest turnovers in a season. They didn’t achieve it thanks to two lost fumbles. One by EJ Manuel on a sack and another by RB Jonathan Williams when he was barely touched. Put the first in the “physical mistakes” column. Put the second in both “physical” and “mental mistakes.”
Wow. Who would’ve thought this would show up in the Up category at all this season? What has been an issue again for most of the year was one of the best parts for the Bills Sunday. Coming into this season, the Bills were one of the ten most penalized teams in the league. But they tied a franchise record with zero, that’s right ZERO penalties in this one. There was one flag thrown for intentional grounding on Cardale Jones, but the Jets were flagged for roughing him on the same play, which caused offsetting penalties and both not to count on the official stat sheet.
CBs Kevon Seymour and Marcus Roberson
Both did a nice job all day, with the rookie Seymour getting the start in place of Stephon Gilmore and Roberson getting extended playing time. Neither had specific stats to show for it, but they were both generally in good position all day when the ball came their way or to force it somewhere else.
LB Lorenzo Alexander
The twelve year veteran finished his best season ever with a solid performance. The Pro Bowler filled up the stat sheet with three tackles, one for a loss, a sack, and two QB hurries on defense. He did all of this while clearly banged up for most of the game, as well. Alexander limped into the locker room as the last one off the field but came out and still played defense and special teams, where he collected an additional tackle on the day.
KR/PR Brandon Tate
Tate had a nice season returning punts and kicks and had a 23-yard punt return and 42 yard kick return in this finale.
Fourth Down Defense
If there is such a thing as fourth down defense, the Bills played it as good as they could. The Jets went for two fourth-and-shorts in Buffalo territory and both times were stuffed at the line of scrimmage on runs. Linebacker Preston Brown was in on both stops.
The Big Picture
That’s it. This season is a wrap. After week 17, again. The playoff drought continues and plenty of question marks surround the organization from top to bottom. What will the team do at QB, especially after the way the Tyrod Taylor situation was handled this past week? Who of their 24 free agents will return and who won’t? Maybe most importantly, who will be the team’s new head coach in 2017?
As Bills fans once again sit and watch twelve other teams vie for a championship, they’ll soon start looking at college prospects (the Bills will pick tenth) and available free agents. Then it will be waiting for the schedule to be released and reading OTA and minicamp reports before training camp begins at St. John Fisher. Then wondering if “this will be there year” the longest playoff drought in professional North American sports ends.
The more things change, the more they stay the same…….
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