Sal's Sticks: Jets at Bills

December 09, 2018 - 10:02 pm
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A tough game to lose for the Bills, blowing an early 14-3 lead and ultimately losing, 27-23.  Let’s get to the negatives first:
 

BEHIND THE STICKS

  • Special Teams

Bills’ linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said after the game that you don’t notice special teams until they cost you.  Well, they certainly cost the Bills in this one.  The special teams’ units may have had their worst day of an already bad season overall.  There were plenty of issues.  A blocked field goal.  Another missed field goal.  Then two huge kickoff returns against (and another that was eventually called back) that cost a ton of field position and made it easy on the Jets to score ten points.  The Bills also had an illegal formation on another kickoff.  It was an especially bad day for the special teams.

  • Josh Allen turnovers

Allen has been very good at protecting the football since returning from his injury a few weeks ago.  But that wasn’t the case Sunday as he was directly responsible for a fumble and two interceptions.  The fumble and one pick were both due to him trying to do too much and being careless.  The other interception was a poor decision and/or throw on the final offensive drive.

  • Penalties

You knew it might be a rough day when the Bills were called for a chop block on the very first play of the game, wiping out a five yard gain.  And sure enough, they finished with seven flags for 47 yards against.  But it’s the pre-snap penalties that are particularly troublesome.  Three false starts against the offensive line in a home game is just unacceptable.

  • CB Tre’Davious White

White is having an outstanding year, but this was his worst game of the season.  He appeared to be the cornerback responsible for Robby Anderson when Darnold found him in the end zone after scrambling around, then was beaten down the sideline by Anderson for a huge gain that set the Jets up at the Bills’ five yard line for their game-winning touchdown. He was also called for a defensive holding in the red zone that gave the Jets a first down at the Bills’ four yard line.

  • Third down defense

The Jets came into this game last in the entire NFL in converting third downs at only 29-percent, but they moved the chains on six of thirteen third down attempts in this one, which is a whopping 46-percent.

  • Running game outside of Josh Allen

This has been a growing theme the last few weeks.  The Bills have pretty big numbers running the ball, but only really because of Josh Allen’s scrambling and some designed runs.  Against the Jets, outside of Allen, they ran 22 times for 75 yards, an average of only 3.4 yards per carry.

  • K Stephen Hauschka

Hauschka had a field goal blocked, missed another, and kicked off six times, failing to put any in the end zone, albeit two were squib-kicks in the second half that head coach Sean McDermott said were due to how well the Jets were returning the ball against them.  Hauschka was also injured right before halftime on the blocked kick, so that's noted here.  But overall the Bills' kicker just didn’t have a good day.

  • Pass rush

Not only did the Bills not have a single sack on Jets’ quarterbacks all day, they weren’t even credited with one quarterback hurry.  The Jets did a great job of protecting their QBs, and even when Bills defenders had a chance at Sam Darnold, he was able to get out of the way and often make plays.  The pass rush was virtually non-existent.

  • Two Jets’ 4th quarter drives

The Bills were up 20-13 headed into the fourth quarter, against a rookie quarterback.  They should have closed the game out.  But they uncharacteristically gave up two long drives.  One was eleven plays for 85 yards and the other was nine plays for 61 yards.  The Jets scored TDs on both to tie and eventually win the game.

  • Dropped passes

Josh Allen wasn’t pinpoint accurate all day, but Bills’ pass-catchers didn’t help their young quarterback much, either.  Several drops could have really helped them sustain drives, including big ones by tight end Charles Clay and wide receiver Zay Jones.


AHEAD OF THE STICKS

  • Josh Allen’s legs

After finishing as the second-leading rusher in the entire NFL last week, Allen was fifth in the league after the games on Sunday, collecting 101 yards on nine carries for an average of 11.2 yards per run.  One of those was for a touchdown.  He’s now run for 335 yards over the past three weeks, an average of over 111 yards per game.  He also now has the three highest rushing totals in a single game, ever, for a Bills’ QB.   He’s also now the Bills’ leading rusher for the season with a total of 490 yards in nine games played.  

  • WR Robert Foster

Rookie wide receiver Robert Foster was responsible for three of the seven longest plays of the day for the Bills, catching passes that went for 38, 32, 21, and 18 yards.  He wasn’t one who had trouble with catching the ball, hauling in six of his seven targets, and finished with 104 yards, putting him over the century mark in two of his last four games, totaling 330 yards in that time. 

  • Third down offense

The Bills, and Allen especially, were good on third downs, just like the Jets.  They converted half of their attempts, finishing 7-for-14 on the day.

  • Run defense

The Jets finished the game with only 78 yards on 28 carries, an average of only 2.8 yards per carry.

  • WR Isaiah McKenzie

McKenzie continues to show why the Bills claimed him off waivers and needed his skill-set on the field.  He caught four passes for 47 yards, ran four times for 22 yards, including a touchdown, and collected 101 yards in kick returns (an average of 20 yards per return).  That’s 170 all-purpose yards.

  • LB Tremaine Edmunds

The rookie linebacker had a great day getting to the ball in all ways.  He finished with a game-high eight tackles, including one for a loss, and also added one pass breakup and an interception, becoming the youngest player in NFL history (20 years, 7 months) to intercept a pass.

  • P Matt Darr

Okay, he only punted once all day, but that one was a beauty, as high as any punt I’ve ever seen, and forcing the Jets’ Andre Roberts to fair catch the ball at his own 15 yard line.


THE BIG PICTURE

Sean McDermott needs to - and will - take a long, hard look at not only his roster, but his coaching staff, after the season and might have to make some tough decisions, because certain areas are just not getting the job done well enough.  Sure, they are under-talented against most teams, but not the Jets.  They came into New Era Field at 3-9.  They’ve struggled as much, if not more, than the Bills in many areas.  If New York is more talented than than Buffalo, it’s negligible.  But they made more plays, and at the most important times, and that’s a tough pill to swallow.  

We’ve seen a tough movement by the Bills the last few weeks, releasing players like Kelvin Benjamin and Andre Holmes, and using other, often younger players at wide receiver, offensive line, and cornerback.  With three games to play, sitting at 4-9, they need to continue to do that in as many spots as they can to get a good look and thoughts on what they have and need to do this offseason.  

Sunday was a tough one to take, not because it meant something for the playoffs, but because the Bills should have been better than what they showed.  They should have beaten the Jets, and they had a lead on them for most of the game that they let get away.

This one was basically billed as Darnold vs. Allen.  The two QBs selected third and seventh, overall, respectively, in this past year’s draft.  And we got a little bit of everything from each.  “Wow” throws, horrible decisions and throws, and great athleticism.  Unfortunately for the Bills, the Jets’ rookie came out on top after making a couple more plays down the stretch.  But looking at both QBs and their skills and competitiveness, it should be fun to watch them go head-to-head for quite a few years.  

Allen was certainly responsible for some of the reason why the Bills didn’t win it.  He had three turnovers that were clearly on him.  The defense shares blame, too.  They gave up two long TD drives when they had a lead in both instances.  And special teams deserves a lot of criticism for what happened Sunday.  There were just far, far too many breakdowns once again.  I might even call Sunday’s game a step back when this team is only trying to move forward every time they take the field.  

As long as Allen is playing, there’s plenty of reason to watch how this last stretch of games plays out.  Sunday, he was pretty good at times.  He was bad at times.  He played like a lot of rookies do at some points during their first seasons.  

Next week Allen gets to go against Matthew Stafford.  Then it’s Tom Brady on the other side.  A combined 29 years in the league between them.  Then a rematch with the Dolphins.  I just want to keep watching him, to see how he handles each situation.  To watch him grow.  Because as much as those other areas are problems for the Bills, I know there will be plenty of turnover on the roster this offseason.  A lot of the players making costly errors won’t be around in 2019.  We may see wholesale changes throughout entire position groups.  But I know Josh Allen will be here.  And that’s why these last three games still matter. 




Follow me on Twitter @SalSports

Follow me on Twitter @SalSports

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