The Bills succumbed to some of the same problems that have plagued them all year and it cost them a shot at their second straight division win. An inability to convert on third down and trouble stopping the run kept the Bills from building on a 10-6 first half lead. The Jets scored just 13 points over the final two and a half quarters, but it was enough for a 19-13 victory over Buffalo at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.
"I thought the guys played hard," said interim head coach Perry Fewell. "I thought that they fought hard. I thought we had some momentum going into the football game and we had a chance to win it in the fourth quarter. We just didn't get it done, bottom line."
Buffalo's offense showed some promise in the first half with an efficient five-play 65-yard drive capped by a 15-yard Marshawn Lynch touchdown run. Third down conversions, however, proved to be a monumental task throughout the course of the game as Buffalo went three-and-out five times in the game, and four-and-out on two other series. Their field goal drive in the fourth quarter to pull within six with 5:30 left was the longest going eight plays. The Bills went 1-11 on third down.
"That's how you stay on the field," said Ryan Fitzpatrick. "They had our number on third downs. With the different pressures that they were bringing and still getting double teams on our receivers we had a hard time with it. Even some of the stuff on first and second down, but I think third down was probably the biggest issue for us. We didn't play well, but hats off to them. They did a good job."
Fitzpatrick was staring down a boatload of pressure for most of the night. He finished the game 9-23 for 98 yards with an interception on the team's final possession.
"They had a very good third down pressure package and they caused a little confusion as an offense," said offensive tackle Jonathan Scott. "I just didn't think we had enough time to make those adjustments because we were aware of it and did a lot of film study, but it was unfortunate that we couldn't get into what we wanted."
The Jets offense wasn't dramatically more effective in reaching the end zone, but they kept kicker Jay Feely busy as he put four field goals through the uprights for all but seven of New York's points on the night.
A key for New York was they gained yardage in big chunks throughout the course of the first half. New York ran 31 offensive plays through the first two quarters and more than third of them went for 10 yards or more (11).
"They had a very good scheme," said Fewell. "They did some things a little bit differently than they did the first time and we didn't tackle well in the first half. I thought we tackled poorly. We definitely missed some opportunities to get off the field and we didn't get off the field and kept some drives going, which let them continue to run the ball and pound the ball at us."
The Jets, who rolled up 318 rushing yards in the first meeting with the Bills put up 249 more on the ground Thursday.
"We're not able to either get off the block or make the tackle," said Ryan Denney. "Any time a guy misses his gap they're going to get some yards. Any time we miss some tackle they're going to get some extra yards. So I know that's what happened on most of those longer runs."
That big play ability was quieted however, when Mark Sanchez left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury. He did not return, and the Jets managed just three points in the final frame.
New York's most efficient drive of the first half came at the end of the second quarter. On a 3rd-and-5 from the Jets 36, Mark Sanchez hit Jerricho Cotchery down the seam for a 45-yard pass play to the Bills 19. Two plays later Sanchez hit Braylon Edwards over the middle for a 13-yard touchdown reception for a 16-10 lead at the break.
"We should've been ahead at halftime," said Fewell. "We didn't execute. We gave up seven points right before halftime and we could've gotten off the field at that point in time and gone into halftime with a one point lead (10-9). But I thought we should've been better. I didn't want to give up those seven points at the end of the second quarter."
The Jets' defense was getting pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick early. With the score tied at three early in the second quarter the Jets brought a delayed blitz on 3rd-and-8. David Harris sacked Fitzpatrick forcing a fumble that was recovered by New York's Bryan Thomas at the Bills 43-yard line. But the Jets were only able to get a field goal off the turnover. Buffalo's defense forced a three-and-out as Jay Feely put a 49-yard field goal through for a 6-3 Jets edge.
Buffalo responded with its best drive of the first half thanks to some of the most inspired running by Marshawn Lynch all season. Lynch accounted for 59 of the 65 yards on the drive including the last 15, as the Bills back ran over Jim Leonhard to put Buffalo up 10-6 with 10 minutes left in the half.
The Jets closed that gap to 10-9 on a Jay Feely 31-yard field goal before taking the lead right before the half on the Edwards touchdown catch.
The Bills put points on the board on their opening drive. Fitzpatrick converted the only third down of the day on a 3rd-and-2 from the Buffalo 25 with a 38-yard hookup with Lee Evans, who beat Lito Sheppard in a one-on-one situation. The Bills possession stalled at the Jets 31-yard line where Rian Lindell put a 49-yard attempt through for an early 3-0 lead.
After an exchange of possessions, the Jets got some good chunk yardage on an eight-play 56-yard drive. Four different players tallied four first downs in a row moving New York into the red zone, but George Wilson stopped Thomas Jones for no gain on first down at the Bills 11. That was followed by a Mark Sanchez overthrow. And then Kyle Williams sacked Sanchez for a nine-yard loss on 3rd-and-10 forcing the Jets to settle for a 33-yard field goal, which tied the score late in the first quarter (3-3).
"We've got to keep working," said Bryan Scott. "That's all we can do now is stick together continue to work, build week after week and hopefully stack some wins at the end of the season."
With the loss Buffalo fell to 4-8 on the season. After a 10-day layoff they go back on the road to play the Chiefs in Kansas City for a 1 pm kickoff.