A number of penalties and lapses in concentration certainly didn't help the New York Jets in a 16-13 overtime loss Sunday, but six turnovers—including five interceptions from quarterback Mark Sanchez—ultimately did them in. All six takeaways were interceptions marking the first time since Dec.9, 1967 (at Boston) that the Bills have posted an even half dozen in a single game.
In his fourth career start at free safety, Jairus Byrd had two interceptions making him the first Bills rookie to post three interceptions in a season since Nate Clements in 2001. Byrd picked up where he left off Sunday after recording his first career interception last week against the Browns.
"It was all about being in the right place at the right time," Byrd said. "He (Sanchez) was just throwing the ball up and I went and got it."
Entering the contest ranked sixth in the league in pass defense yielding 185.6 yards per game, the Bills frustrated Sanchez into the worst game statistically of his rookie campaign. Finishing with a pedestrian 10-of-19 passing for 119 yards, Sanchez operated without two starting receivers—leaning heavily towards Braylon Edwards on several plays.
The Bills as a result were able to use extra coverage towards Edwards, forcing Sanchez to make throws in tight coverage. Byrd, an Oregon product, said facing Sanchez in college gave him some familiarity with his reads and progressions.
"It helps a lot. Once he threw a couple early, he got a little rattled trying to lock on his guys and get the ball out quick," he said.
After battling injuries during offseason workouts, Byrd has made an impression on the team with his athleticism and ball skills.
"He makes unbelievable plays on the ball and terrific ball skills, just a really good player," coach Dick Jauron said.
Not only were four of Sanchez's five interceptions intended for Edwards, most on deep routes, they immediately stalled possessions. On three straight drives through the third quarter and beginning of the fourth, the Bills came away with turnovers that led to 10 of Buffalo's 16 points.
At the 12:36 mark of the third quarter, George Wilson jumped a short pass intended for Jets tight end Dustin Keller giving the offense solid field position at the Jets 43 yard line. This led to a nine play drive for the Bills, ending with a 25-yard field goal from Rian Lindell.
Wilson entered the game in the first half when starter Donte Whitner left because of injury. Just seven minutes later, Byrd recorded his second pick of the game shielding off Edwards deep on the left sideline. On the ensuing Bills possession which tied the game at 13, Ryan Fitzpatrick found Lee Evans for a 37-yard touchdown.
"This is what the game is all about and taking advantage of the opportunities that come your way," Wilson said. "I always try to prepare myself like I'm going to be the starter whether I'm in the lineup or not. I went out there and didn't want to let down the other 10 guys. Just control my position and dominate the man in front of me."
Looking to convert a fourth down play with 14:11 remaining in the final quarter, the Jets killed themselves again as Reggie Corner intercepted a short pass from his nickel spot.
However, the most significant turnovers came in the overtime period. With the Jets lined up for a game-winning field goal, a bad snap forced punter Steve Weatherford to heave a pass downfield that was intercepted by John Wendling at the Buffalo 35.
After two failed possessions from either team, Fitzpatrick threw his only interception of the night on crossing route to Evans—giving the Jets possession at midfield. But the game-winning drive started courtesy of Paul Posluszny, recording his second career interception on an errant thrown from Sanchez.
Despite the solid of play of Sanchez in the early part of the season, Byrd said the defensive backfield disguised their looks differently to confuse the young signal caller.
"We were just holding our disguises a little longer making sure that he saw us in a different look and then roll into what we were really playing," said Byrd. "I think that really helped initially because he was taking a while at the line. I didn't expect five (interceptions), but we'll take it."