Buffalo had three legitimate chances to tie the game in the fourth quarter after the home standing Jets re-took the lead with 9:23 left on a long touchdown pass, but with 2:44 left and the ball on their own 28, the Bills inconsistent offense on this Sunday kept them from pulling even a second time in the game as they fell 27-20 to New York at MetLife Stadium.
The Bills performance was far from pretty, but with 2:44 left and the ball on their own 28, Buffalo was down just a touchdown. They had erased a 14-point deficit earlier in the fourth quarter, but in the end their inconsistent offense could not provide another scoring drive with time running out.
PHOTOS: Bills at Jets Facing a 4th-and-7 at their own 43 with 1:48 remaining EJ Manuel threw an incomplete pass out of bounds over the right sideline. The Bills got the ball one last time on their own one-yard line with 21 seconds remaining, but with no timeouts Buffalo ran out of time.
"We were able to get the game to 20-20 and at the end of the day we weren't able to make that play to get us over the hump and they did," said head coach Doug Marrone of the Jets. "And they wound up winning. Credit to them. They went out there and won that game."
For the Bills rookie quarterback the day was a struggle. The quick release rookie signal caller of the first two games of the regular season appeared indecisive and New York's pass pressure was fierce. Manuel was sacked eight times in the game and did not have a third down conversion with a pass until the fourth quarter. He finished the day 19-41 for 243 yards and a touchdown.
"The biggest thing was converting on the third downs," said Manuel. "We struggled there and obviously with the all out pressures that gave us some headaches and things like that. But they did everything we thought they'd do as far as what we practiced during the week. The game plan going into it I thought we were well prepared for what they were going to throw at us. It was just a matter of execution."
Buffalo's offense was just 4-for-18 on third downs in the game (22%).
Facing an 11-point deficit to start the second half (17-6), and that lead ballooned to 20-6 after a Jets third quarter field goal drive. The Bills offense continued to struggle against the formidable Jets run front. Buffalo had trouble getting consistent yards on the ground. Making matters worse they lost C.J. Spiller to a knee injury, but he struggled when he was in the game getting just nine yards on 10 carries.
"They're tough. Credit to them again," said Marrone. "They give up just 2.4 per rush so rushing we gave up a lot of rushing yards. I believe they had about 182 and we had 100 and something. When you have that type of inability we were trying to stay with it, obviously that hurts in what we want to try to get accomplished."
The Bills chipped away at the Jets' lead with a pair of field goal drives as a Kiko Alonso interception return to the New York 32 allowed Buffalo to put six straight points on the board (20-12) to make it a one score game.
Still, it wasn't until the fourth quarter that the Bills offense got in a rhythm. After hitting Stevie Johnson for a 14-yard gain, Johnson drew an illegal contact call for a first down. Manuel went right back to Johnson for a 12-yard catch and Johnson then drew a personal foul penalty on Kyle Wilson for another 15 yards.
Two plays later Manuel hit a wide open Scott Chandler for a 33-yard touchdown catch to close the deficit to two (20-18). Manuel again went to Johnson, who made a catch over his head for the conversion to tie the game with just over 10 minutes remaining.
"It was single high (safety) and the biggest thing was to stand in there and not get skittish," said Manuel. "Just deliver the ball and Chandler did a great job catching it and then getting into the end zone."
New York's response was almost immediate. After a pass interference call set the Jets up on their own 31 with a first down, Geno Smith went deep down the right sideline to Santonio Holmes for a 69-yard touchdown to re-take the lead (27-20) just a minute and a half later. It would prove to be the final points of the game.
"I have to turn my head around and make a play on the ball," said Justin Rogers. "You can't make a play on the ball if you don't turn your head around. That's a technique mistake on my part."
The Jets got off to a solid start. On their opening drive they effectively mixed a run game with effective third down passing to go 80 yards on 12 plays. Geno Smith converted a 3rd-and-7 to Stephen Hill for 35 yards and a 3rd-and-17on an 18-yard hook up with Jeremy Kerley on the drive. Smith then capped the drive with an eight-yard touchdown run for an early 7-0 lead.
"He's a good player," said Aaron Williams of Smith. "He made the right throws. We gave him a couple that shouldn't have been completed, but you can't take away from his stats today. His stats say it all. He's a good player."
On the drive the Bills lost cornerback Leodis McKelvin to a hamstring injury. It happened on the third down conversion by Kerley. It forced Buffalo to shuffle their secondary with Aaron Williams moving out to boundary cornerback and Jim Leonhard filling Williams' role at free safety.
Buffalo's defense would stiffen forcing punts on the next two Jets possessions.
The Bills offense finally got a big play on their third possession as Fred Jackson rolled off the pile on a 3rd-and-1 at the Buffalo 20 and took off 59 yards to the Jets 21. But the drive would not go much further with Buffalo settling for a 37-yard field goal from Dan Carpenter (7-3).
"We were able to move the ball at times early on, but they scored touchdowns and we kicked field goals," said Marrone. "That got us behind a little bit."
On the next series for the Jets, Geno Smith threw deep over the middle, but it was picked off by Leonhard, who returned it to the Jets 37. A facemask penalty had Buffalo set up with a drive start at the New York 21. Facing a 3rd-and-goal at the six however, EJ Manuel could not find an open receiver and had to scramble. The Bills quarterback made it only to the five-yard line leading again to a short field goal by Carpenter to pull Buffalo to within a point (7-6).
The Jets answered right back on their next series. On the sixth play of the drive, Geno Smith found Stephen Hill streaking down the right sideline for a 51-yard touchdown pass to widen New York's lead to eight (14-6) with seven minutes remaining in the half.
From there Buffalo's offense would struggle for the rest of the half. After failing to convert a 4th-and-2 at the Jets 33-yard line to turn the ball over on downs, the Bills went three-and-out with 1:41 left in the half giving the ball back to the Jets at their own 34 following the punt.
A pass interference call on Duke Williams measured off 15 yards for New York with 18 seconds remaining helped to move the Jets close to field goal range. A nine-yard run by Bilal Powell on the next play enabled the Jets to attempt a 47-yarder, which Folk put through the uprights for a 17-6 halftime lead.
The Bills with the loss dropped to 1-2 on the season and more importantly 0-2 in the AFC East. They host the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens at 1 pm at Ralph Wilson Stadium next Sunday.
The Bills suffered a few injuries in the game. Leodis McKelvin (hamstring), Marcell Dareus (ankle), C.J. Spiller (knee) and Alex Carrington (knee) all left the game and did not return. Head coach Doug Marrone said they would all be re-evaluated on Monday.