1 – Rousseau and Milano spearhead day for the 'D'
On a day when the offense was out of sync for much of the first half, Buffalo's defense had the game on lock down. A good number of the playmaking answers were provided by Greg Rousseau and Matt Milano and the two delivered a pair of plays back-to-back that turned the tide of the game.
With Buffalo up 14-7, Milano triggered on a delayed blitz on a Jets' 1st-and-10 at midfield and drilled his shoulder pad into QB Mike White's rib cage just as he delivered the football. The pass fell incomplete and after laying on the field for several minutes and being tended to by New York's medical staff, he left the game.
Veteran Joe Flacco came on in relief for the second time in the game and Rousseau knifed in from his left defensive end position and sacked Flacco, forcing a fumble that was recovered by DaQuan Jones at the Jets' 44-yard line.
"I went speed to power, started off with a double swipe," said Rousseau. "I felt that he was kind of oversetting me and I just came underneath, but I know for sure that the secondary was holding up and then I've got three other dogs out there with me rushing. So really our mentality is kind of like four equals one. I can win on one side, somebody else can win. If somebody else isn't doing their job, then the quarterback just gets flushed out and runs away. So it's four equals one every single play we make."
The turnover led to a field goal drive that expanded Buffalo's lead to 17-7 late in the third quarter.
Rousseau had a pair of sacks in the game while also contributing a pair of quarterback hits, a QB pressure, a tackle for loss and a batted pass. His two sacks Sunday pushed him past his single-season high of five in his rookie season as he now has seven on the season.
Milano, who missed the first game against the Jets in Week 9, was a force with a team leading nine tackles, including one for loss, a pair of pass breakups and one vicious hit on Jets QB Mike White that sent him to the locker room for a period for X-rays on his ribs. The veteran linebacker was again seemingly omnipresent on every defensive play.
His most important play arguably came on a fourth quarter carry by Michael Carter. Following a safety on a blocked punt by the Jets that tightened the score to 20-9, New York's offense had marched into Jets' territory with 7:30 left in regulation. On a 2nd-and-2 at the Bills' 28, Damar Hamlin punched the ball from Carter's hands and Milano recovered to end a scoring threat by the Jets.
"Game changer when we have him," said Shaq Lawson, who had a sack, tackle for loss and QB hit himself. "You can tell when we've got Matt Milano. He's flying around the field making plays, TFLs, hands on the ball, he's just all around the ball. So, it changes. You see a difference when we don't have Matt Milano and when we got him."
Buffalo's defense however, had to get two more stops defensively as the Bills offense was unable to run out the clock going three-and-out on a pair of possessions after defensive stops. Fortunately, the defense closed it out surrendering just a field goal late followed by a turnover on downs with AJ Epenesa batting down a 4th-and-10 pass with 30 seconds remaining.
"Greg popped it off, and AJ – and we all just fed off each other," said Lawson. "And we knew coming in it was going to be their D-line versus our D-line. Whoever's D-line could perform the better was going to win this game. And we made some crucial plays toward the end."
Milano's play in particular was all the more impressive considering he only practiced once this week on Friday on a limited basis coming off a knee injury.
"Yeah, he's tough as nails, guys love him for it," said McDermott of Milano. "We've got a bunch of guys that have been out, guys playing hurt. Not just Matt, but Matt had a busy week in the training room and goes out there and plays his butt off for his teammates. So I applaud him for it."
2 – Offense fights to find rhythm
It was a series of fits and starts for Buffalo's offense. Execution was lacking throughout the afternoon as the offense ended their first five possessions with punts. Five punts marked the most in a game by the Bills this season and they all came in the first half. By game's end they had eight with one coming after a safety.
The league's number one third down offense struggled to move the chains as they went 2-for-8 on conversions in the first half and went 0-for-5 in the second half. Their 232 total net yards were a season low, with their previous low of 317 coming at the hands of the same Jets' defense.
"It's a good, good defense," said Josh Allen of New York's fourth ranked unit. "They play very hard, they're coached really well, they've got some really good players over there. Playing these division games, teams see you twice, they kind of know what you like, know what you typically like to do. So they can kind of game plan around that a little more specifically. Early on, it wasn't great. I thought second, third quarter we got into a little bit of a rhythm."
A two-minute drill at the end of the half broke a scoreless stalemate as both defensive units dominated the play. But a pair of Allen scrambles sandwiched around a 4th-and-1 offsides by the Jets and a pair of short passes to Isaiah McKenzie kept the drive alive before Allen hit Dawson Knox on a 24-yard scoring play.
The Bills added a second touchdown drive in the third quarter after the Jets tied the game at seven on their first possession of the second half. A fumble recovery by DaQuan Jones led to a drive start at the Jets' 44 for the offense, but the drive stalled much like the handful in the first half, and they settled for a field goal.
"Plenty to work on starting with fundamentals and then some things obviously that didn't go our way we got to get better at," said McDermott. "Fundamentally we dropped some passes, we were off the mark a little bit earlier with our passing game and then just got to do a better job being more consistent, being more consistent there."
Penalties also put them in long down and distance allowing the Jets' pass rush to get home, sacking Josh Allen three times and hitting on four other drop backs. The offensive line was responsible for six of the team's seven penalties in the game as the Jets' defensive front again proved formidable.
And with a 20-7 lead entering the fourth quarter, Buffalo's offense couldn't put the game away as they managed one net yard on their final three possessions prior to the final kneel down possession to end the game.
"We've got to finish better," said Allen. "We've got to end the game with the ball in our hands and not put that much stress on our defense."
Despite posting their fourth straight victory, Buffalo's 20 points scored marked the fourth consecutive week that the Bills have watched their offensive point total decline.
3 – Win number 10 keeps Bills at the top
Buffalo's fourth consecutive victory kept them atop the AFC conference race improving to 10-3 on the season. It's the second time the Bills have been 10-3 after 13 games played under head coach Sean McDermott. The last time was in 2020 when the team finished 13-4 in the regular season.
Entering the Sunday night game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Miami Dolphins, Buffalo also had the best conference record with a 7-2 mark with three more AFC opponents remaining on their schedule.
By no means were the Bills satisfied with their performance, particularly on offense, but they were glad their play was good enough to get the much-needed division victory to level their record in the AFC East at 2-2.
"We're 10-3," said Allen. "Finding ways to win football games. I know that's not what you want to hear but just playing complementary smart football. Not putting ourselves and our defense in bad situations and just trying to win football games no matter how it happens."
Bills celebrated their 10th win of the season at Highmark Stadium in a 20-12 win over the Jets.