ORCHARD PARK – If you were going to pick a team for the Buffalo Bills’ offense to have a get-right game against, one of the last ones you would have selected was the New York Jets.
The Jets’ defense is ferocious and there really aren’t any weaknesses across all three levels, but Sunday night they suffered through an uncharacteristically poor performance as Josh Allen and the Bills shredded New York on the way to a much-needed 32-6 victory.
It took a little while for the Bills to get rolling as they had to settle for Tyler Bass field goals on their first three possessions of the game, the first coming after Buffalo’s coverage team forced and recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff.
But taking play calls from new offensive coordinator Joe Brady, who replaced the fired Ken Dorsey on Tuesday, Allen began heating up in the second quarter and he flashed signs of the quarterback everyone knows he can be.
During a four-possession stretch bridging the second and third quarters, Allen threw three TD passes with an end-of-half Hail Mary interception mixed in, the last a game-breaking 81-yarder to Khalil Shakir which is the longest offensive touchdown in the NFL this season.
How much Brady’s influence meant to this game is tough to gauge because in many ways, the offense conceptually looked like it has all season, though he did use a few different personnel groupings as players like Deonte Harty, Trent Sherfield, Reggie Gilliam and Quintin Morris were used.
More than anything, the change at coordinator seemed to give Allen a little boost and he put together a solid game against a defense that has really given him trouble the past two seasons.
Here’s how I graded the Bills:
PASS OFFENSE: B+
Early on this looked familiar for Allen against the Jets. Their defensive line was creating problems and he was under pressure because his receivers were not getting open. On several plays he had nowhere to go with the ball, which is part of the reason why they had to settle for three field goals on their first three possessions.
But as the game progressed, Allen began to find some success, even though his top two WRs, Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis, did virtually nothing. Davis had his second zero-catch game in the last three weeks, and Diggs suffered through a lousy night when he had only four for 27 yards and dropped at least two. Allen finished 20 of 32 for 275 yards.
Two of Allen’s TD passes went to RBs, the first to James Cook on a well-designed play from the 5 where the Jets dropped a coverage, and the second to ex-Jet Ty Johnson on a fourth-and-1 in the third quarter from the Jets 28, Allen rolling out and hitting Johnson who sprinted untouched 28 yards to the end zone. The TD to Shakir was a laser that just missed the outstretched arm of CB Sauce Gardner, and then Shakir did great work fighting through a tackle and taking it to the house.
RUN OFFENSE: B
Cook had it going in the first half as he had 50 yards rushing on nine carries and he caught the TD pass. On a couple of his runs he made dazzling cuts to pick up additional yards, further proof that the Bills need to be utilizing him in this way and not quit on the running game as they’ve been known to do.
In the second half, things were a little tougher, but Cook still finished with 73 yards on 17 carries, and Latavius Murray chipped in with 35 on 10 attempts as the Bills totaled 130. We say it every year, but as the weather turns cold and blustery, the Bills have to be able to run with some success, so their work in these last two games is a good sign, especially this performance against such a stout defense.
PASS DEFENSE: A
Behind a decimated Jets offensive line, Zach Wilson was under fire all night as the Bills’ pass rush tuned him up, so much that coach Robert Saleh pulled him late in the third quarter after he had absorbed five sacks for 30 yards in losses, and completed only 7 of 15 passes for 81 yards. Tim Boyle finished the game for the Jets. Leonard Floyd was in on 2.5 sacks while Ed Oliver, Dodson and Shaq Lawson had one each, and there were countless pressures that blew up plays for New York.
Rasul Douglas had quite a game. He made the first interception of his three-game tenure in Buffalo in the second quarter, the Bills’ first since Week 4 against Miami which is truly unbelievable and that led to the Bills’ first TD. Douglas also recovered a fumble by Garrett Wilson early in the fourth quarter which was forced by Tyrel Dodson on the series where Boyle entered the game. And then in garbage time, he picked off Boyle.
Despite losing three DBs in the first half – Taron Johnson, Dane Jackson and Taylor Rapp – the Bills’ defense was outstanding as the first ball caught by a Jets WR did not happen until the final play of the third quarter, that by Garrett Wilson.
RUN DEFENSE: A
One of the keys for the Bills’ defense was to contain RB Breece Hall who is, without question, their most explosive player. Mission accomplished as Hall was a non-factor when the game was reasonably close. He had 23 yards on 10 carries, with 14 coming on one play.
Dodson and Terrel Bernard played very well against the run, and they had help from the defensive line which plugged gaps all across the formation. Even Zach Wilson, who can be a threat as a runner, was unable to produce any big plays when he scrambled, finishing with just 15 yards on four attempts.
The Jets finished 0-for-11 on third down (they were 4-of-5 on fourth down) and managed only 63 yards on the ground.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-
After the disaster against the Broncos, the Bills got off to a great start in this game. On the opening kickoff, Reggie Gilliam crushed Xavier Gipson – the return man who beat the Bills with a punt return TD in overtime in Week 1 – and forced a fumble which Quintin Morris recovered at the 21. Gilliam then drilled Gipson on the next kickoff, too.
But the goodwill created by that turnover was offset when the punt team got burned by a fake when Jets punter Thomas Morstead completed an 18-yard pass to Brandin Echols who beat one of the core special teamers, Sirtan Neal. It was a text play and it resulted in the Jets driving to a touchdown which gave them life heading into the second half.
Tyler Bass was critical early in the game when it looked like it was going to be a slog for the Bills offense. Their first three possessions stalled but Bass kicked three field goals to stake the Bills to a 9-0 lead. He did miss an extra point following the Ty Johnson TD early in the third quarter which is rare for him. It was just the fifth missed PAT of his career. He closed the night making a 50-yarder giving him the second four-field goal game of his career.
Full marks for Brady in his first game as the Bills’ OC as the offense topped 30 points for the first time since the Miami game. It wasn’t perfect as Gabe Davis put up his second zero-catch game in three weeks, and Brady didn’t get Diggs schemed up very well against the outstanding Jets’ secondary. Still, it’s tough to quibble after this result.
Special teams coach Matt Smiley is starting to pop up on social media as the next coach Sean McDermott should fire. Look, the Jets executed a hell of a play on the fake punt, but nonetheless, those plays can’t happen, especially when you have firm control of the game. That letdown sent the Jets on their way to their only TD of the game right before the end of the first half.
McDermott’s defense was lights out in this game as it dominated New York’s inept offense, limiting it to 155 yards of total offense. The Jets’ only score of the game came after the successful fake punt, before which they had 18 yards of offense. That TD pulled them within 16-6, not that it mattered because they did nothing in the second half as the game turned into a rout.
Sal Maiorana can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana and on Threads @salmaiorana1. To subscribe to Sal’s newsletter, Bills Blast, which comes out twice a week during the season, please follow this link: https://profile.democratandchronicle.com/newsletters/bills-blast