The Jets came out incredibly sloppy on both sides of the ball and never really recovered throughout the game, being thoroughly dominated by the Bills but hanging around solely on the strength of untimely mistakes by Buffalo. Had Josh Allen not fumbled twice in Jets territory and blown a couple of wide-open touchdown opportunities, and had Bills kicker Tyler Bass not missed two point-blank field goals, the Jets would have lost by a much, much bigger margin.
Josh Allen and the Bills got out to a 21-0 lead in the first half. A depleted defense missed countless tackles and committed bad penalties while the offense was hampered by a lack of separation from the wideouts and a poor performance by Sam Darnold. Two Allen fumbles limited Buffalo from pushing into the 30s in the first half, while the Jets mounted a field goal drive to close the half.
In the second half, the Jets defense began to pick up stops to give the offense a chance. With 5:10 in the third quarter, Jamison Crowder took a short pass into the flat 69 yards for a touchdown, cutting the lead to 21-10.
Buffalo responded with a short missed field goal to give the Jets momentum, but a Chris Herndon fumble five plays later put Buffalo right back in scoring position. The Bills converted their next short field goal to go up 24-10, and forced a three-and-out on the following drive to essentially seal the game, putting the final nail in the coffin with a field goal to go up 27-10 with under five minutes left in the fourth.
The Jets put together a garbage time drive that culminated in a Josh Adams rushing touchdown.
Brutal day for Sam Darnold
Darnold finished 21-of-35 for 215 yards (6.1 per attempt), one touchdown, one pick, and a 75.3 passer rating. That’s a mediocre line as it is, but it actually oversells him quite a bit. The only score was an easy throw that was entirely created by Crowder after the catch. Take out that 69-yarder, and Darnold threw for 146 yards on 34 passes, just 4.3 per attempt. To go even further, if you take out his garbage time drive (8/8, 58 yards), he threw for 88 yards on 26 passes, just 3.4 per attempt.
Darnold missed multiple open throws from a clean pocket and made boneheaded decisions, such as a throw-it-up-because-why-not interception and running out of bounds for a five-yard loss instead of throwing the ball away.
Zero pass rush
Josh Allen attempted 46 passes and the Jets notched only four quarterback hits. Three of those were by defensive backs on blitzes (2 for Marcus Maye, 1 for Brian Poole). They notched only one quarterback hit from a front-seven player (Quinnen Williams). It’s nearly impossible to win a game with such a minuscule pass rush output.
The Jets committed nine penalties for 95 yards. They had five penalties for 55 yards just under 20 minutes into the game. The defense was more to blame than the offense in this department.
Darnold simply has to be a lot better. Sure, the separation at wide receiver was bad and there were some drops early, but many of the same issues that have persisted throughout his career – poor footwork, failing to hit the checkdown, insanely over-aggressive jump-balls – are still there. That’s the main problem. We aren’t seeing progress.
While the play at the skill positions can certainly be blamed for contributing to the team’s lackluster performance, many of the mistakes Darnold made had nothing to do with the performance of the players around him. Plus, the offensive line appears to be better (I liked their play on first watch, but we will see what the tape shows later in the week). Excuses are running out.
The Jets were put in a bad position early when Blake Cashman left the game. They already were without a true backup inside linebacker, so that forced Harvey Langi into every-down action. That went predictably poorly. Hewitt and Langi missed an abhorrent amount of tackles throughout the afternoon and were consistently baited on screen plays and play action to give up big yardage through the air.
As previously mentioned, the Jets got one quarterback hit out of their front-seven.
Breshad Perriman and Chris Hogan
The duo combined for four catches on nine targets for 17 yards – 1.9 yards per target. Darnold missed some throws, but both players struggled mightily to separate against Buffalo’s elite secondary and did not come up with the contested balls thrown their way.
Crowder deserves a mention here. While he did score the team’s only passing touchdown with a very impressive catch-and-run, he had a couple of bad drops early that set the tone for the afternoon.
Herndon had a bad drop early and fumbled in the fourth quarter while the Jets still had a chance to get back into it.
Jets MVP: Marcus Maye
Maye took Jamal Adams‘ old role and looked great in the President’s shoes, picking up two sacks, two passes defended, and a forced fumble.
Bills MVP: Stefon Diggs
Diggs was uncoverable, grabbing 8-of-9 targets for 86 yards. He torched Desir out of the game and continued dominating no matter what the Jets threw his way. Diggs helped Allen out on a handful of iffy throws and hung on to the ball through some tough contact.
Coaching grade (Offense): D
Early in the game, I was willing to give Adam Gase a pass due to the performance of Darnold and the receivers, but Gase’s performance quickly went downhill. He attempted a screen pass to run the clock out with about 20 seconds left in the first half rather than taking shots at the end zone or sideline. He continuously tried to run his way out of 2nd & longs. His screen plays were poorly timed and eaten alive by Buffalo’s defense. The Jets took a delay of game to start a drive with zero crowd noise. There was little sense of urgency throughout the fourth quarter drives.
Coaching grade (Defense): C-
The Jets probably should have allowed 40-plus points in this one, but it’s hard to knock Gregg Williams too much. The talent on that unit just isn’t there. It’s hard to work around a defense littered with players who can’t tackle, front-seven players who can’t win rush reps, and cornerbacks who can’t do anything but play 15 yards off. Gregg deserves credit for quickly benching Desir in the first half.
With all of that said, the Jets were too penalty-prone defensively and allowed quite a few wide-open grabs. They also had the tendency to yield easy gains on 2nd & long to set up 3rd & short. Overall, the communication in coverage was not there.
Coaching grade (Overall): D-
I refrain from an F because I think there were a lot of mistakes on the players’ part that would be impossible for any coach to work around, but this was a pretty embarrassing start for the Jets. They were thoroughly dominated in every facet both offensively and defensively. The final score looks like they “competed hard” and “got back into it” but they were not even remotely as close to Buffalo as the 27-17 score suggests. Buffalo’s unforced errors invited the Jets back into it.
The Bills had a 31-to-9 edge in first downs prior to the Jets’ garbage time drive. That tells the story of how lopsided this game was.
Special teams report
A bit of good, but mostly bad here. The tackling in punt coverage was absolutely terrible, something we are not used to seeing from a Brant Boyer unit. Andre Roberts averaged 13.8 yards over five punt returns.
On the plus side, Braden Mann did flash an incredibly strong leg with solid enough hangtime to compliment it, but the worry is that he may be out-kicking his coverage. The correlation between Mann’s distance and the return team’s coverage performance is something to monitor.
Sam Ficken made a 31-yard field goal and both of his extra points. The field goal and one extra point were relatively close to the right crossbar.
The Jets did not return any punts. In the kickoff game, Josh Malone and Ashtyn Davis each returned one kick for 16 yards. Malone actually crossed the 25-yard line, but it was called back due to a Daniel Brown penalty. Davis attempted to leapfrog a defender and nearly fumbled, but the call was reversed.
Blake Cashman left the game in the first quarter with a groin injury and did not return.
Le’Veon Bell left in the third quarter with a hamstring injury and did not return.