The Buffalo Bills’ defense was too much for Mike White and Mike LaFleur
Another week, another feel-good New York Jets story that comes to an end.
After a promising five quarters of football, Mike White came back down to Earth against a tough Buffalo Bills defense. With a pass-heavy plan – a plan which was labeled by Jets fans as the reason for the late offensive resurgence – New York couldn’t get things going against Buffalo.
The Bills, who have the No. 1 overall defense in the NFL, prides themselves on having the best coverage unit in the league.
And, in fact, they do.
Their safeties are flat-out awesome, possibly forming the best tandem in the league (Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde), while the rest of the defense just plays with a top-level awareness that does not get demolished by a pass-heavy approach.
It was clear that the Jets needed to run the ball to ease White, the receivers, and the offensive line in – but it didn’t happen.
Instead, in the first ten plays of the game, New York threw the ball nine times and ran it once.
The result? A three-and-out series and an interception on the first two drives of the game.
When you add the tough matchup to the fact that the Jets offense needs a good running game to hit its ceiling, the results become unsurprising.
White struggled to move the ball, receivers struggled to separate, and the Jets’ offensive line struggled to protect against the Bills’ blitz looks.
It was a complete beatdown for Sean McDermott’s unit, who made Mike White and Mike LaFleur look human once again.
Buffalo’s domination was an immediate consequence of these three issues.
1. Jets receivers couldn’t separate vs. man coverage
There were many times when White had to hold the ball forever because the Jets’ pass-catchers simply couldn’t get away from Buffalo’s man coverage.
Corey Davis, right now, doesn’t look like a No. 1 wide receiver.
The Jets’ main receiver can’t consistently win one-on-one matchups against the opponent’s top corner, which is his job on a week-to-week basis.
Davis’ numbers against man coverage are far from ideal.
Corey Davis this season (ranks out of 97 qualified WRs)
vs. man coverage:
– 1.19 yards per route run (78th)
vs. zone coverage:
– 2.66 yards per route run (8th)
As @VitorPaivaM has been saying this year, winning vs. man has been tough for Davis
— Michael Nania (@Michael_Nania) November 15, 2021
The lack of execution was glaring, but it’s fair to wonder why LaFleur didn’t try to use more favorable alignments for his pass-catchers, such as stacks and bunches.
2. Mike White made questionable decisions
White, who had awesome five quarters of football against the Bengals and Colts because of his sound decisions, didn’t do well against the Bills.
White’s whole appeal was his ability to get rid of the ball on time and smartly. When the Bills started to sit on check-downs and the Jets’ receivers struggled to separate down the field, the fourth-year quarterback got impatient with the Bills’ coverage and forced some bad throws. The interception intended for Elijah Moore immediately comes to mind.
3) Mike LaFleur refused to run the football
In the Shanahan scheme, the cute empty sets won’t cut it. The Jets must run the football.
That’s not what LaFleur did against Buffalo. New York passed the ball 25 times and ran it only 10 times in the first half (when the Jets were still close enough to where they didn’t need to ditch the run to score quickly).
For this offense to hit its full potential LaFleur will have to construct a solid rushing attack, be it out of 11, 21, or 12 personnel. Building a threat out of the running game has to be the only thing on the Jets’ offensive coordinator’s mind, especially with the rookie Zach Wilson returning to action soon.
Once the Jets’ groundwork becomes a threat, LaFleur will then be able to become a little bit more pass-happy.
Film breakdown: Mike White and Mike LaFleur vs. Buffalo
Those three issues were glaring throughout the game.
Still, the Jets offense had a chance to make some noise in the first half. Many game-changing plays didn’t go the Jets’ way, such as the multiple White interceptions or Davis’ fumble.
The video below breaks down several of the game’s turning-point plays for the Jets’ offense:
- Mike White’s two incompletions on the first drive
- White’s incompletion on third down, led to field goal
- Corey Davis’ fumble
- White’s four INTs
Miami Dolphins next: things must improve quickly
It won’t get any easier for the Jets next week as they host a hot Miami Dolphins defense, which just slowed down Lamar Jackson on Thursday Night Football.
Miami’s heavy man-coverage approach is extremely worrying.
New England, Buffalo, Denver – anytime a team plays man-coverage against the Jets, New York’s receivers struggle to separate. Add in Miami’s willingness to send the house at the quarterback and the Jets have a big problem at their hands this week.
The Dolphins’ defense has both of the things that have proven to be kryptonite for the Jets’ offense: a heavy-man coverage approach and exotic looks up front.
LaFleur will have to dial up some man-beaters for anything to work, but it will all come down to the Jets receivers.
Will they be able to beat Miami’s cornerbacks one-on-one?
If not, Zach Wilson (or whoever is under center) will be in for a long day.
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