Bills come up lame

Man, are the Bills ever going to need a positive thinking transfusion after losing 31-13 to the Jets on Nov. 24, likely putting an end to their 2002 playoff run.

They're 5-6; they're in last place; they've lost three straight; their division record stinks (1-3) and their conference record stinks too (2-6).

But they did cut their penalties down by 105 yards from the week before. Unfortunately, in this unjust world, that feat will largely go unnoticed at the hands of an 18-point loss to a division rival.

"We didn't play good football today as a team," said Ruben Brown. "We just let too many mistakes happen and mount against us. We didn't overcome any of our mistakes. And overcoming mistakes is the sign of a championship team, and that means either cutting the mistakes out, or if one happens, don't let it affect the drive or affect your play."

To put it bluntly, the Bills decisively proved in this game that they don't have enough skilled players or coaches to be considered a championship team or a team capable of overcoming mistakes. And so they lose games they so desperately need in stunningly uncompetitive fashion.

When one realizes they don't have enough talent or, at the very least, enough ripened talent, it's easy to understand why they lost.

Of course, no one is going to admit that, so be advised that for the rest of this story, the Bills' bad play is largely explained by a lack of execution on their part, and excellent execution on the part of the Jets.

"We have to execute all the way down the field and put together long drives and be consistent in doing that," said Drew Bledsoe, who was held to 181 yards passing, one touchdown, two interceptions and a fumble. "Right now we're not precise in our execution. Until we prove that we can do that, until we show teams that they have to come up and challenge us – because we're marching down the field on them – they're going to continue (playing the soft defense) that they're playing."

New York's deep zones, designed to take away any long passes, hindered Bledsoe's production. His longest pass completion of the day was for 19 yards.

"(The Jets) did a good job executing," said Gregg Williams. "They really did. They did a good job of protecting (Chad) Pennington too. He played well and executed and he didn't put them in adverse conditions."

Pennington was 15 for 24 for 178 yards, a touchdown pass, a touchdown run and no interceptions. It was a pretty good day for him.

It was a good day for the Jets.

They capitalized in every major statistical category that NFL teams use as their formula for success, just as the Patriots did against Buffalo three games ago. New York led in turnovers, sacks, third-down conversions, rushing and time of possession.

Buffalo led in penalties. Buffalo led in fewer points scored. Buffalo led in total pain felt.

"It's a loss and it hurts," said Bledsoe.

"It hurts bad," said Travis Henry.

"We were off," added Brown.

"They caused three turnovers and we didn't have any, so that really hurt us," said Antoine Winfield.

Everything hurt.

It hurt that the Bills couldn't play defense very well. They took a 3-0 lead off the opening series, but the Jets responded with a 58-yard field goal drive, with Buffalo surrendering land to the Jets as if they claimed eminent domain. Of that 10-play drive, New York faced third down just once. And when it faced third down in general, it converted 50 percent of the time. Pitiful.

It hurt that the offense wasn't sharp. Bledsoe threw an interception (see The Big Play) on the Bills' second series and the Jets responded with a nine-play 50-yard touchdown march that would have resulted in a field goal, except for Chris Watson's penalty for roughing the kicker, giving New York a first down at the Buffalo 4. Two plays later, Lamont Jordan scored on a one-yard run for a 10-3 lead.

So Watson's penalty really hurt. That was a testicular blow, in fact.

"There's no excuse for that. There's no excuse for that type of play," said Williams. "We got them stopped. They're kicking the field goal. (Chris) knows that. We improved in (penalties) today, but not enough. And (that penalty allowed) them to put seven points on the board. We still got to stop them once they come out there. But that's a tough play to swallow."

When Buffalo got the ball back, Bledsoe threw another interception – a pass intended for Peerless Price that cornerback Aaron Beasley intercepted at the Jets' 37. Seven plays later, New York scored again. Curtis Martin ran nine yards for a touchdown and a 17-3 lead.

That hurt.

In the third quarter, New York scored on their opening series, which hurt, but then the Bills ran off 10 straight points, which felt good, but then the Jets capped the game with a touchdown in the fourth, which hurt.

Pennington ran that score in from the one on fourth down, bootlegging to his left and faking out linebacker Eddie Robinson with a stutter step move to die for, like some death-by-chocolate cake at a fancy restaurant.

That hurt, and it looked like Robinson hurt himself, with his leg being taken out from under him by Pennington's powerful fake.

Ouch.

But let's face it, despite closing the gap to 24-13 in the third quarter, Buffalo never seriously threatened after it trailed 17-3. The Bills just don't have the defense to threaten anyone.

And that totally hurts.

New York got a first down on every drive except for one. Curtis Martin had 84 yards rushing in the first half and that was with the defense focusing on him!

"We committed to the run," said Williams. "We had people down there around the line of scrimmage, (but) they were able to power through and make some plays."

That's a translation for "the defense is really stinky."

And here's more proof.

Buffalo didn't take away the football for the third straight game.

"We haven't been getting any turnovers and we got to do that," said Williams. We've got to do that to pick up the offense. Offensively, we've done a pretty good job most of the year on protecting the football. Today we didn't overcome those turnovers."

Well, we know it's not a youth thing: "We never used (youth) as an (excuse)," said Jay Riemersma. "We've got guys on the team. They're here for a reason. They're capable. Whether they're young, it doesn't matter at this point. We just got to put it all together and come away with a win."

As for the playoffs, Bledsoe said, "I imagine it will take 10 to get in. So we got to win the rest of them if we want to get in."

That hurts.

The Big Play

Bills' ball, first and 10 from the Buffalo 36, 40 seconds remaining in the first quarter, game tied 3-3.

The Bills were in a two-tight end set. Travis Henry was the lone setback, Peerless Price in the slot to the right and Eric Moulds set wide right. Tight end Jay Riemersma was lined up next to left tackle Jonas Jennings.

The Jets were in their standard 4-3.

Drew Bledsoe dropped back to pass. The Jets rushed their front four and put everyone else in coverage. Buffalo sent five receivers out on patterns.

Bledsoe took a few steps and let the ball go without looking anywhere else. He obviously saw a matchup he wanted to exploit with middle linebacker Marvin Jones guarding Riemersma.

Riemersma went up about 15 yards and quickly turned around inside. He had some room. But the ball, which was errantly delivered to his outside, deflected off his hands. Strong safety Sam Garnes, who was over the top, made a diving interception.

It was either a miscommunication or a bad throw. No one was saying for sure.

"I don't really want to get into specific plays," said Bledsoe. "I just want to keep it general. In general, we just got to be on the same page more consistently than we were."

That comment sort of leans toward the miscommunication side. In addition, when the Bills went to the sideline, Bledsoe, Riemersma and Kevin Gilbride were talking. Maybe, indeed, it was a miscommunication.

Gregg Williams said, "It was a deflected interception. It bounced out of our guy's hands."

Yes it did. And after that, it was just straight into the toilet for Buffalo.

 


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