So for the Jets to come out passing made little sense. And the play that really was perplexing was passing on third-and-one on the second drive. Pennington was sacked on the play by defensive end Ryan Denney and the Jets punted.
Brian Schottenheimer has done a terrific job in his first year as Jets offensive coordinator, but he might have gotten too cute in this game.
Buffalo's run defense has been atrocious recently, and the Jets probably should have come out pounding the football on the ground, especially coming off a strong running performance in Green Bay.
The Bills have an undersized front seven, and just lost one of their best linebackers – Angelo Crowell -- for the season.
Perhaps when it was announced before that the Bills had deactivated two starting defensive backs -- cornerback Terrence McGee and safety Donte Whitner -- Schottenheimer thought he could exploit the Buffalo secondary. But there isn't much of a drop off from McGee to his backup Kiwaukee Thomas, who had starting experience in Jacksonville.
And backup safety Jim Leonhard is an underrated player. He was an All-American at Wisconsin. The only reason he went un-drafted was poor size (5-8-190) -- but he's a terrific player.
Bills defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and head coach Dick Jauron, an outstanding defensive mind himself, came up with the perfect game plan to deal with the Jets' passing attack. They had the cornerbacks play press coverage and didn't blitz. They kept seven players in coverage, and relied on their four defensive linemen to rush the quarterback.
This plan worked perfectly because the Buffalo line did a great job getting after Pennington, and with seven players flooding most of the field, the Jets signal-caller often had nobody open.
The Bills secondary is spearheaded by one of the NFL's better cornerbacks, Nate Clements. Rookie safety Ko Simpson covers like a corner. And the Bills have very good coverage linebackers, led by one of the NFL's best in London Fletcher. Clements and Fletcher both had picks against the Jets.
And the concept of rushing just four linemen was very effective for the Bills, especially considering how much Bills end Aaron Schobel, who will be going to Hawaii after the season, dominated Jets rookie left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson. Schobel finished with three sacks and a number of quarterback pressures.
So with press coverage on the outside, five other players in coverage and little time to throw, this was a recipe for disaster for the Jets' passing game.
Granted, Pennington didn't play particularly well; he was dealt a terrible hand. The Bills had a great game plan and executed it masterfully.
But if the Jets had run from the get-go and pounded the ball throughout the first half, they could have worn down the Bills' smallish front, and their running game could have really dominated in the second half.
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