Bills fans have watched enough losses over the years to know what was coming when Ryan Fitzpatrick found Eric Decker for 27 yards in the fourth quarter. Six minutes remained in the game Thursday, and the Bills trailed by six points. Hope left the building, and the people followed.
Many in attendance began packing up their belongings and hitting the exits before Matt Forte’s touchdown put the finishing touches on the Jets’ 37-31 victory over the Bills at New Era Field. The Bills started out with two straight losses on an evening the Bills celebrated past greatness with Bruce Smith.
The pressure gets cranked up even more on Rex Ryan and his team, which could be staring down the barrel of 0-4 if they don’t get things straightened out soon. The Arizona Cardinals, which preseason prognosticators had headed for the Super Bowl, roll into town Sept. 25 before Buffalo visits New England.
Ryan and his coaching staff made some goofy decisions, which have become standard practice during his 18-game tenure in Buffalo. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman shouldn't be absolved, either, after having EJ Manuel attempt to sneak for a first down on third-and-1 while trying to march for the winning score. It worked earlier in the game, so why not attempt the same play?
For starters, the Bills have running backs who are more equipped to pick up the yardage. Even though it worked the first time, it wasn’t the smart play. LeSean McCoy was stopped on fourth down, so apparently he wasn’t the answer, either.
Mike Gillislee, meanwhile, remained on the bench. Gillislee is a sturdy back who gained 5.7 yards per carry and scored three touchdowns in limited action last season. Let me remind you that his next carry will be his first of the season.
This isn’t pinning the blame solely on Ryan and certainly not Manuel. It was a collective losing effort Thursday in national television. The Bills defense gave up 374 yards passing to old friend Ryan Fitzpatrick, who shredded the Buffalo secondary all evening. Apparently, Ryan doesn’t quite own him.
One week after the Bills played terrific on defense, they couldn’t have played much worse against the Jets. Buffalo fans have grown numb to losing, so at least they headed for home knowing they watched an entertaining contest. Add the fact neither could afford to start 0-2, and it made for early season drama.
This game had everything and turned into a classic AFC East slugfest on national television. Taylor had two long touchdown passes. Fitzpatrick picked apart the Bills’ defense, particularly Stephone Gilmore. The Bills scored a defensive touchdown. Jets cornerback Marcus Williams made a great play for an interception.
For a while, it looked like the team with the final possession would win. The Jets stopped the Bills twice in short yardage to get the ball back with just more than seven minutes left in the fourth quarter and New York leading, 30-24.
In the season-opening loss to Baltimore, Taylor was out of sorts all afternoon while reverting to the quarterback many had questioned in the first place. He resorted to easy passes in the flat and all but ignored the middle of the field. He didn’t throw long all afternoon even though he’s among the best deep-ball passers in the NFL.
Taylor’s longest completion against the Ravens was a 33-yard pass to Charles Clay after he scrambled out of danger on a busted play. He missed opportunities early in the game and failed to rally Buffalo in the fourth quarter. He validated every criticism directed toward him as a first-year starter.
His response Thursday was the longest touchdown pass at home in franchise history, an 84-yard bomb to Marquise Goodwin down the sideline that you might say happened in a flash. Goodwin blew past Darrelle Revis, the all-world cornerback who couldn’t make all-county with his play in the first two games.
For all of his flaws, Taylor is one of the best deep-ball passers in the NFL. Three plays into the second half, he found Greg Salas for a 71-yard scoring strike after the No. 3 receiver got behind Rontez Miles.
The Bills’ defense, which was torn apart in the passing game in the first half, made a big play to give them a 24-20 lead in the third quarter. Nickell Robey-Coleman picked up Jalin Marshall’s fumble and ran 36 yards for a touchdown. Suddenly, what started as a potential Jets’ blowout turned into an AFC East dogfight.
The Bills watched Fitzpatrick enough to know he wouldn’t meekly slip into the locker room because he struggled against Ryan-coached defenses. Win or lose, Fitz is a gunslinger. He led the Jets to 10 victories last season before throwing three interceptions in the fourth quarter in a season-ending loss to the Bills.
You think he was looking for vindication Thursday?
Fitz shredded the Bills’ defense in the first half. He had 211 yards passing and one touchdown after finding Eric Decker with 3:53 left in the second quarter. The Jets had two field goals and two touchdowns on their first four drives. He led the Jets on a scoring drive in the third quarter after the Bills took the lead.
And he made a perfect pass that sent everyone home, losing faith with every step toward the parking lot.