If the New York Jets' season didn't come to an end last week in the Meadowlands, it took another step in that direction at Ralph Wilson Stadium Sunday night.
In a woeful performance, the Jets' once-promising season continued on a downward spiral with a 17-3 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
This is the second straight year the Jets have opened the season with two losses. The big difference this year is their two defeats have come in the division.
"I'm very disappointed with the way we played," coach Bill Parcells said. "I haven't been this disappointed in a long time. They (Bills) beat us up pretty good tonight."
The Jets have been decimated by injuries. It all began in the final preseason game when wide receiver Wayne Chrebet broke his foot. It continued into the regular-season opener when quarterback Vinny Testaverde had an Achilles tendon ripped to shreds and third-down back Leon Johnson tore up a knee. Nose tackle Jason Ferguson and cornerback Otis Smith, both starters, also went down with injuries last week.
But none of the players in the somber Jets' locker room used that as an excuse.
"You have to play with the guys you have and we didn't do that," wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson said. "It's disappointing to come out and play the way we did in a game that was so important. We've dug a big hole for ourselves, and we have to find a way to climb out of it in a hurry."
The biggest issue going into Sunday's game was what the offense would do without Testaverde. The answer was nothing.
The Jets had only a field goal for their efforts. Their only other meaningful drive ended at the Bills' goal line as fullback Jerald Sowell got stuffed on fourth down at the 1.
Rick Mirer, charged with replacing Testaverde, didn't complete his first pass until late in the second quarter, and really didn't test the Bills secondary with deep throws until the Jets were facing a double-digit deficit.
Mirer completed just 13 of 28 passes for 121 yards, but Parcells said he was not to blame for the Jets' poor offensive showing.
"I don't think we ever got him in position to get going," Parcells said. "But I don't think he did anything to really cost us. I don't think he hurt us with any bad decisions. We just didn't execute the plays. We had too many penalties on offense, particularly on the offensive line. It's the second straight week we've had that.
"We had a chance at 14-3. I know it didn't look like it. But we dropped two big balls. I'm talking about downfield throws that were on the money and we dropped them both. You can't do that and sustain any kind of offense."
One would have thought the Jets would pound away on the ground with running back Curtis Martin. But Martin found very little room to run against the Bills' defense. He finished with 45 yards rushing in nine carries.
The Jets' defense was trampled by the Bills' running game, which registered 224 yards. Even Buffalo quarterback Doug Flutie got into the act, scampering for 67 yards on seven attempts.
"We didn't do a good job defensing the run, obviously," Parcells said. "We started off all right, but eventually they wore us down."
What irked the Big Tuna most was his team's inability to stop the Bills on third down. Buffalo converted on 60 percent (9 of 15) of those opportunities.
"They had a good game plan coming in, but we got them in some third-down situations -- third-and-four, third-and-five, third-and-eight -- and they were converting," linebacker Bryan Cox said. "That put us on our heels and they just continued to convert. But, hey, they get paid, too.
"We just have to continue to work. We have to continue to stay strong together as 53, trust the coaches and not let you guys (media) break us. Obviously, we're not in a great position now. We're down two games in our conference, two games in our division. But we have to somehow find a way to make this thing work quickly."