Share this article

print logo


Curtis Martin didn't beat the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

Neither did Vinny Testaverde, Wayne Chrebet, Mo Lewis or any other New York Jets stars.

That's what made the Bills' 27-14 loss at Giants Stadium so painful. As the Bills players looked around the locker room afterward, they were forced to admit one thing: We have found the enemy, and the enemy is us.

"This hurts," said safety Keion Carpenter. "Look at the score. Take the Hail Mary away. Take the kickoff return away and look what you got. We beat ourselves. We shot ourselves in the foot."

"It was a disastrous game for us," Bills coach Wade Phillips said.

"I've never been in a game like this," said quarterback Rob Johnson. "You're at a loss (to understand it). It's not like they went out and kicked your butt and you lost. It was a game we felt we gave away. We feel we gave this game away, we didn't lose it."

On a day when Martin averaged only 2.9 yards a carry and neither Chrebet nor Dedric Ward cracked the 50-yard mark in receiving, it wasn't easy for the Bills to suffer their first loss of the season.

But the Bills pulled it off by committing the following errors:

They played their worst regular-season special teams game in many years, allowing a kickoff return for a touchdown, losing two fumbles on punt returns and getting a field-goal attempt blocked.

They gave up a 45-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass to a cornerback playing wide receiver -- the Jets' Marcus Coleman -- at the end of the first half.

The offense short-circuited its own second-half comeback attempt with a fumble deep in Jets' territory and critical penalties that wiped out big gainers.

The result before a sellout crowd of 77,884 left the Jets alone atop the AFC East at 3-0. The Bills (2-1) are on a bye this week and host AFC East favorite Indianapolis on Oct. 1.

Making the loss even more painful was an injury to tight end Jay Riemersma that could be serious. He felt a "pop" in his left knee, was on crutches after the game and could be out for an extended period. Also hurt were inside linebacker John Holecek (strained knee) and outside linebacker Corey Moore (ankle). Riemersma's injury appeared the most significant.

The Bills probably will need their one-week hiatus to digest their lemon of a performance.

As Carpenter suggested, take away the Jets' two biggest plays, and the Bills win, 14-13.

The Jets' big kickoff return was a 97-yarder in the first quarter after the Bills had taken a 7-0 lead. Kevin Williams broke down the left sideline with relative ease.

For the Bills, it was an accident waiting to happen. They entered the game ranked third-last in the NFL in kickoff coverage.

"We had some rookies," Phillips said of the coverage unit. "They said they knew where the ball was going, but they didn't cut across quick enough, and that hurt us."

"There's three phases in the game, and we didn't get our phase done on special teams," said Bills safety Daryl Porter. "I was on the other side of the field. They didn't do anything different than they usually do. They just blocked it well."

In the second quarter, another special teams breakdown by the Bills allowed Ward to return a punt 19 yards and set up a 5-yard Curtis Martin touchdown run to make it 14-7.

Johnson answered with a 74-yard TD strike to Jeremy McDaniel with 1:07 left in the half.

Then the Jets hit the Bills with a second lightning bolt.

With four seconds left in the half and the ball on the Bills' 45, New York inserted the 6-foot-2 Coleman at receiver. He ran straight down the field and outjumped five Bills defensive backs for a perfectly thrown Testaverde pass in the back of the end zone. Carpenter, Ken Irvin and Donovan Greer all were right behind Coleman, but no one was directly in front of him.

"We've got to get a guy on the point, underneath the receiver, between him and the football on that kind of play," said safety Henry Jones.

"It's ridiculous," Phillips said. "We should have everybody back on the goal line, they should be waiting for the ball instead of jumping for the ball, waiting and timing the ball. . . . We just relaxed and it cost us."

"We had a four-man pass rush and the quarterback was able to step up and heave it," said defensive end Phil Hansen. "That's not good. If we had a little heat on him, maybe he wouldn't have thrown it as cleanly. Our pass rush was extremely ineffective today."

Coleman was a star long-jumper and triple-jumper at Texas Tech and made a perfect leap for the ball.

"As much of a lift it was for us, it had to be a letdown for them," Testaverde said.

The second half was one frustration after another for the Bills.

Christie's 43-yard field-goal try in the third quarter was blocked by Shane Burton.

A 21-yard run by Shawn Bryson to the Jets' 38 was called back because fullback Sammy Morris was called for an illegal formation, a penalty Phillips disputed. That killed another drive.

"Sammy moved back (off the line of scrimmage), I saw him move back," Phillips said.

Later, an illegal-shift penalty cost the Bills a 17-yard pass to Morris. The Bills overcame that when Johnson hit Peerless Price on a 21-yard pass to the Jets' 13. But Price was hit by Lewis and lost the fumble.

"I thought if we could have scored there, we would have put a lot of pressure on their offense because I don't think they were playing that particularly well on offense," Johnson said.

In the fourth quarter, Bills return man Chris Watson fumbled two straight Jets punts. The turnovers only led to three Jets points, but they killed the Bills' comeback chances. The Jets held the ball for 11:52 in the fourth quarter.

The Bills outgained the Jets, 354 to 279, but had little to show for their yardage.

"We got outplayed today," Hansen said. "It's as simple as that. We did a lot of things bad from our perspective. But they came out ready to play and didn't make mistakes. We deserved to lose. We weren't good enough to win today."

There are no comments - be the first to comment