The New York Jets might have been pardoned had they reached into the bag of excuses because there were a few legitimate ones available. They didn't work that angle in their locker room Sunday after losing to the Buffalo Bills. Instead, the Jets came clean.
The Bills were better.
Jets coach Herman Edwards confirmed the obvious after the Bills' 22-17 victory in Ralph Wilson Stadium. Defensive end John Abraham went out of his way to credit the opposing team rather than vilify his own. Running back Curtis Martin minced no words, accepted the truth and took the defeat like a professional.
"This was just their day," Martin said. "They came out and took control of the game from the beginning. They outplayed us in every aspect of the game. We got our butts kicked. There is no excuse. Buffalo played a good game. They came out and they handed it to us today. Defense, offense, special teams -- they did everything."
The Jets were ripe for a letdown. They were coming off a 41-14 victory over the Miami Dolphins, on Monday Night Football no less. They had a 6-1 record, the lone loss to the Patriots, and were facing a 2-5 Bills team that had struggled virtually all season. The Jets won the first meeting last month.
The Jets had a comfortable built-in excuse, too. Quarterback Chad Pennington suffered a bruised shoulder in the first quarter when London Fletcher tackled him and forced a fumble. Pennington played through the injury but struggled before giving way to Quincy Carter with about six minutes remaining.
"No excuses, no explanations," Pennington said. "That's what I live by."
The Jets were worried about the Bills because they had reviewed enough games this season to believe Buffalo might have been better than its record indicated. If the Bills' 38-14 victory over Arizona last week came with a deceptive score, so did their win Sunday over the Jets. The game wasn't really that close.
"Give credit to Buffalo," Edwards said. "They came out and played their type of football, kept the ball for most of the game and really just beat us. At the end of the day, they beat us. I told our players that (the Bills) deserved to win."
The Jets didn't play like a team that had won six of its first seven games, although their victory over San Diego was the only one against a team with a winning record. The Jets were tied for the NFL lead in giveaway-takeaway ratio, yet they had two turnovers that the Bills turned into 10 points and forced none. New York's 14 offensive penalties were fewest among NFL teams going into the game, but the Jets were flagged six times on offense Sunday.
New York didn't move the ball well against Buffalo's defense. The Jets had just 88 yards rushing, and Martin was limited to 67 yards on 19 carries. Pennington completed just 7 of 15 passes for 141 yards. They held the ball for just 22 minutes, 32 seconds.
Abraham, who dominated the first meeting with six tackles and three sacks, was invisible Sunday. The Bills attacked the right side of the defense, where Abraham spent most of the day getting manhandled by left tackle Jonas Jennings. Abraham didn't get a sniff of Bills quarterback Drew Bledsoe.
"It wasn't frustrating not getting him. It was frustrating losing the game," Abraham said. "They came to play."