EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Jets’ smash-mouth defense dominated the line of scrimmage Sunday and dared the Buffalo Bills to make big plays down the sidelines.
The Jets’ 27-20 victory was the seventh win in nine tries over the Bills for Jets coach Rex Ryan. The competition wasn’t as close as the scoreboard indicated.
New York outgained the Bills, 513-328, but kept Buffalo in the game with a Jets-record 20 penalties for 168 yards.
The Jets’ defensive front was spectacular, especially Muhammad Wilkerson, a 315-pound first-round draft choice from 2011, and Sheldon Richardson, a 294-pounder who was a first-round pick this year. Those two looked like the great New England tandem of Richard Seymour and Vince Wilfork of the mid-2000s.
The Bills had almost no running game. C.J. Spiller managed 9 yards on 10 carries before leaving with a knee injury. Fred Jackson had 72 yards on seven carries, including a 59-yard, second-effort run. Jackson went 6 for 13 on his other attempts.
With the run game shut down, the Jets (2-1) brought blitzes on rookie quarterback EJ Manuel, leaving him to try to hit lower-percentage throws down the sideline against man-to-man coverage.
“We said prior to the game that we were going to have to make some big plays,” said Bills coach Doug Marrone. “They force you to do that, and we weren’t able to.”
Manuel burned the blitz once, on a 33-yard touchdown pass to Scott Chandler in the fourth quarter. But that was the exception. Manuel missed on eight throws down the sideline. He hit on two, for gains of 23 and 17 yards.
“They’re bringing more guys than we have to protect, so you know you’re going to get hit,” Manuel said. “It’s just a matter of trying to get the ball out and give the guy an opportunity to catch it.
“I know a few times I left it outside and didn’t get it to the guy where they had a chance to make a catch. So I’ve got to get better at that.”
Manuel had completed 68.2 percent of his passes the first two weeks. He finished just 19 of 42 (45.2 percent) for 243 yards. One thing Manuel did well was protect the ball. He had no interceptions or fumbles.
“That’s what the Jets do,” said receiver Robert Woods. “We know they’re a man coverage team, a heavy-pressure team. That’s just what they did. We’ve just got to finish the drives, complete those passes.”
The offensive missed opportunities included:
• Settling for a field goal after a Jim Leonhard interception gave Buffalo a drive start on the Jets’ 21 in the second quarter.
• Failing on a fourth-and-2 play from the Jets’ 34 in the second quarter. Marrone said the Jets drew up a blitz of the strong- and weak-side linebackers that fooled the Bills. Manuel was sacked by David Harris and Demario Davis.
• Settling for a field goal after a Kiko Alonso interception gave Buffalo the ball on the Jets’ 13 in the third quarter. A third-and-5 Manuel pass for Stevie Johnson was tipped by Jets linebacker Calvin Pace, dropping into coverage.
“I tried to fit it in the first window quickly,” Manuel said. “You can’t necessarily hold for that second window, so just a good play on their part.”
• Failing on their last good chance to tie, after advancing to the Jets’ 45 with 5:20 to play. On a second-and-10 play, Manuel probably bolted the pocket too soon and was sacked by a blitzing Harris. The Bills had to punt.
Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith succeed where Manuel failed by completing two long bombs for touchdowns. Bills third-year cornerback Justin Rogers was victimized on both.
On the first, Smith hit third-year receiver Stephen Hill on a 51-yard scoring strike down the right sideline. Rogers stumbled a bit just as the ball came down, and Hill got two big strides behind the cornerback when the ball arrived.
“I got tied up with him, hand-battling, and kind of got tangled up,” Rogers said. “He kind of pushed me off a little bit. But it’s about making plays, and I didn’t make enough.”
That score put the Jets ahead, 14-6, in the second quarter.
The second long TD was the decisive score, breaking a 20-20 tie with 9:23 left in the game.
The Jets faced a first-and-15 play on their own 31. Smith threw deep down the right sideline for veteran wideout Santonio Holmes. Rogers actually was a half-stride deeper than the receiver when the ball arrived. But Rogers never looked back on the ball. Holmes made the catch and easily ran the final 30 yards to the end zone after Rogers tried to hold him up with an arm tackle.
“The second one I’ve just got to turn my head,” Rogers said. “I’ve got to get my head around. Turn my head around and make a play on the ball. You can’t make a play on the ball when you don’t even turn your head around, and I was looking at him the whole time. So that’s a technique mistake that I gave up.”
Smith finished 16 of 29 for 331 yards with two TDs and two interceptions. Smith was not sacked.
Manuel was sacked eight times, the most by a Bills quarterback in 13 years.
Wilkerson had two sacks and five hits on the quarterback. Richardson had one sack and one other QB hit.
The Bills converted just 4 of 18 third-down plays.
“The biggest thing was converting on the third downs,” Manuel said. “We struggled there. Obviously with the all-out pressures that gave us some headaches.
“They did everything we thought they would do. I thought we were well-prepared for what they were going to throw at us; it was just a matter of executing.”
“When you’ve got a pressure defense like that and you dig yourself a hole, on the road, it’s going to be tough,” said center Eric Wood.
“We didn’t play well early,” Jackson said. “Again, we struggled offensively and we came out slow and sluggish. That’s on us. … But 20-20 with 10 minutes left, you definitely have an opportunity, and we didn’t take advantage of it today.”
The Bills (1-2) play host to defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore at home next Sunday.