Sammy Watkins realized early in the Buffalo Bills’ 38-3 victory against the New York Jets that he probably wasn’t going to make a whole lot of catches.
From the start, the Jets blanketed the Bills’ No. 1 receiver with double coverage, which would go a long way toward limiting the rookie to only three receptions for 35 yards.
But there were two major flaws in their plan. One, the Bills’ No. 2 receiver, Robert Woods, would spend most of the game facing one-on-one coverage. Two, the cornerback mainly responsible for covering him was rookie Marcus Williams, playing only his third NFL game.
At one point, Watkins told Woods, “Somebody’s got to make a play.” Somebody, that is, other than Watkins, whom the Jets were determined to prevent getting open for back-breaking catches, such as the 84-yarder and the 61-yard touchdown he had when the teams met on Oct. 26 at MetLife Stadium.
Woods got the message. He responded with the best of his 25 NFL games – nine receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Kyle Orton targeted Woods a game-high 11 times, eight in the first half.
“Yeah, we knew that” Williams “was new out there, just started playing really,” Woods said. “But our whole mindset was whoever was out there, we needed to attack them and push them with speed and make them believe that we were going deep every play.”
“We go into every game trying to have answers for a lot of attention to Sammy,” Orton said. “They started off the game, obviously, favoring the coverage towards him, so Robert made some great catches, played great and just” made “some unbelievable catches.”
The Bills attacked through the air heavily in the first half, with Orton noting that offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett “called the game aggressively” and that the Bills “just need to take that approach going forward.”
Of Orton’s 32 pass attempts, 22 were in the first two quarters. He finished with 24 completions for 230 yards and two touchdowns, including a 7-yarder to Woods on third down that gave the Bills a 7-0 lead with 8:04 left in the first quarter and snapped their 0-for-6 touchdown drought in the red zone.
On a 13-play, 90-yard drive in the second quarter that ended with Orton’s 19-yard throw to tight end Scott Chandler for a 14-3 halftime advantage, Woods caught all three of the Bills’ third-down conversions. The most impressive was a 27-yarder where he pulled the ball out of the air with his right hand, pinned it against the right side of his helmet, and secured it before stepping out of bounds.
“After I made the one-handed catch,” Orton “came up to me and said, ‘I’m coming to you every time pretty much,’ ” Woods said.
Added Orton, “Obviously, when a guy gets in a flow like that, you like to keep on feeding him.”
Orton’s throws weren’t always pretty, but for the most part, he placed the ball only where the receiver could catch it.
As long as that’s the case, Woods and the rest of the Bills’ pass-catchers feel they have no choice but to make the grab.
“We always say, ‘If it’s in the area we’re able to make the play, make the catch.’ ” Woods said. “He just gave us a chance to make plays and be receivers.”
Thanks to the Jets’ continued double-coverage of Watkins, Woods wound up with the most chances among Bills receivers.