Year One of the Rex Ryan Era in Buffalo, N.Y., ends on a sweet, sweet high note for the embattled head coach.
Through a season full of injuries and discontent and discontent and injuries, Buffalo finishes a fitting 8-8. A lot went wrong for the Bills this season. The defense regressed, for one. But Ryan will be all smiles into the off-season after knocking off his former team a second time, 22-17, at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The defense flustered Ryan Fitzpatrick into three interceptions. The offense made Sammy Watkins a focus (and he had a career day vs. an All-Pro.).
The quick rundown...
Player of the Game: Sammy Watkins torched Darrelle Revis in this one. This back half of the season, Tyrod Taylor has had incredible success throwing deep to Watkins. This game, the two connected underneath. Watkins left the All-Pro corner lunging, flat-footed, a step behind, you name it in finishing with 11 receptions for 136 yards. The rapport has to be encouraging. While Taylor's numbers have been impressive, he hasn't thrown with precise timing consistently. He sure did Sunday to Watkins. They were on the same page and embarrassed one of this generation's best cornerbacks.
Play of the Game: Leodis McKelvin called it. Here's what the Bills corner told The News this week: "As a defender, you have to always remember Fitz is still Fitz. He’s going to always give you opportunities to make plays. … It doesn’t matter what the weather is — he’s going to get the ball out. You’ve got to make sure you’re in the right coverage and make him pay for it.”
Talk about a prophecy.
With the Jets driving midway through the fourth quarter, ex-Bill Ryan Fitzpatrick gave McKelvin that opportunity in the end zone and the longtime Bill made him pay. McKelvin picked it off and the Bills tacked on a field goal to go ahead, 22-17, with 3:49 to go.
- Tyler Dunne's Points After: Bills 22, Jets 17
- Jerry Sullivan's hot read: Bills' inspired effort has to leave fans with a stab of regret
- Vic Carucci's hot read: If only the Bills could always play the Jets
- Bucky Gleason's hot read: Plenty of entertainment, often for all the wrong reasons
- Tim Graham's Insta-Graham: Bills finish .500 and 4-2 in AFC East; Sammy sensational; Fitz fails
- Mark Gaughan's hot read: Justice is served -- the Jets are not worthy of the playoffs
- Jay Skurski's Quarterly Report: Fitzpatrick's 'hat trick' sends Bills home winners
The clincher: And when the Jets got the ball back, Fitz threw another pick.
Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus crushed the Jets quarterback on third and 10 with 2 minutes to go to force the errant throw. Linebacker Manny Lawson was there for the interception. It was all too little, too late but Rex Ryan ramped up the pressure in a big way this game. Using an array of blitzes, the Bills flustered Fitz all game. They hit the quarterback five times in all, but made him uneasy often.
Fitzpatrick finished 16 of 37 for 181 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions and a 42.7 rating. Yep, "Fitz is still Fitz."
Stat of the Game: Fifteen targets to Watkins. He was onto something with that whole "10 targets a game" thing...
Mario's swan song: In what was likely Mario Williams final game as a Bill, the $100 Million Dollar Man did have a sack on Fitzpatrick but he also was often caught out of position or blocked in the run game. Ryan will be seeking new pieces in the front seven this off-season and is expected to start with releasing Williams.
Another one down: Karlos Williams left Sunday's game with his third injury of the season, this one a knee. It was a breakout rookie year for the fifth-rounder out of Florida State... when healthy. He eclipsed 500 yards and averaged nearly six yards per carry, and this No. 1-ranked rushing attack could've been even better if he was able to stay on the field more often this season.
Up Next: The off-season. Buffalo heads into it on a high note. A team that seemed to quit at Washington to fall to 6-8 finishes with back-to-back wins. Now, let us know in the comment section here what you think they should do this off-season ...