Three big plays in pass defense saved the Buffalo Bills’ 22-17 victory over the New York Jets on Sunday.
1. Leodis remembers. Bills cornerback Leodis McKelvin was burned by Jordan Reed on an 18-yard slant pass in Washington two weeks ago.
That’s what he was thinking about when Eric Decker lined up wide left against him on a second-and-10 play from the Buffalo 15 with 10:48 to play. McKelvin played too far to the outside on Reed and gave up an easy end-zone catch. Not this time.
“Same one,” McKelvin said of the route. “Last time I widened out. This time I stayed straight, seen it coming and jumped it and got the greater reward for it.”
Prior to that throw, Ryan Fitzpatrick had thrown 23 touchdowns and zero interceptions in the red zone this season.
2. Hail Manny. Linebacker Manny Lawson capped an underrated, excellent season with an interception of a bloop Fitzpatrick pass with 1:51 left. It was a fitting Lawson play that showed his versatility. He got a chuck on Brandon Marshall at the line of scrimmage, then dropped back into zone coverage and made the pickoff after Marcell Dareus’ hit on the quarterback forced a wobbly throw.
“We saw that he was their go-to guy, and we wanted to get as much coverage on him as we could,” Lawson said of Marshall. “He’s a great receiver, and he was tough to stop. But if I could disrupt him in his pass routes, disrupt the timing, that’s what we tried to do.”
3. Butler did it. Reserve defensive back Mario Butler made a game-saving play with 17 seconds left when he knocked the ball out of the hands of Kenbrell Thompkins on a pass deep down the right sideline at the Buffalo 35. Thompkins would have scored. Good for Butler, who has been hanging around practice squads and the fringes of rosters for five seasons. This was his 13th game for the Bills this year.
“I had two verticals” coming at me, Butler said. “I was actually in between one and two, so I tried to play it top down and try to play off the quarterback’s release. Once he released the ball, I tried to go track the receiver down and get between him and the ball. I just tried to hit him to get the ball out.”
4. Tyrod TD. The Bills’ only run of 10 yards or more was Tyrod Taylor’s 18-yard scramble for a touchdown in the first quarter. Taylor was looking for tight end Chris Gragg on the third-and-3 play but took off down the left sideline and got a good block from Gragg. He took out Jets safety Calvin Pryor to clear Taylor’s path.
“It was a play we worked on for third and short,” Gragg said. “It was actually supposed to be a touchdown to me. I was supposed to sneak out and run a shallow cross. But there was a man there, so I knew my route was covered. When I saw Tyrod come open, I knew he would run and I started blocking. You can hear the crowd when you’re in your route. When you hear them scream, you know Tyrod’s coming, and you gotta keep playing to the whistle.”
5. Fitz steps up. Fitzpatrick’s record as a comeback quarterback isn’t great. He’s 9-35 in fourth-quarter comeback situations, according to FootballOutsiders.com. It looked like he might pull one off, however, after he got the Jets within 19-17 on a 21-yard TD pass to Decker late in the third quarter. Fitzpatrick made a good step-up in the pocket to avoid Nickell Robey, who rushed off the edge. That gave Decker time to get behind Corey Graham.
6. Easy pickings. The Jets caught the Bills in a six-man blitz and got the easy matchup they wanted on their first TD. Marshall was calling for the ball even before the snap with Butler playing off coverage. It was a 17-yard TD strike.
7. Carpenter hits. Yes, he missed a sixth extra point. But Dan Carpenter connected when it mattered most, on a 42-yard field goal that gave the Bills a five-point lead with 3:49 to go.
8. TD No. 9. Tackle Jordan Mills got a good block on Muhammad Wilkerson on the 2-yard TD run by Karlos Williams, his ninth score of the season.
9. Snack attacks. Jets nose tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison forced Mike Gillislee to fumble early in the third quarter, leading to a Jets field goal.
10. The Hawk strikes. A 30 mph Orchard Park wind – the Hawk – took hold of Ryan Quigley’s third punt and pushed it out of bounds to the Bills’ sideline, only 21 yards down field. Jim Kelly caught it and threw it into the stands, the best completion of the game to that point. It set up the Bills’ first TD.