The Buffalo Bills’ passing game finally made a defense pay.
Defenses have been able to play eight men in the box against the Bills with little fear this season. They have been able to play man coverage without worrying enough about providing help for the cornerbacks. They have been able to blitz without giving up the big play.
Not Sunday in MetLife Stadium.
The Bills made New York Jets coach Todd Bowles pay for his attacking nature in the stunning, 41-10 victory over the Jets.
Bowles’ defenses ranked No. 1 in the NFL in 2016 by blitzing 40 percent of dropbacks, according to Football Outsiders. They ranked fourth last year at 35 percent and are at 35 percent again this year.
The Jets blitz not only because it’s Bowles' personality, but because they don’t have any top-end edge rushers.
The Bills had completed just nine passes of 25-plus yards this season, second worst in the league to Tennessee.
Here’s the plays that changed all the bad trends for the Bills:
1. Go deep, young man: On the first play from scrimmage, the Jets rushed eight men and the Bills kept seven men in to block.
Rookie Robert Foster beat the Jets’ best cornerback, Tremaine Johnson, deep on an up-and-out route down the right sideline for a 47-yard gain.
Foster ran a 4.41 time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, which makes him the fastest player on the Bills’ roster.
Credit LeSean McCoy with making a good block to pick up blitzing safety Jamal Adams off right tackle. Credit tight end Logan Thomas with holding off blitzing linebacker Jordan Jenkins just enough to allow Matt Barkley to get off his long pass.
Barkley stood in the pocket even though Jenkins was pressing up the middle. Foster had lined up just inside the numbers to allow Barkley room to float the pass toward the sideline.
2. Shady jump-cuts. McCoy made an elite jump cut in the hole on the next play, his 28-yard touchdown run up the right sideline. The safety on that side, Adams, cut into the hole a little too quickly for receiver Zay Jones to block him. No problem. Shady “whooped” to his right to make Adams miss.
The Bills ran misdirection to the left, having Ray-Ray McCloud go in motion that way and running tight end Jason Croom on a fake pull block to the left. That froze both Jets linebackers, Avery Williamson and Darron Lee. Jordan Mills got a strong block at the point of attack, and rookie Wyatt Teller only needed to stand in the way of nose tackle Steve McLendon.
3. Fake punt. Logan Thomas went 36-14 as a starting quarterback for Virginia Tech and threw 1,248 passes in his college career. He showed fine form on his 15-yard fake-punt pass to Foster.
4. Fumble recovery TD. Credit Barkley with delivering on time on the pass to Zay Jones for the Bills’ second touchdown. The Jets were in zone coverage, which allowed Jones to make the catch underneath on a pivot route as part of a three-receiver set on the right side of the field. Jason Croom, the inside receiver, “collisioned” cornerback Buster Skrine to make even more room for Jones then fell on the ball after Jones fumbled into the end zone.
5. Blitz beaten again. The Bills’ third score was set up by a 33-yard pass from Barkley to Foster. The Jets had eight men in the box and rushed five men. The Bills kept seven in to pass protect.
That gave Barkley time to sit back while Foster ran a crossing route to the right then cut up the right sideline. Skrine was in man coverage and got caught chasing Foster.
6. Trickery TD. The 7-yard TD pass to Dion Dawkins was another creative play design. You often see an extra lineman catch a pass as a tackle eligible near the goal line.
But the Bills had their extra lineman, Jeremiah Sirles, and the tight end (Thomas) both lined up off right tackle. Dawkins was the tackle eligible, even though he was lined up in his traditional left tackle spot. He blocked edge rusher Jeremiah Attaochu before leaking out into the pass patter.
Again, the Jets blitzed seven men, with the safety (Adams) joining the rush.
7. Jones' TD. The Jets were backing off on the blitz as the game wore on. They rushed only four on Jones’ 8-yard TD pass in the third quarter.
Credit the offensive line with handling a double-twist by the Jets’ four rush men. Right tackle Mills passed off Brandon Copeland to John Miller, then picked up looping Leonard Williams. Dawkins shifted to pick up looping Henry Anderson on the left side.
Barkley showed poise in the pocket.