Coming into the 2016 season, Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan was one of the favorites in most “first coach to get fired” pools. If the first two games of the season are any indication, that bet might well return some money sooner rather than later.
Ryan’s coaching job against his former team, the New York Jets , on Thursday night, was simply dreadful right from the start. Ryan made mistakes big and small all night long, and the only reason his team was in the game at any point was because the Jets let them into it with mistakes (notably a blown coverage and a fumble) of their own.
On the Jets’ first drive of the game, Ryan Fitzpatrick completed a 4-yard pass on the right sideline to tight end Kellen Davis . The play set up third-and-5 from the Buffalo 32-yard line. Ryan, in his inherent wisdom, elected to challenge the play, hoping a reversal would instead set up third-and-9 from the 36-yard line. Ryan won the challenge, but the reward was so small as to be essentially meaningless. Brandon Marshall made it even more so by picking up a first down on the very next play.
In the fourth quarter, with his team trailing 30-24 and facing third-and-1, Ryan’s team brought backup quarterback E.J. Manuel onto the field and motioned starter Tyrod Taylor out wide, then called on Manuel to sneak the ball up the middle — something they already had done earlier in the game. Manuel not only came up short, but fumbled. The Bills were lucky to recover.
The Bills for some reason kept him on the field for fourth down, on which they tried to have him draw the Jets offside with a hard count before uselessly burning a timeout that could have come in handy later in the game, considering it was still within one possession at the time. Buffalo then trotted out a jumbo formation for the actual fourth-down play, making obvious to everyone in the building and watching at home they were running the ball yet again. Run it they did. And they unsurprisingly got stuffed, turning the ball over on downs.
The Jets quickly marched down for a Matt Forte touchdown (his third of the night) and extended the lead to 13 points. On the ensuing drive, Buffalo mismanaged the clock horribly. The Bills were at the line of scrimmage just before the two-minute warning and failed to get off a snap; and later in the drive, on a play that was eventually overturned and ruled a touchdown, Bills players were yapping at the Jets behind the play rather than hustling up to the line of scrimmage while the clock was running.
After the touchdown, which cut the lead back to six, former NFL kicker and CBS kicking analyst Jay Feely mentioned on the broadcast that the Bills are the only team in the league with a kickoff specialist on their roster (and that his onside kicks are the best in the league) … but the specialist was inactive, which meant that regular kicker Dan Carpenter would have to make the onside kick. Carpenter got the ball to pop up in the air, but nowhere near any of his own players. The Jets recovered, ran three plays and ticked the clock down as far as they could before punting it back to Buffalo with 10 seconds left. The Bills ran a totally nonthreatening hook-and-ladder play in a last-ditch effort to score, and it fell 57 yards short.
The mistakes were not limited to the offense and activation decisions. Rex and his brother/defensive coordinator Rob neglected to change their defensive strategy all night, even while their cornerbacks were being brutally exposed by Jets wideouts Brandon Marshall (six catches, 101 yards), Eric Decker (six catches, 126 yards), and Quincy Enunwa (six catches, 92 yards). Stephon Gilmore , Ronald Darby and Nickell Robey-Coleman found themselves over-matched all night long, and the Ryans did nearly nothing to adjust. It was astounding to watch. That the Bills only lost by six was a minor miracle.
Here are a few more things to know about Thursday’s AFC East battle.
2. The Jets secondary wasn’t too impressive
Track and field speedster Marquise Goodwin absolutely TORCHED Darrelle Revis on a go route to give the Bills a lead early in the game.
We might want to retire the term “Revis Island” for a while after these first two weeks of the season.
That was the longest Bills pass play since … Ryan Fitzpatrick hooked up with Terrell Owens on a 98-yard pass back in 2009.
Later in the game, the Jets gave up this 71-yarder to … former Jet Greg Salas :
Things are maybe not so great in the Jets defensive backfield right now.
3. Brandon Marshall’s interesting night
The Jets star wide receiver had himself an evening. Marshall finished with six catches for 102 yards, but at one point it looked like his season might be done. Marshall left the field after being dragged down by his facemask by Gilmore, and it appeared a knee injury would would be keeping him out.
… and then he came back onto the field for the Jets’ next drive, sans gloves. Because that’s what the actual issue was, maybe? Later in the game, once Marshall put the gloves back on, he did this:
It was quite a roller coaster evening for No. 15.
4. Watkins watch
All week, there was drama about whether star Bills wideout Sammy Watkins would suit up for the game. There were reports after the Bills’ loss to the Baltimore Ravens that Watkins was experiencing serious pain in his surgically repaired foot and could even wind up sitting for multiple weeks. Then there were reports that he could play, but it was simply a pain tolerance issue. Until a couple hours before the game, nobody knew if he would play. Then Rex Ryan said in his pregame interview that Watkins would have no limitations and they knew all along he would be on the field tonight. Strange stuff.
In any event, Watkins did not make much of an impact on the game. He was targeted five times, catching only two passes for 20 yards. The Bills tried to hit him down the field on a couple different occasions, but poor ball placement from Taylor and a lack of separation generated by Watkins led to an incompletion and an interception instead.
5. Get to know Quincy Enunwa
The Jets’ new No. 3 wide receiver has some GAME, my friends. Enunwa, a three-year vet from Nebraska, had 22 career catches for 315 yards coming into this season. He has got 13 grabs for 146 yards during the first two weeks of 2016. By halftime, he had surpassed his career high for receiving yards in a game.
The Jets operate out of three-wide sets more than most NFL teams, and Enunwa seems to have solidified himself as the third guy behind Marshall and Decker. He has got good size at 6-feet-2 and 225 pounds, and he has flashed the ability to make catches on throws that are not necessarily perfectly placed by Ryan Fitzpatrick. He looked like a very nice tertiary weapon for the Jets.
6. The concussion protocol finally works, for once
— Cian Fahey (@Cianaf) September 16, 2016
Absolutely no coincidence this happens on the very next Thursday night game.
— Cian Fahey (@Cianaf) September 16, 2016
If Cam doesn’t take killshot after killshot – without deterrent – a week ago, this doesn’t happen now
— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) September 16, 2016
Late in the third quarter, Tyrod Taylor was driven to the ground by three Jets defenders. He hesitated while on the ground before getting up. Once he did, the referees took him off the field and sent him to get concussion tests. It was a stark contrast to what happened with Cam Newton last week in the season-opening game, when he took repeated blows to the head and nothing was done, prompting a joint investigation by the NFL and NFLPA.
Good on Ed Hochuli.
— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) September 16, 2016
Fantastic move by medical spotters to pull Taylor. Exactly how rule should work #NYJvsBUF
— Jeremy Schilling (@jschil) September 16, 2016
Taylor looked out when he initially went down. He got up quickly though. Certainly good reason to check him.
— Robin Lundberg (@robinlundberg) September 16, 2016
The Bills had to do without their starting quarterback for a few plays, but honestly, that’s how it should work. Of course, Taylor returned to the game within a few plays. He promptly was intercepted downfield on the first play of the fourth quarter.
7. What can Browns do for you?
While the Jets passing game got whatever it wanted, the running game largely couldn’t get off the ground. Forte finished the evening with three touchdowns, which is excellent, but he also gained only 3.3 yards per carry (30-100). Linebackers Preston Brown and Zach Brown were a big reason why. The duo lived in the backfield all night and combined for 30 tackles, 15 of them solo efforts. Along with Jerry Hughes and Lorenzo Alexander , they were two of the very few bright spots on the Buffalo defense.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Rex Ryan’s lapses, Jets offense doom Bills in 37-31 loss: 7 things to know