ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Ryan Fitzpatrick never had much luck playing for or against the Bills in Ralph Wilson stadium, but Thursday night was the start of a new era for the Jets QB, more than it was for the team that calls New Era Field home. For all the talk this week of Rex Ryan owning Fitzpatrick, that narrative was completely turned on it’s head, as the Bills (0-2) fell to the Jets (1-1) 37-31 in their first home prime time game since 2012.
The former Bills quarterback torched to Bills defense every which way, racking up an incredible 374 yards – the fourth highest single-game total of his career – a 116.5 quarterback rating and a 70.5 completion percentage. It was the first time he’d ever eclipsed 300 yards passing against a Rex Ryan defense.
Fitzpatrick also completed 10 passes on throws of 15+ yards from line of scrimmage, which was a career high, and tied for 3rd-most by any QB in a single-game, in the last 10 years.
On Tuesday the 33-year-old said he wanted to start a new streak against Ryan; it’s safe to say he did.
“I mean he was hot and making plays,” Ryan said of the journeyman quarterback’s performance afterward. “They were throwing jump balls up there and their guys were coming down with it … You know Brandon Marshall told me. He said ‘he’s going to kick my butt today,” and he was right.”
Overshadowed by Fitzpatrick was Jets running back Matt Forte, who racked up 100 yard on 30 carries and three touchdowns. Additionally, wideout Quincy Enunwa needed just eight yards for New York to have three receivers finish with 100 plus yards on the night. Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall accounted for 126 and 101 yards a piece respectively.
Four days removed from a dominant defensive effort that held the Baltimore Ravens to 13 points in Week 1, Buffalo’s defense resembled the ugly 2015 version of itself. Particularly the usually sure-handed secondary, looked uncharacteristically feeble.
“Obviously we didn’t play up to our potential,” Stephon Gilmore explained. “You know the secondary, myself included … I know what we can do and I know we have to put the work in to do it. So, we just have to watch the film and learn from it.”
New York picked up 28 first downs, compiled nearly 500 yards of total offense and converted eight of their 13 third downs into first downs. That simply cannot happen.
“I was afraid to pressure because we weren’t holding up in man-coverage, which we played the whole game in,” Ryan said. We tried to stuff [Brandon Marshall], we tried quarters, we tried deuce; we did everything. To their credit it never mattered what we played because they were the better team today.”
To be fair, the defense did orchestrate a touchdown on just the second series of the third quarter. Buffalo had just scored a touchdown to cut the Jets 10 point lead down to three, 20-17, only 51-second into the half. On the very next possession rookie receiver Jalin Marshall caught a pass over the middle, was bulldozed by Preston Brown and coughed up the ball. CB Nickell Robey-Coleman swooped in, picked up the loose ball and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown. 24-17 Bills. It was the last time they’d lead.
Offensively, the Bills corrected a miserable display from Sunday by putting up 31 points and 393 yards of total offense. Tyrod Taylor finished the day 18-for-30 passing, with 297 yards, three touchdowns and a pick. It was the sixth time Taylor has attempted 30 or more passes in a game, and oddly enough he’s 0-6 when he does so.
Long at last, the Bills decided to take some shots downfield and it paid dividends. On their third offensive play of the game Taylor found the speedy Marquise Goodwin behind Darrelle Revis for an 84-yard touchdown pass – the longest pass at home in the teams franchise history. Trailing 20-10 out of the half, Taylor made another fantastic throw for a score, eluding some initial pressure by scrambling out of the pocket to his right, then firing the ball to a wide open Greg Salas running diagonally across the field. Salas would make the catch, escaped a would be tackler and scamper to the end zone for a 71-yard score. Similar to the nifty 33-yard throw Taylor made to Charles Clay in Week 1, it was exactly the type of play the Bills want to see the quarterback make.
“The receivers did a good job of making those big plays,” Taylor remarked after the loss. “The second touchdown was more of a scramble play and Greg Salas did a good job keeping that play alive … anytime you can move the pocket and keep your eyes downfield, big plays happen.”
For the strides Taylor took on Thursday though, he also continues to be a work in progress. Time-and-time again the 27-year-old failed to spot wide open receivers away from his initial read. On his lone interception he floated the ball a little too far inside of Sammy Watkins who was about two or three yards behind Jets CB Marcus Williams, for what probably would have been his fourth touchdown of the night. Also, from a span of 14:02 left in the third quarter, to 3:57 left in the game, Taylor went without a completion.
“We can be better,” Taylor remarked. I definitely think we took strides from Week 1. Didn’t have over 200 yards of total offense, so we definitely did a better job of moving the ball tonight. We had some big plays, put up 31 points, it just wasn’t enough tonight.”
Despite a 14-point surge to start the third quarter that put the Bills out in front 24-17, the secondary was no match for Fitzpatrick tonight, who truly stole the show.
“I think it means a little bit more than a regular game,” Fitzpatrick said afterward. “It was my life for four years, being here and not necessarily because it was against Rex but because of the place. This place especially for me to play in.”
And so for the first time in his career Rex Ryan finds himself in an 0-2 hole, and Bills fans believe the 2016 season is all but over. With the Cardinals and Patriots due up in weeks 3 and 4 that’s certainly not a hot take. Only 12 percent of teams that start the season 0-2 make the playoffs. Two weeks from now that win-less record could easily be doubled and Ryan could be coaching to save his job the rest of the way.
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