CAPACCIO: Bills-Jets: Arrow Up/Arrow Down

November 3, 2017
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Oh my. That.....was not good. Not even close. In fact, the performance by the Bills in New Jersey Thursday night was one of the more poor overall performances over the past couple of years. And it happened in primetime. In front of a national audience. Against a division rival. The final score was 34-21 and it wasn’t even really that close. Let’s get to the Arrows, starting with the downers.


ARROW DOWN


Offensive Line

I’m not going to single anyone out. The entire OL was bad pretty much all night long. It didn’t matter if it was in the run game or pass game. Both struggled to a level we hadn’t seen yet this season. The final totals - 63 yards on the ground and seven sacks allowed.
 

Run defense

Run and stop the run. Whether you believe in that old adage as it relates to winning football games in 2017 or not, the Bills didn’t do either Thursday night. I just wrote about the running game on offense. On defense it may have been worse. The Bills game up 194 yards on the ground.  Matt Forte and Bilal Powell both went over 70 yards and averaged 5.5 and 8.2 yards per carry, respectively.
 

Tackling

One of the hallmarks of Sean McDermott’s defense through the first seven games was fundamental, sound tackling. This game had the opposite. The tackling was awful. A lot of arm tackling going on. Guys seemingly just not wanting to step into the ball carrier, but instead just throwing their arms at him. Plenty of missed tackles, even when defenders had Jets players in their grasp.  At times I felt some players were trying too hard to get the ball loose instead of taking the ball carrier to the ground.
 

Penalties

This is starting to become an issue when it hasn’t been for most of the first six games. For the last two, however, penalties have killed the Bills in both quantity and quality. They were flagged a total of nine times for 99 yards Thursday night. Last Sunday against the Raiders they saw nine flags for 95 yards go against them. That’s eighteen penalties for close to 200 yards just in the last two games.  
 

Turnovers

Coming into the game, the Bills had lost two fumbles all season. Thursday they lost three of them. All three (by Jordan Matthews, Nick O’Leary, and Tyrod Taylor) were put on the ground while the player was giving extra effort, and that’s understandable sometimes. But they’re still fumbles and the ball needed to be taken care of better.
 

No turnovers on defense

The Bills had been making a living on interceptions and fumble recoveries for the most the season. They didn’t take the ball away once in this game. The closest they came was when CB Leonard Johnson got two hands and a Josh McCown pass in the first quarter but could not hold on. That was the kind of game it was overall. Things that normally went the Bills way just didn’t at all in this one. The fact that they had been taking it away so often might have even contributed to the poor tackling, as mentioned above, as it seemed at times some players were more concerned with trying to get the ball out than the runner down.


ARROW UP


WR Zay Jones

For the second week in a row, the rookie appears on this side of the ledger.  And this game was even better than the last. Jones caught everything thrown his way, finishing with six catches for 53 yards, and on one of those catches he scored his first-ever NFL touchdown.  Unfortunately, he suffered what looked like it would be a major knee injury just before halftime. But, he got up and was able to return to the game, only to go out again later when he was unable to play on it. With the addition of WR Kelvin Benjamin, presumably next week, Jones’ role may be reduced. We will see how that plays out. But, he’s certainly turned things around recently after early-season struggles - and it’s good to see. Hopefully, he’s OK to go in the team’s next game.
 

WR Deonte Thompson

Once again the recently-signed receiver stepped up big. He finished the game with a game-high seven catches for 81 yards and a beautiful touchdown grab in the back of the endzone as he was falling with one arm being held.
 

P Colton Schmidt

Schmidt was called on six times in this game. On a couple of them the Jets put together a good rush and came close to getting to him. But each time he was able to deliver a good punt to help flip the field. His hang time was very good, as well.  He finished with a 46.3 yard average on the evening.
 

Weather

It was a beautiful night for football. Or anything. It just didn’t turn out to be the same on the field for the Bills or their fans.


THE BIG PICTURE


This is a tough loss to take, especially given the circumstances. National television. Primetime. A divisional opponent. A team you had already beaten once that really was not thought to be as good as you. But the Jets were on Thursday night. They were much, much better than the Bills, in fact, in virtually every way.  That’s what’s so puzzling about this game. Every single thing the Bills seemed to do right so far all season, they did wrong on Thursday night. And everything that went their way during that time, went against them. 

They didn’t make any of their own breaks, and flat-out played poorly. Is this a sign of things to come after such a good start and feel-good story? Obviously, we can only hope not. But there are concerns. You can’t live the entire season off turnovers and clutch kicking. When that doesn’t go your way, you’re in trouble, As they were Thursday night. 

Sure, we’ve been here before. When things start to look the slightest good, then something terrible happens. But, before you start throwing your hands up and saying “same old Bills,” let’s put things into perspective.

There’s no need to hit the panic button or jump over Niagara Falls just yet. It’s not the easiest thing to go on the road in a short work-week to play on a Thursday night. You just have to hope it’s the exception and not a trend. The Bills are still sitting at 5-3, have ten days to rest, get healthy, and see what went wrong, then have a home game against an NFC opponent. And no matter what happens the rest of the weekend around the league, they will actually still be in a playoff spot at the midway point.

So this loss wasn’t fatal. But it is a pretty big wound both in the standings and emotionally for those who were starting to invest and believe. I won’t blame anyone for backing off a little bit and wondering who this team really is. It’s natural, especially for Bills fans.

But, there are still a lot of reasons to be positive going forward.  As stated, they’re still in a playoff position halfway through the season. Also, this is really the only time they played so poorly across the board in eight contests. And, of course, they’ll add a pretty big offensive weapon the next time out when Benjamin most likely suits up for his Bills debut. Tight end Charles Clay could also be back by then. That should give a nice boost to the offense, which definitely needs it.

This is the type of adversity that almost all teams face at some point in the season.  The process will be tested.  It will be a long ten days before the New Orleans Saints come to town.  There’s still a lot of opportunity in front of the Bills.  It will be very interesting to see how they react and handle this.

 

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