‘We Just Lost To The (Expletive Deleted) Buffalo Bills’
by Dave Staba (@DavidStaba) - posted 12:25 pm, November 19, 2013
Mrs. We Want Marangi was stunned upon returning from a quick Sunday-afternoon trip to the store.
“Holy crap,” she said after seeing that what had been Buffalo’s field-goal lead over the New York Jets when she left had mushroomed into a blowout in progress.
After managing all of 16 points over the previous two weeks as their season seemed to slip into the sub-mediocrity all too familiar in these parts, the Bills put up 17 in less than three minutes, wiping away the futility of outplaying Kansas City in every phase of the game except activating the scoreboard, then coming up short in every area in Pittsburgh.
Holy crap, indeed.
Buffalo’s second-quarter outburst included T.J. Graham finally demonstrating that he does have some awareness of what is going on around him on a football field, Kyle Williams nearly severing the hand of Geno Smith, Frank Summers showing an ability to accomplish something other than illegally blocking on kick returns and Jairus Byrd justifying his stated desire to be one of the game’s highest-paid safeties.
The avalanche was triggered not by a Buffalo big play, but an incredibly ill-timed Jets mistake.
Looking to build on that 3-0 edge, E.J. Manuel had guided the Bills to a third-and-4 at New York’s 36-yard line when Sheldon Richardson, Kiko Alonso’s main competition for the NFL’s top defensive rookie honors, stuffed a screen pass to Fred Jackson for a 1-yard loss.
A promising drive ending in a punt made it appear Buffalo would have all of six points to show for Manuel’s first six quarters since returning from the knee injury that kept him out for a month. And a defensive breakdown of the sort that doomed the Bills in each of their three straight losses would prove a direct route to a fourth.
Not that the increasingly demoralizing defeats to the Saints, Chiefs and Steelers had created a pessimistic air around the WWM offices, or anything.
It was perfectly naturally, however, for anyone who has watched Buffalo play football over the past 13.6 seasons to expect a game-breaking punt return from the Jets. Or, failing that, a wind-aided bomb from Smith to Santonio Holmes, whom the Bills secondary has shown a severe aversion to covering.
Either way, the anticipation of New York finding its way to a halftime lead or tie that would negate all Buffalo’s good works to that point grew as the punting unit lined up.
Then Leger Douzable jumped.
As referee Bill Levy emphasized while making the call, the Jets defensive lineman’s neutral-zone infraction did not result in a Buffalo first down. It did, however, make it fourth-and-1 from New York’s 33.
The down, distance and field position may have triggered unpleasant memories of coaching decisions past. You would have expected Chan Gailey, Mike Mularkey or, especially, Gregg Williams to send out the punt team. Dick Jauron might have taken an intentional delay-of-game to give back the five yards before punting.
Doug Marrone’s Bills, though, not only went for it, but dusted off the near-forgotten — in these parts, at least — quarterback sneak.
For the second time on the drive.
And it worked. By half a football, but it worked.
Two plays later, Manuel lofted one down the left sideline, into a gusting wind to create a twisting pop-up that thoroughly flummoxed Jets rookie Dee Milliner, just as it had Stephon Gilmore on a Smith lob to Holmes in the first quarter. And, for once, T.J. Graham DID know where the ball was, coming back to grab it and angle into the end zone for a 10-0 Buffalo lead.
Buffalo’s first touchdown carried a fluky flavor, but the rest of Manuel’s day did not. He was accurate on his short throws early, when the Jets’ coverage dared him to throw short, and on deep balls after New York tightened things up and challenged him to go long — particularly the 43-yard strike to Marquies Goodwin that made it 27-7 and effectively ended the competitive portion of the contest.
Even the running game did its part, despite a rather gruesome stat line: 38 attempts for 68 yards, or 1.8 yards per try. Buffalo’s persistence kept the Jets stacked to stop the run, leaving the secondary exposed for Manuel to exploit.
The defense made it possible for that offensive patience, with turnovers forced by Kyle Williams and Byrd fueling that 17-point outburst and Da’Norris Searcy’s leaping, twisting interception producing the final Buffalo touchdown in a 37-14 runaway, the first of Marrone’s tenure.
By that point, Smith looked thoroughly lost, thanks to a pass rush that posted four sacks, as well as a disorienting hit by Marcell Dareus on his first attempt.
The Jets on the whole were pretty flustered during, and after, the game.
“Right now, we just lost to the (expletive deleted) Buffalo Bills,” said a dismayed Willie Colon in response to a question about New York’s playoff prospects after falling to 5-5.
The 4-7 Bills, meanwhile, head into their bye week with Manuel (who outplayed Smith by a significantly larger margin than Smith bested him in New Jersey in September), Graham and Goodwin coming off their best days as professionals, and Byrd (two interceptions and a sack) having made his biggest impact since returning from his holdout and seemingly overcoming a nagging case of plantar fasciitis.
After that, they return to complete a schedule that includes Atlanta (in Toronto, where WWM fervently hopes Mayor Rob Ford makes an appearance, perhaps running across the field clad only in a very large l’Unifolie), Tampa Bay and Jacksonville — the top contenders for next spring’s first overall draft pick — and a home game against the wildly inconsistent Dolphins.
Two days later, Buffalo’s complete reversal of form against the Jets is no less remarkable, even if it has gotten buried by a thoroughly fabricated non-story about what visitors did the night before the game and how some genius managed to somehow not kill himself and an unsuspecting fan below.
We’re a couple of more wins away — by a team that has not won two straight since the second and third weeks of 2012 — from even contemplating playoff scenarios. But with a week off after a game in which the punter dropping a wind-blown snap was their most serious mistake, the final third of the Bills’ season is suddenly a lot more interesting than it appeared a week ago.