Buffalo Bills vs. New York Jets: 5 Winners and Losers for Buffalo
It held all the tropes of a slasher flick, where instead of the girl in the shower, there's an onslaught of turnovers, and instead of the character you like getting killed in dramatic fashion, the team's best player gets injured and knocked out of the game.
To say nothing went right for the Bills is a bit misleading, because it was even worse than that. It's hard to pick out the winners and losers when the whole team played like a bunch of losers.
Of course, it's only one game and the Bills will have the chance to turn things around, but the areas of concern this game has revealed are big enough that Erie County might want to think of collecting some property tax.
The Bills committed four turnovers, allowed a punt return touchdown, let an inexperienced Jets receiver core get behind them all game, barely touched Mark Sanchez and allowed almost 50 points. Truly a game the Bills will want to forget.
The Bills have now lost nine of their last 10 games and six in a row to the Jets. So here's a cheery breakdown of exactly how bad things were for the Bills.
Winner: Vince Young
OK, hear me out. If you'll remember, Vince Young was the heavy favorite for the backup quarterback job heading into the team's third preseason game against Pittsburgh. He threw two sloppy interceptions and descended immediately so far down the depth charts that he was cut the next day.
If the Bills' season continues down the current trajectory, that curious sequence of events may turn into an ominous early sign of a lost season.
As bad as Young's preseason interceptions were, Fitzpatrick's were no better. Bills' Buffalo News reporter Tim Graham really nailed it on the head this tweet during the game:
If Vince Young still were here, then I think he'd be warming up on the sideline right now for Buffalo.— Tim Graham (@ByTimGraham) September 9, 2012
The only thing more depressing than Fitzpatrick's first game of the 2012 season is thinking there's really no one underneath him.
So the winner, therefore, is Vince Young, mostly because it would just be too easy to deservedly skewer Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Loser: Chan Gailey
We'll never really know how good Gailey's offensive game plan might have been, because it was immediately derailed by the Bills' turnovers and their incompetence on defense.
But there was no Wildcat (so what's the point of having Brad Smith on the roster again?), no real effort made early enough in the game to respond to the Jets pass coverage on defense and no sign that the team was in any way properly prepared to play.
It seemed pretty clear that the Bills were counting on the Jets to run the ball more and control the game in the trenches, and they were absolutely bewildered when Sanchez started throwing the ball around the field and using the run game and the Tebowcat as decoy.
While the defense seems to primarily be Dave Wannstedt's responsibility, Chan Gailey as the head coach is ultimately the guy responsible for the team's level of preparedness. And the team just didn't look prepared at all.
Jets' receivers were running free and clear all game, and I noticed only one moment when the game's fate still hung in the balance that any Bill actually touched Mark Sanchez.
This makes the fifth straight game in which Rex Ryan has absolutely handed Gailey's playbook back to him and thanked him for coming. It really felt like Ryan replayed LaDanian Tomlinson's “same old Bills speech” in the locker room and the Gailey's team just laid down and complied.
Winner: Some Dude off the Ravens' Practice Squad
I think it was at some point during the second quarter, when the game was slipping away from the Bills and there was no pass rush to speak of, and Marv Albert and Rich Gannon began to praise the play of Jets' right tackle Austin Howard (the guy the Jets signed off of Baltimore's practice squad during the offseason), that an evil thought trickled into my head.
Mario Williams is a fraud. He came to Buffalo because Buffalo was dumb enough to give him whatever he wanted, and low-key enough that he could just disappear into his millions.
Of course, I don't believe that, but I hardly noticed Mario Williams today. He finished with one tackle (don't remember).
This was hardly the debut that the team was looking for from “Super” Mario. Let's toss Mark Anderson on the scrap heap of blame for this disaster of a game too, while we're at it. I didn't notice him at all, either.
Their only defense was that Sanchez didn't need to hold onto the ball that long, because his receivers were wide-open all day. The Bills' defensive backfield was like a carousel of suck: They all took their turns getting taken for a ride.
Winner: C.J. Spiller
Perhaps the Bills' only bright spot for their opener was the play of running back C.J. Spiller, who continued his positive momentum from 2011 into 2012. Unfortunately, in both cases Spiller's strong play came in the event of an injury to Fred Jackson.
Jackson took a vicious, but ultimately clean, shot to the thigh from Jets' safety LaRon Landry in the second quarter. The early signs point to some sort of knee injury.
Spiller took control immediately with a gorgeous 56-yard touchdown run to put the Bills on the board and give them a fighting chance down 21-7. Spiller finished the day with a career-best 169 yards on only 14 carries. He added two catches for 25 yards.
And there was the caveat on Spiller's career day. He fumbled one of those catches a little too easily. You have to strongly wonder if that's Spiller's chink in the armor. Jets linebacker Bart Scott swung for the fences (and missed, of course) for a forced fumble attempt on Spiller's touchdown run.
It really makes me think the Jets had something there in their game plan for Spiller.
Loser: The City of Buffalo, Again
I just heard some yelling out on the street here on Buffalo's West Side and immediately imagined that local tempers had been fouled by the game and there was some ugly street fight brewing. I had earlier espied a few Buff State students in New York Jets jerseys. Maybe they were making a scene?
No. It was just a group of kids playing football.
But it's no stretch to say that Buffalo's collective mood hangs in the balance every time the Bills play, and this game was a particularly ugly and dispiriting way to spend an otherwise lovely Sunday afternoon.
There was a lot of hope and optimism heading into this season, and while all losses, theoretically, count the same, the Bills didn't even look like they belonged on the same field as the Jets. What do they say here? “An old school beatdown ass-kicking.” Yeah, that.
I'll close with a few cliches. It's only one game. But every game is important in the NFL. Divisional games count the most, and therefore hurt the most to lose.