EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (WIVB) — Tensions were high as the Buffalo Bills, led by former New York Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan, took the field against the Jets and former Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Cast out of New York after confidence in his coaching waned, the Bills gave Ryan a second chance, and he made good on the challenge of beating his former team. The victory didn’t come without struggle, however.
The Bills struggled in the air against a stout Jets defense as Sammy Watkins and Darrelle Revis dueled. Revis found answers for Watkins’ speed, but not always his hands. The Bills, led by the still recovering Tyrod Taylor, looked to other receivers to help make up for strong coverage on Watkins. Robert Woods, Charles Clay and an unlikely Karlos Williams pitched in to help Buffalo reach just over 130 passing yards.
Where the Bills hit their offensive stride was the running game, spearheaded by the shifty LeSean McCoy and powerful Karlos Williams. The success came against the first ranked running defense in the league heading into the game. The two backs muscled through defenders to open up opportunities for their quarterback. They would team up to add a combined 150 running yards in the game.
Neither the run game, nor passing game would truly net the bulk of Buffalo’s 22 points, however. The Bills defense and special teams unit shined in the prime-time game, causing three turnovers in the first three quarters.
The Bills would capitalize on each of the turnovers, helping to cushion their lead against the Jets. Bacarri Rambo stood out as the defender of the day, causing two of the turnovers in the form of fumbles — both of which Buffalo recovered, one of which the team would return for a touchdown.
Although the Jets struck first in the game, netting a field goal, the turnovers would kill any momentum as the Bills threw nine points on the board from turnovers alone. The Bills would head into halftime with the scoreboard reading 12 to 3.
Out of the gate, the Bills utilized Karlos Williams to extend their lead in the first drive of the third quarter. Williams would follow up strong runs from McCoy to secure a fresh set of downs, then snag a 26-yard pass from Tyrod Taylor to secure the second touchdown of the day, and the first by the offense. Williams has scored in each of his first six games, making him the second rookie in NFL history to accomplish that feat.
After the Bills netted another field goal, the Jets — a team that has been rebuilding after several poor seasons — would respond. Behind Fitzpatrick, the team struck back quickly in the third quarter, scoring a touchdown via the air to cut the lead to 22-10.
It seemed like the Jets would again cut the lead as they marched up the field in a series of plays that averaged over 10 yards in gains each. As the Jets neared the Buffalo 20-yard-line, they stalled out and faced a fourth down with just two yards to go. In a challenge against the Bills defense, Todd Bowles elected to go for the fourth down. The Bills would rebuff the Jets, returning the ball to their offense, wasting what would have been a Jets scoring drive.
The defensive stand deflated any momentum the Jets had built, however Buffalo failed to capture it. A struggling Buffalo offense continued to struggle as time in the fourth quarter drained away. The Jets would capitalize on Buffalo’s failure.
Behind Fitzpatrick, the Jets would score another touchdown after two key throws in one of the game’s final drives. The Jets decreased the lead to four points, bringing the game to 22 to 17 with minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Just a few plays later, a botched Buffalo punt put the Jets in prime scoring position, however the Buffalo defense would win the day. The Jets offense tried four times to put the ball into the end zone, and the Bills refused them each time.
With the ball back in Buffalo’s possession, Rex Ryan ensured his team would not give the ball away. Behind its running backs, the Bills were able to run off the clock enough to return the ball back to the Jets with just seconds left on the clock.
In the last play of the game, Fitzpatrick looked like his old Buffalo Bills self — he turned the ball over to the Bills, securing the victory.
Injuries — yet again — may have played a part in the close victory. Tyrod Taylor did not look himself as he sustained hits against a stout Jets defensive line, and without Percy Harvin, Taylor’s receivers were limited.
Defensively, both Kyle Williams and Mario Williams didn’t play in the game. Mario left the game with an illness, but Kyle is dealing with a nagging knee injury. The defense persevered without two of its strongest and most experienced members.
Although the offense never truly ignited its flame, the Bills succeeded in keeping their penalties low. They netted just five penalties for just over 40 yards.
The Bills squeaked by their foe in their first Thursday Night Football match-up of the year, and they’ll take their winning streak against the New England Patriots next Monday.