(Photo Courtesy of NFL Spin Zone)
After watching the Bills put the final nail in the proverbial coffin of the Jets’ season yesterday, a 43-23 blowout that could’ve been far worse, I found myself wondering one thing on the six-hour car ride home from New Jersey: Are the Bills that good, or are the Jets that bad? Six turnovers, four sacks, and repeated penalties has me leaning towards the latter on this, the most pleasant of Bills victory Monday’s, but the reality of the matter is that it probably was a little bit of both. Regardless of who was more responsible for the win though, it’s still a win, a road, divisional win to be more precise, and the Bills are legitimately in the hunt for a playoff spot at the end of October for the first time in a number of seasons.
Now let’s review my three keys to the game and see how the Bills fared yesterday in these areas.
1. A Big Day out of Kyle Orton
On a day when the Bills were without their top two running backs and playing against one of the worst secondaries in the NFL, it was assumed that the team would need a top performance from their starting quarterback to come away with a win at MetLife stadium. Well, it turns out that Kyle Orton only needed to complete 10 passes on the day for the Bills to get their W. Throwing just 17 times total, Orton threw for four touchdown passes and 238 yards in a game where he simply needed to keep the clock moving and hold onto the football. However, the veteran quarterback made a few highlight plays too such as his perfectly thrown deep pass to Sammy Watkins for 85-yards, hitting Scott Chandler for a late redzone touchdown on a beautiful throw down the seam, and my personal favorite, his plodding, Michael Vick-esque, 7-yard scramble early in the first quarter. Orton took what the defense gave him, playing efficient, mistake-free football, and that was more than enough on a day when the Jets seemed content to beat themselves.
2. Don’t Allow the Jets to ‘Ground and Pound’
An interesting factoid I heard this past weekend in the run up to yesterday’s game: in 10 career games against the Bills, Rex Ryan’s Jets have averaged 195-yards a game on the ground. Thankfully yesterday broke that trend, but there was some genuine concern over whether the Bills would be able to stop the Jets’ rushing attack after watching the way they mauled New England on Thursday night, combined with the lackluster effort the Bills produced against Minnesota. The final statistics from yesterday’s game, 33 rushes for 175 yards and 3 touchdowns, don’t sound very pretty for the Bills but I’d argue that this is a case where the statistics misrepresent what actually happened.
For instance, 70 of those yards came from the legs of Michael Vick on quarterback scrambles, and almost exclusively in the first half only. Also, another 30 yards came from Bilal Powell’s touchdown drive, long after the game was over. The numbers that really mattered, Chris Ivory’s 13 carries for 43 yards and two touchdowns, are far more indicative of the way that the Bills’ defense bottled up the Jets rushing attack. Overall, although the numbers may not show it, Jim Schwartz’s defense won their matchup against Rex Ryan’s running backs yesterday.
3. Winning the Turnover Battle
After two straight weeks in which the Bills were more than generous to opposing teams with the football, it was great to see them win the turnover battle so decisively on Sunday. Clearly the abysmal play of Geno Smith had a lot to do with this, but the first two of Smith’s three interceptions weren’t completely terrible. With single coverage both times, one of which against a linebacker, Smith had opportunities to make plays. However, both of these passes were off target just enough for Stephon Gilmore and Preston Brown to be able to go up and get the football. Additionally, it was nice to see the defensive line get its due for dominating the Jets all day by forcing and recovering a fumble on Michael Vick in the 3rd quarter. All in all, the Bills’ defense took advantage of a careless Jets offense and Buffalo’s offense played safe and secure through the remainder of the game for a well-deserved win in the turnover battle.
With a week 9 bye, the Bills have a chance to savor this divisional beatdown and take a well-deserved rest before the second half of the season begins. At 5-3, a playoff berth is not out of the question, and the upcoming stretch of games will be critical in deciding whether the team’s 14-year playoff drought will finally come to an end.
Keep it here this week as we recap the first half of the Bills’ season and look ahead to the remainder of the 2014 campaign as well.
Game Ball: Preston Brown
Play of the Game: Sammy Watkins’ 84-yard reception
LVP: Geno Smith (or maybe he should be considered the Bills’ MVP?)