Week 15: Bills Cough Up Loss To Jets 31-27
Bills give the game away with refusal to run the clock out with Lynch.
by Steve Saslow
Shaun Ellis returned a J.P. Losman fumble 11 yards for a touchdown with less than two minutes to go to give the Bills another heartbreaking defeat 31-27 in the Meadowlands. The Jets gave up a season high 187 yards rushing and Marshawn Lynch had 127 of them and was carving up the middle of the Jets defense. The Bills had a 2nd and 5 on the fateful play all they had to do was keep feeding Lynch the football and another first down may have wrapped up the game. Instead they inexplicitly go to the air! Losman showed his unbelievable lack of sensing the pressure and coughed up the football when you absolutely couldn't.
Losman than promptly through an interception on his next pass. The Bills would get the ball back in the final minute and stayed with short passes that they were doing all day long and didn't even get close to scoring territory.
The game started and ended badly while the Bills played well from the 2nd quarter until the big fumble. This time you can't blame Dick Jauron for the Bills not being on offense first. They lost the toss and the Jets decided to take the ball first like most normal teams would do. The Bills defense looked like they hadn't yet got off the bus as the Jets marched down the field 72 yards in just seven plays to an easy 7-0 lead. Thomas Jones took it the final two yards for the score. The Bills gave up a score for the sixth time in their last eight opening defensive series. Brett Favre was the man on the drive hitting a 22 yard pass to Lavernaues Coles on the first play from scrimmage to get it to midfield. He then did a perfect fake handoff on a third and one play and took the bootleg into a wide open space for 27 yards. It would have been an easy score for a faster man. It didn't matter though as Tony Richardson (who?) ran for 12 yards to setup Jones's score.
So the Bills were in the normal position of starting off from behind before the offense even took the field. They showed no confidence on offense and went three and out. The special teams gave them another chance as a gamble paid off. Keith Ellison took a direct snap in punt formation and rumbled six yards for a first down. Marshawn Lynch rumbled 35 yards on the next play and the Bills were in business. They decided to throw on first down and J.P. Losman's pass was nearly, and should have been, picked off. They then kept on the ground the next two plays to settle for a 34 yard Rian Lindell field goal to make it 7-3.
The special teams gamble paid off and gave them a chance but then they got maddenly conservative running on 2nd and 10 and 3rd and 8. If you are going to play with nothing to lose (like on the fake punt) then play with nothing to lose when you get in the red zone. Instead, they played for three points as they continued to be allergic to the end zone.
Of course three points weren't going to be enough as the Jets looked sharp on offense while the Bills looked to already being running for the bus on defense. The Jets marched down the field as Donte Whitner was beaten for passes of 20 and 19 yards on the drive. He was then beaten for an 11 yard touchdown on third and 6 by Jerricho Crotchery. Whitner was beaten for four big plays on the first two possessions for the Jets that both ended in touchdowns. It was now a 14-3 lead, and the game looked bleak the way the Bills offense has been playing, and the first quarter wasn't even out.
The only thing working for the Bills was the running of Lynch early. So what did they do on their next possession? They didn't give it to him once. That ill fated series ended in a punt and then the defense got a bounce go their way. A Favre pass was dropped and then bounced off of Leodis McKelvin's helmet and picked off by Paul Posluszny. The Bills seemed a bit energized by the lucky play. They moved down the field and scored their first touchdown in over nine quarters as Losman ran it in from eight yards out to make the score 14-10. The drive was a nine play 50 yard drive. Lynch had three runs on the drive and Losman converted two third downs with passes to Josh Reed and Lee Evans.
The lucky bounce gave the Bills the takeaway and the momentum, the defense forced their first punt of the game and Roscoe Parrish took advantage as he returned it 56 yards to set the Bills up again in Jets territory at the 24 yard line. Four plays later the Bills had the lead with their second touchdown in less than five minutes after going over 135 minutes without one. Lynch had a 14 yard run and Steve Johnson had a six yard run on a reverse. Those plays setup the Losman to Johnson two yard touchdown pass on a slant pattern for Johnson's first NFL touchdown.
The lead was short lived as the Jets had two minutes and all three timeouts to get the momentum back before halftime. Favre connected with Leon Washington to convert a third and 2 to keep the drive alive. The Bills were getting no pass rush, so Favre had all day to wait for a receiver to get open. That would eventually happen on most plays with the Bills playing without their two starting cornerbacks for most of the first half. Terrence McGee left early with spasms but he did return in the second half. The Jets got the lead back on the ground though as Washington rumbled 47 yards almost untouched on an inside handoff to give the Jets the lead back at 21-17.
The Bills had :47 and all three timeouts so they didn't take a knee but they did run out the clock with all the plays going short and the team not even sniffing field goal range. They went into the locker room down by four in a game that they could have been blown out early. You did get the feeling at that point they would not be able to do enough in the 2nd half to pull the game out.
The Bills had to punt after getting one first down and two fumbles by Losman to start the third quarter. The Jets were backed up at their own two yard line but were able to easily move it out of the shadow of their own goal post and into Buffalo territory. A holding penalty set them up for a third and long play and Favre made a mistake by throwing the ball up for grabs deep. It was easily picked off by McGee who returned it 36 yards to the Jets 45.
The Bills moved the ball inside the 30 yard line and then bogged down. A false start penalty on Evans made it 2nd and long. Two screen passes in a row went nowhere. There just seems to be nobody open downfield or no confidence by Losman to throw it downfield or a combination of both. Lindell squeaked the 48 yard field goal in off of the right upright to pull the Bills within one at 21-20. Not getting the lead there was huge though as the Jets still had the lead despite being a minus 2 in turnover ratio in the game.
The defense bent again as the Jets crossed midfield but Spencer Johnson stopped Jones for a loss on third and short forcing a punt and giving the Bills offense the ball back just before the end of the third quarter.
The first play of the fourth quarter turned the game in the Jets favor once again. Losman's pass to Reed was a bit too high but catchable. Reed deflected it and it was picked off setting the Jets up at the Bills 20. Losman had a problem overthrowing receivers on a number of occasions in this game and this time it cost him. The defense held when Bryan Scott knocked down a pass in the end zone and the Jets had to settle for a Jay Feely chip shot field goal to give the Jets the four point lead back.
The Bills thought they quickly got the lead back when Leodis McKelvin went the distance with the ensuing kickoff but a holding call on Jon Corto brought it back. The call was made very late after McKelvin was almost in the end zone but it was a blanted penalty that helped spring McKevlin for the 100 yard return that went for naught.
The Bills did get two first downs and get into Jets territory before they bogged down with an intentional grounding penalty and a dropped short pass to Lynch on third and 16. Yes, Losman once again found nobody deep and had to dump it off on third and 16! I'll say it again, can any receiver get open deep? Brian Moorman dumped another punt inside the five yard line as the Jets took over at their own 3 yard line. The Jets threw three straight times, and there were all incomplete forcing them to punt from the back of their own end zone. They got a great bounce on a short punt and it went for 61 yards setting the Bills up at their own 36 with 8:45 to play in the game trailing 24-20.
Losman seemed to find his rhythm as he hit four straight short passes for 44 yards to set the Bills up for Fred Jackson's never say die 11 yard touchdown run where he dragged a few defenders the final four yards for the score. Lynch had a nine yard run before Jackson's score as the Bills seemed to be running the ball very well on this day and that had a lot to do with them getting into the end zone three times.
The Jets got a good kickoff return by Washington to flip the field position but the Jets went three and out and were forced to punt. The Bills took over at their own 10 after a holding penalty on the ensuing punt.
This is when it looked like the Bills would run out the clock as Lynch refused to be denied as he ran for a first down and was looking for the clinching first down or two if needed. The only way to deny Lynch was for his own coaching staff to take the ball out of his hands. We've been saying for weeks that you have to give it to Lynch and keep giving it to him. This game he was running well and he had a chance to finish the game off but they went to the air and the coaching staff, along with Losman's ineptness, cost the Bills the game. The game was theirs for the taking but Losman gave the ball up easily as his third fumble of the game killed the Bills. He then threw two more interceptions in the final minutes.
Knowing Losman coughs up the ball why was the game in his hands and not in Lynch's hands? Everyone is asking that and if the coaching staff wasn't on the hot seat before, and they were, then they are in the fire now. Dick Jauron and Turk Schonert should not be allowed on the plane back to Buffalo and should have to give back their pay checks for this week as they took victory out of the jaws of defeat. It has been a heartbreaking year with heart wrenching loss after heart wrenching loss for this team. This is the icing on the cake and Ralph Wilson shouldn't stand for it. He should make a symbolic gesture to the fans and fire Jauron immediately. It won't take the hurt away but will take a bit of the sting out in a season that not only is over, the future looks bleak as well.
Here are our exclusive gameballs and goats from the Bills game against the Jets:Gameballs