The New York Jets missed out on a great opportunity. Needing only to win a game in Buffalo against a Bills team with no playoff aspirations, and rumors of a fractured locker room at odds with head coach Rex Ryan, there was no excuse for the Jets to lose this game. This was supposed to be a coming out party for a football team that appeared destined for a playoff spot in the AFC field. Instead what we all got on Sunday afternoon was a big ole stink burger served with some Same Ole Jets.
Only the Jets could find a way to lose a game with so much importance. Only the Jets could lose a game to their old head coach allowing him to prance around the field in Orchard Park like he had in MetLife Stadium nine weeks prior. Think of it this way: for the past four seasons Rex Ryan sunk the Jets playoff chances. On Sunday, he sunk the Jets playoff chances once again, this time from the opposing sideline.
Costly mistakes, turnovers, horrific penalties and undisciplined play only highlights a tale of pure misery for the Jets in a game that will go down in history as one of the lowest points in Jets lore.
Put January 3, 2016 right up there with the Chad Pennington Revenge game from 2008, when Pennington walked into the Meadowlands and beat the Jets and Brett Favre and knocked them out of the playoffs that night, while sending Miami to a division title. Put this right up there wit the Buttfumble nightmare from 2012 on Thanksgiving. Put this right up there with the week 17 meltdown in Baltimore in 2000; the Week 17 meltdown in Detroit in 1997, and how about the bone-crushing loss to the Denver Broncos in the AFC title game in 1998.
And you wonder why people call this team the Same Ole Jets?
There are a lot of things to pick from this defeat, most obviously the poor coaching and lack of innovation on the offensive side of the ball.
Right from the get go the Jets, for whatever reason, felt a need to start Steve Ridley over Chris Ivory. When asked to explain why Ridley got more touches and plays than Ivory, the best Todd Bowles could say was that Ridley gave the Jets as good a chance to win as Ivory. Such an answer was truly disturbing. There was no reason for Ridley to play more snaps for Ivory. When Ivory did finally touch the football he took off for a 58-yard run down the sideline, then the Jets never went back to him again. Ivory finished with only six carries for 81 yards.
On top of that the mistakes were just plain awful, and they came at the worst possible times. In the first quarter alone, the Jets were flagged twice, once for holding on Chris Ivory and another for illegal touching by Eric Decker after he stepped out of bounds on what would have been a first down. Next to that, Ryan Quigley's 21-yard punt was the straw that broke the camels back, and you could feel the Jets season starting to capsize like a sinking ship.
The Bills responded immediately after the botched punt, with Tyrod Taylor running untouched toward the end zone, before sticking the football over the pylon for the first score of the day to make it 7-0.
After another hideous Jets three and out that included a costly drop by Brandon Marshall on second down, the Bills engineered a 13-play 70-yard drive that consumed six and a half minutes off the clock. While Taylor wasn't spectacular, he was connected with Sammy Watkins three times on the drive, including a 13-yard pass to the Jets 31.
Watkins was the star of the show for Buffalo. He killed the Jets and Darrelle Revis, as the former Pro Bowl corner had no answer for the speedy wide receiver. Watkins wound up with 11 catches for 136 yards. While he never scored a touchdown, his impact kept the Jets defense on the field with one big conversion after another.
The Bills concluded their time consuming drive into the early stages of the second quarter when Karlos Williams scored from one-yard out. While it appeared that Williams was down inside the one, the officials upheld the score, giving Buffalo a 13-0 lead after a missed extra point.
And even at this point, down 13, the Jets still weren't out of it. They had an entire second quarter to try to get back into the game and still found a way to blow it. After that Ivory 58-yard run to the Buffalo 22, the Jets offense stalled, and had no choice but to settle for three. The kick, of course, by Ryan Bullock was wide right.
It just wasn't going to be the Jets day. Another costly missed opportunity for Gang Green came early in the third quarter after the Jets got a big break on a fumble recovery at the Bills 23-yard line. Down 16-7, all the Jets needed was a touchdown and they would be down only two points. Instead Fitzpatrick couldn't connect with Quincy Enunwa on back-to-back passes, with the second killing the Jets when Enunwa dropped the pass. The Jets settled for a field goal to make it 16-10 Bills.
Then suddenly the Jets defense couldn't get a stop. One big down and distance conversion after another, Watkins was in the middle of it all. Watkins helped the Bills convert on three huge plays on this drive, including a 38-yard completion on 1st and 20 at the Bills 30 yard line, and 4th and six at the Jet 28, when he caught another slant pattern for a first down. The Bills would settle for a field goal, but with Watkins effort the Bills ate almost nine minutes off the clock in the third quarter.
And, in typical Jets fashion they still had a chance. Inspite of everything that happened on the day, the Jets still could pull this game out. They answered the Buffalo field goal with a Fitzpatrick touchdown pass to Eric Decker to make it 19-17, and had the football to start the fourth quarter with all the momentum on their side.
Thanks to a couple of big catches by Brandon Marshall and Decker, and aided by a roughing the passer penalty on the Bills, Fitzpatrick had the Jets knocking on the door with 10:48 to go in the game. Then, the clock struck midnight. Ryan Fitzpatrick turned back into the Ryan Fitzpatrick who struggled as a starter in this NFL for so many years. He threw a laser into the end zone only to have it picked off by Leodis McKelvin.
The Jets were dead. With a defense that had no answer for the Bills, it was highly unlikely they would get the ball back down only two points and with enough time to make something happen. And, ironically and as cruel as this Sunday was for Gang Green, the Jets got two more shots, and each time it ended in failure.
Fitzpatrick was picked off by Manny Lawson, when his attempted pass to Marshall on third and nine at the 45 floated into the air and into the hands of Lawson at the two minute warning. Finally, with 17 seconds to go, Fitzpatrick actually connected with Kenbrell Thompkins, but the former Patriots wide out dropped the football. Had he held onto it, he would have been gone for a touchdown, and we would be writing a different recap tonight.
Fittingly the game ended with another Fitzpatrick interception.
The season is now over for the Green and White. You can say it was a successful season based on the fact that the Jets won 10 games this year, but, at the same time it was a total failure. Losing to Rex Ryan is inexcusable. This was a Bills team that had nothing. A Bills team that didn't have LeSean McCoy, who was inactive, and didn't have Karlos Williams for the entire second half. This was a two man wrecking crew of Watkins who torched the Jets on the field, and Ryan, who used his knowledge of his former team to beat them at their own game.
The Jets should be embarrassed by what happened on Sunday. It will take a while for Gang Green to get over it, but the rebuilding process toward 2016 begins in earnest.
GAME NOTES: Muhammad Wilkerson broke his leg in the game and will need surgery and rehab. He is a free agent this year, and will be commanding a big contract in the off-season. Should be interesting to see how and if the Jets meet his demands. Fitzpatrick is also a free agent. His numbers indicate that he should return, but if the quarterback market does improve with some notable names on the trade wire, the Jets should consider all avenues, before committing to him long term.
NOTES: While the Jets playoff schedule did not materialize on Sunday, their 2016 scheduled did materialize. The Jets will see the NFC West and AFC North next year. They will also face the Colts and Chiefs next season since they finished in second place in the AFC East.
HOME: Buffalo, Miami, New England, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Seattle, St. Louis.
ROAD: Buffalo, Miami, New England, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Arizona, San Francisco.