ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- It was a rough night for the Buffalo Bills in the shadows of New York City as they put forth their worst performance of the season on national TV, a 34-21 setback to the New York Jets.
And what may have been the most disappointing aspect of the defeat was that the Bills, at least according to running back LeSean McCoy, came out flat and weren't fully engaged.
"Our intensity wasn't high," McCoy said. "I felt like we were lackadaisical. Small mistakes that we haven't made in the past we made today. It started in the beginning of the game ... tonight we just didn't bring it."
The Jets certainly looked like the team that was better prepared to play, and they were also energetic in front of their home crowd, and for some reason, the Bills never had a response. The Jets won the game up front as both of Buffalo's lines were overwhelmed.
"Well, it starts up front every week; it does," said head coach Sean McDermott. "We need to do a better job of establishing the line of scrimmage early in the game. Again, give credit to the Jets."
What was interesting is that the Bills have been in every game this season, but this one got out of hand in the second half. The Bills' largest deficit had been just seven points, but they gave up an early touchdown in the third quarter that made it 17-7, and from there they crumbled as New York ultimately scored 27 points in a row to open a 34-7 lead.
"I think adversity hit us and we didn't respond well, particularly myself," said McCoy. "I didn't play well at all. I took it as a challenge knowing guys were coming in here trying to stop me, stop the run, and I didn't respond well at all. It's something we have to work at. We're not going to panic. This is good for us, I think - some humble pie. A lot of people kind of doubted us, then we started winning games and people pat us on the back and (told) us how good we are and then you see what happened tonight. So, in the grand scheme of things, I think it's probably good for us."
The Bills made the game-time decision to not play wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, and it was probably the prudent choice. Benjamin did not have a bye week when he was with Carolina, and Buffalo's bye week is already past, so this was an opportunity to give him a week off. Plus, just as important, he had no practice time with the Bills as they traveled to New York the day after he was acquired.
"He really only had a short amount of time to get up to speed," said head coach Sean McDermott. "The guys that did play put in time during the week and so we wanted to do things the right way as far as that goes."
McDermott said Friday that Benjamin is staying in Buffalo even though the team has the weekend off so that he can get with the coaches and the playbook so he can hit the ground running next week when the team begins to prepare for the Saints game.
Rookie wide receiver Zay Jones has had a difficult season, but he reached the halfway point on the upswing. He set career highs with six catches for 53 yards against the Jets, and he also scored his first NFL touchdown, a 10-yard grab in the second quarter. Jones looked more confident in his route running, and he caught everything he could get his hands on, which had been a problem earlier.
On the downside, he hurt his knee in the game and had to be helped off the field, and while he did return to play, his status moving forward after the weekend off will have to be monitored.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor said of Jones, "He's a warrior. He wants to be out there on the field. He wants to compete. He's a confident guy. I hope the injury isn't too bad. I want him out there on the field because I know his passion for the game and how he wants to be out there."
Add guard Richie Incognito to the list of players who hate playing on Thursday Night Football. Incognito was asked about this after the game, and he made some pointed remarks.
"You know, it's tough, man. These Thursday night games, they suck," he said. "They throw a wrench in our schedule. It's absolutely ridiculous that we have to do this. As physical as this game is and as much preparation that goes into this, to force us to play games on four-day weeks, it's completely unfair and bull----. Whatever. The league makes money off of it, and that's all they care about anyway."
Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said complaining about Thursday games and the difficulty they present is making an excuse because as he pointed out, the Jets were in the same situation. And head coach Sean McDermott said, "Obviously, they were challenged with the same short week as us and had the same amount of time to prepare. Again, give them credit."
MIDSEASON REPORT CARD
--PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus - The Bills have just not been able to sustain any semblance of an aerial game, and there are myriad reasons. First and foremost, the receiving corps is one of the weakest in the NFL, which is why the Bills made the trade to acquire WR Kelvin Benjamin. TE Charles Clay has missed the last three games and his absence has hurt. And the offensive line is struggling to protect QB Tyrod Taylor. Taylor has actually played pretty well this season, but he rarely puts up big numbers, though in the same vein, he has turned the ball over only three times.
--RUSHING OFFENSE: C-plus - The Bills have had some games where they looked like the team that led the NFL in rushing the past two years. But there have also been games where they've been shut down by opponents who loaded up the box and made a concerted effort to stop LeSean McCoy. McCoy has two 100-yard games, but he's also had games of 9, 21 and 25 yards, and the Bills lost two of those games. The Bills must run well to be effective on offense, and there's been too much inconsistency.
--PASS DEFENSE: C - The Bills' pass rush has been invisible, especially in the second quarter of the season, and they now rank 29th in sacks per pass attempt. On the plus side, the Bills have intercepted 11 passes and also forced a couple fumbles by receivers after pass receptions. Rookie CB Tre'Davious White has played like a first-round pick and he's been traveling with the opposition's best receiver in some games. SS Micah Hyde leads the NFL in interceptions with five, and FS Jordan Poyer has been a surprisingly solid player and a playmaker. They have allowed too many yards, though, ranking 29th in that category.
--RUSH DEFENSE: B-plus - Prior to Thursday night's meltdown against the Jets when they allowed 194 yards, the run defense ranked third in the NFL, allowing just 80 yards per game. The Bills have gotten solid production from the defensive tackle rotation that no longer includes the traded Marcell Dareus, but still has Kyle Williams, Adolphus Washington and Jerel Worthy. DE Shaq Lawson has also been very good against the run. At the linebacker level, Preston Brown piles up tackles, but rarely are they for lost yardage. Ramon Humber has also been reliable, though he missed three games with a thumb injury.
--SPECIAL TEAMS: B - Stephen Hauschka currently has an NFL record-tying streak of 12 consecutive makes from beyond 50 yards. Overall for the Bills, he has made 16 of 18 field goals and all 18 extra points. Punter Colton Schmidt has a 41.4 net average with 15 punts downed inside the 20. The return game has been mostly blase with Brandon Tate serving most of the time on punts and kickoffs; he has a 40-yard punt return and a 26-yard punt return, but that's about it. The kickoff coverage has been spotty, ranking 20th, but the punt coverage team ranks sixth, partly due to Schmidt's hang-time skill.
--COACHING: B - Head coach Sean McDermott has squeezed five victories in eight games from a roster that is not stocked with top-end talent and is painfully thin in several areas. However, it may be difficult to repeat that performance in the second half with two games against the Patriots and one each against the Saints and Chiefs on tap, plus two division games against Miami. The offensive staff hasn't been able to establish consistency in the passing game, while the defense has been tremendously opportunistic in terms of taking the ball away, but it has also been yielding far too much yardage in recent weeks.