Even with plenty of Canadian support, turns out the Buffalo Bills have the same problems on both sides of the border.
In what has become a familiar plight, an inexperienced offensive line and porous run defense contributed to Buffalo’s 19-13 loss to the New York Jets at Toronto on Thursday.
A fairly loud announced crowd of about 51,000 – there were numerous ticket giveaways – was enthusiastic and energetic in a contest that the Bills had a chance to win as the fourth quarter began.
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“The fans were great,” receiver Terrell Owens said. “They were into it, and there was definitely some excitement.”
But after scoring 24 fourth-quarter points in last Sunday’s win over Miami, the Bills could not build off that momentum or the vocal crowd. They instead reverted back to form and let the game slip away in the final 15 minutes.
Down a touchdown with 2:32 to go, Buffalo (4-8) saw its chance evaporate in two plays when quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was sacked by Jets defensive lineman Shaun Ellis and then threw an interception to cornerback Darrelle Revis.
Fitzpatrick was hurried throughout the game, and was sacked three times as he completed just 9 of 23 passes for a 98 yards. He wasn’t helped when starting right tackle Kirk Chambers left the game in the first half with an injured left ankle, and was replaced by Jamon Meredith.
The Bills were able to start the same five offensive linemen for the second straight game for only the second time this season, but it didn’t last.
“It showed in our protection and our inability to run the ball effectively in the second half,” interim coach Perry Fewell said on Friday before adding that Chambers should be fine. “Because of the lack of continuity and consistency, we struggled with Kirk going down.”
“I got hit a little, but you’re always going to get hit,” Fitzpatrick said. “You have to be able to step into those and make the throws. It was just frustrating all around. Some of it was them out-scheming us and bringing guys that we couldn’t block. That was an issue, but it wasn’t our only issue.”
Indeed. The Bills offense converted just one of its 11 third-down opportunities and the defense again was gashed by an opponent’s running attack that sliced and diced its way to 249 yards.
Coming in, Buffalo had allowed a league-worst 165 yards-per-game rushing.
“We’re not happy with that,” middle linebacker Paul Posluszny said. “When it came down to it, we didn’t get off the field. We felt like we fought hard, but didn’t stop the run as well as we wanted to.”
Adding to the Bills‘ misery was New York’s ability to keep drives alive with key plays. Quarterback Mark Sanchez hit Jerricho Cotchery for a 45-yard gain on third-and-5 two plays before Braylon Edwards caught a 13-yard touchdown pass to give the Jets (6-6) a 16-10 halftime lead.
The Jets then converted a third-and-12 at the Buffalo 42 late in the third quarter on a drive that was capped by Jay Feely‘s 37-yard field goal to make it 19-10 early in the fourth.
“They had a really good scheme,” Fewell said. “We definitely missed some opportunities to get off the field, which let them continue to run the ball and pound the ball at us.”
Fewell said linebacker Chris Draft, who didn’t finish because of a neck injury, was going to be fine.