Thursday night football provided some surprising offense in its season debut. While there were plenty of points to go around for both teams, defensive stops came at a premium. Let’s break down the three biggest lessons learned from Thursday night.
The New York Jets ended a five consecutive game losing streak to the Bills which dated back to November of 2013. In surprise fashion, it was the Jets offense that lit it up Thursday, accounting for 28 first downs, 374 passing yards, and another 123 on the ground.
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In Week 1 against the Ravens, albeit a small sample size, the Bills defense did a relatively good job on the back end, with the exception of a 66-yard catch and run to receiver Mike Wallace. But on Thursday against the Jets in a true test for the secondary, they faltered. The Jets offense is on a different planet when you compare them to the Ravens, so take that into consideration as well. But I expected Buffalo to at least to show up on the defensive side, and that they did not. If Buffalo repeated their performance from Week 1 to last night, combined with their 31 points, they probably come out on top.
Buffalo head coach spoke on his team’s inconsistencies after the game, via Pro Football Talk. “We have to get a lot better. I mean I thought we played well defensively the first game. We played, I mean, horribly today. And I think it’s the same thing — we played poor on offense the first week, we played pretty good today, so it’s like we got to be consistent,” Ryan said.
“We have to get a lot better. I mean I thought we played well defensively the first game. We played, I mean, horribly today. And I think it’s the same thing — we played poor on offense the first week, we played pretty good today, so it’s like we got to be consistent.”
Going back to the “c” word, consistency is everything in pro football and without it you won’t be on the winning end of very many games. At this point, sitting at 0-2, perhaps it’s not if Ryan gets fired, it’s when.
But now back to school for our lessons learned in this game.
1. The Bills will continue to get beat deep in man coverage
Ryan hired is brother Rob as the defensive coordinator. So far, this experiment is not boding well for either one of them. Ask any Saints fan how Rob Ryan fared as their defensive coordinator as that will sum it up. Look, Rex is notoriously known for his love of man-to-man, bump-and-run press coverage. But he doesn’t have 2009 Revis and Cromartie. Ronald Darby and Stephon Gilmore are good cornerbacks. They’re young and have a boatload of potential to be one of the better cornerback tandems in the game. But frankly, the Ryan brother’s can’t keep putting them in man-to-man positions where there’s a clear mismatch for the corner.
Both are cover corners and play well in man-to-man, but it appeared majority of the time last night the Bills were in pure man schemes, like this one.
Darby, as I mentioned is a good cover corner but there’s no way he can defend this pass with no safety help.
Also, the Bills pass rush was basically non-existent last night. They notched one early sack by outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander but after that, the Jets offensive line took over in pass protection. Buffalo tried to blitz but that seemed to add fuel to the fire as Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was 8/9 with a touchdown when blitzed, per Pro Football Focus.
2. Ryan Fitzpatrick can carry the Jets
Yes, I said it. Fitzpatrick is more than capable of carrying this Jets team to the playoffs. Just look at the weapons he has at his disposal. I’d argue the Jets have the best skill positions on offense in their division and Fitzpatrick utilized each and every one of them Thursday. He hit six different targets, including hitting Eric Decker, Brandon Marshall, and Quincy Enunwa all six times a piece.
The deep passing game for the Jets will serve as their staple for the offense. After throwing just two deep passes last week, Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey opened things up for the offense. They thrived and, sitting at 1-1, are in decent shape to push the Pats to the wire for the AFC East title.
Fitzpatrick earned a 93.1 rating according to PFF. At halftime, he had already completed 9/9 passes on balls traveling 10+ yards downfield. This offense is poised for a breakout season. Year in and year out the Jets have been regarded as a smash-mouth, defensive-oriented team. That has changed with Fitzpatrick at quarterback as his level of play takes the Jets team over the top offensively.
3. LeSean McCoy doesn’t look comfortable in Rex’s scheme
When the Bills traded middle linebacker Kiko Alonso for LeSean McCoy, I didn’t love the move at the time. A year-and-a-half later and I dislike it even more. Although injured for a quarter of the season last year, McCoy had a down year. He rushed for 424 fewer yards than he did in 2014 in Philly and scored just two touchdowns. Two games into the 2016 season and McCoy is on track for yet another down year.
Say what you want about him, but I fully believe he has plenty of juice in the tank. It’s not a question regarding health for McCoy right now. He doesn’t look comfortable in this running scheme. We’re all aware of the big north-south running backs Rex utilized in New York in Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene. Karlos Williams appeared to be that back but his lack of discipline in the offseason led to him being cut in August by the Bills.
McCoy signed a five-year, $40 million contract with the Bills. He’s under contract until 2020 when he’ll be an unrestricted free agent. In order for him to preserve his career, I think something needs to change, meaning McCoy needs to be dealt. It’s not working out in Buffalo but it’s not entirely his fault. He has plenty of good football left if he can find the right team.