The Buffalo Bills have clinched their second straight division title with their 27-10 Week 18 win over the New York Jets, paving the way for the team to host a playoff game next weekend.
The Bills started this game hot, but lulled around far too much in the second and third quarters offensively while the Jets were incapable of doing much of anything offensively all day. The Jets defense played admirably, tackling well and playing good coverage, but ultimately Buffalo had lots of opportunities that it didn’t take advantage of when they could during the middle portions of the game. Ultimately their performance in the fourth quarter allowed them to pull away and make it an easy win, and the Bills winning 11 games this season should absolutely be celebrated as they head into the postseason.
Below we’ll take a look at the most inspiring part of the game, the part that left some questions out there, the players that require a better effort, and the most irksome part of the game.
Inspire: Defense & Pass Rush
The defense was absolutely unrelenting in giving the Jets one final nightmare to end the season. The Bills’ defense was given poor field position for much of the game as punter Matt Haack struggled in the first half, following a disallowed punt for 28 yards with punts for 21 and 22. It didn’t matter as the Bills only surrendered 10 points to an undermanned and outmatched Jets offense.
Frankly, had Jordan Poyer gone for the PBU instead of the interception on the Keelan Cole score, the Jets wouldn’t have had a touchdown, either. Perhaps they might manage to score one later, but based on how the rest of the game went, that hypothetical seems extremely unlikely. Mario Addison, and the aforementioned Poyer had two sacks each. Ed Oliver continued his breakout season, notching a sack and a half, with AJ Epenesa and Boogie Basham each getting a sack of their own, and Jerry Hughes getting half a sack. The Bills also stacked 10 TFL’s on top of the 9 sacks, giving the Jets absolutely zero options and answers to counter what the Bills and Leslie Frazier were throwing at them.
Inquire: Timeout Management
An admittedly minor detail in this win in particular, but a sequence in the first half deserves some questioning. The Bills’ used their first timeout to prevent a delay of game on an earlier drive, but then faced with fourth-and-one near midfield, the Bills went with a dummy call to try and lure the Jets offsides, which is a common, if largely unsuccessful, strategy that the Bills use. The problem is that McDermott chose to use a timeout to save five yards… and then they punted.
Ben Baldwin’s 4th down bot on Twitter showed a “Strong go for it” in that situation, but in a largely defensive game, the decision to punt isn’t a bad one. However, if you do choose to punt in that situation, there’s absolutely no reason to not take the delay of game penalty, back up 5 yards, and just punt from there. For whatever reason, and this particular writer would like to know what that reason is, McDermott felt the need to take a timeout there, and it ended up affecting the Bills’ final drive of the first half, as they got down inside the Jets’ five-yard line, but couldn’t finish with a TD given the time they had left. Timeouts are too important and valuable to waste on a negligible punt play, take the delay of game, keep the timeout for when you need it in critical moments.
Require: Communication between Allen and his WRs
Several drops and miscommunications created a very sloppy game from the Bills’ WRs, who are typically the primary focus of this pass-heavy offense. A series that included three straight obvious miscommunications from Allen and WRs Gabriel Davis and Stefon Diggs created a frustrating scene for Bills fans, and while ultimately it didn’t matter given the final score, this is not something you want to see just before the playoffs start. This is not a new offense, and they’re not installing whole sections of the playbook in the final week of the regular season, there shouldn’t be this much miscommunication between receiver and QB. This offense relies heavily on option routes from WRs, where the receivers have choices to run a route based on the coverage being presented. The QB also has to read the coverage and leverage of the DB in the same way, so that the ball is thrown to the spot where the receiver is expecting. It’s clear that something was off today in how things were being read, and they’ll need to clean that up immediately.
Irk: Special Teams
Speaking of things that need immediate cleanup, the special teams were borderline abysmal for the Bills on Sunday. An early-tipped punt made it look like the Bills would have the advantage on special teams, but Haack struggled almost all day. Haack had several shanks that went for less than 30 yards, and a bobbled snap forced a panic kick that went eight yards, and was penalized given how late the punt was.
As I’ve talked about earlier in an article about Tyler Bass, Haack’s value to this team doesn’t come from being a great punter, it comes from being a great holder, and it’s led to a lot more consistency from Tyler Bass this year. If Haack were even consistently average, it wouldn’t be a problem, but he is far too hot and cold to be trusted this season. At this point, it’s too late to find a new punter, but it’s a problem for this team. And once again, the return game was a problem, as Isaiah McKenzie had another fumble on a punt return and struggled to field the ball cleanly. Micah Hyde was brought in and shockingly actually chose to return a few of those punts, but also seemed to take a bit of a risky chance on a bounce on one punt in particular. Overall, it’s an unfortunate combination of special teams play that could lead to a major play against a playoff opponent that can take advantage of those sorts of mistakes where the Jets were incapable of doing that. The Bills need to be cautious and smart when it comes to special teams during the postseason.
The Bills have gotten hot at the right time, and are carrying the best defense in the NFL into the playoffs with them. They are a force to be reckoned with, but every playoff team is there for a reason, and each team thinks it’s their time. There’s no looking past to another team, it’s what the months of regular-season lead up to. Let the hunt for the Super Bowl begin.