Odds or evens?
Jets head coach Rex Ryan, quarterback Geno Smith and the entire Green & White operation spent the last two weeks sharpening their focus and convincing themselves and their fans that their win-one-lose-one ways were behind them.
But try as Rex did to stress that today's game at Buffalo was an odd-numbered week and therefore time for a big win, it was still Game 10 and we struggled through a game reminiscent of our showings against Tennessee and Cincinnati and dropped a 37-14 verdict to the Bills on a windy day in Western New York.
The loss prevented the Jets' first two-game winning streak of the season, following up on their inspirational home win over the Saints two weeks ago. It dropped the Green & White mark to 5-5, their AFC East record to 2-2, their road ledger to 1-4, and Ryan's record as Jets coach after bye weeks to 1-4. Buffalo, meanwhile, improved to 4-7.
"There's some coaches that give them the entire time off," Rex said of the bye week strategy. "We were kind of in between this one, but our team was fresh. We had two weeks to prepare, we thought we were prepared, had some great practices, and we just didn't execute. Simple as that. And you have to give credit to Buffalo."
And it sets up another gut-check road game next Sunday against the Ravens in Baltimore. Will it be Week 12 or Game 11 that day? A season hangs on that answer.
We breathed life into a to-that-point dismal Jets effort halfway through the third quarter following a muffed Brian Moorman punt snap and 2-yard "rugby kick." Smith found Santonio Holmes, playing for the first time in the last six games, with a 38-yard connection to the 5.
Four plays later, Chris Ivory, following an effective block from "fullback" Sheldon Richardson, converted fourth-and-goal from a foot out. After a booth challenge, ref Bill Leavy confirmed the touchdown and we trailed by 20-7 with 7:18 left in the third quarter.
But EJ Manuel, who lost his first head-to-head match with fellow rookie QB Smith in Week 3 by 27-20, quickly wiped out that glimmer of hope with back-to-back longballs — 40 yards to T.J. Graham past rookie CB Dee Milliner, then 43 yards and the TD to rookie Marquise Goodwin past Antonio Cromartie to open the home team's lead back to 27-7 about 2½ minutes later.
Then Smith, suffering through another giveaway outing, tried to float a pass to Holmes. Instead, S Da'Norris Searcy snagged it and took Smith's third pick of the day 32 yards for a TD — the fourth pick-six thrown by Smith in the last four games — for a 34-7 lead.
That was it for Geno, who ended the day with a 10.1 QB rating, completing eight passes for 103 yards on 23 attempts.
With 12:55 left in the game, Matt Simms came on in relief and led the offense down the field to a 13-yard TD pass to TE Jeff Cumberland with 9:36 to play. It was Simms' first TD pass as a pro and Cumberland's team-leading third scoring reception of the season. And it was too little, too late to change our big-win-bad-loss ways.
Winded in the First Half
The precipitation wasn't as dire as forecast for the start of the game with the rain coming to Western New York early in the morning, then holding off before and during the first half. But the wind, even at around 15 mph, was a big factor as we fell behind, 20-0.
Nick Folk, kicking from 48 yards out into that swirling wind, was wide right, thus ending his quest to equal Jay Feely's franchise-record 24 consecutive field goals. Folk's 23-for-24 was still very nice, but the Jets would need every point they could get as the Bills started to win the field position, big-mistake and takeaway battles.
Also in the opening frame, Smith went down on a hard pressure from Marcell Dareus that put him on the Ralph Wilson turf for a few minutes.
Asked if that hard hit may have impacted Geno in the game, Rex said, "I'm not sure. I think that just knocked the wind out of him."
But the problem appeared to be Smith getting his own personal wind knocked out of him. He came off and Matt Simms came on for one play before returning.
After driving to the Jets 22, the Bills stalled and Dan Carpenter (a Jet for a week back in the summer, you may recall) came on for a 40-yard field goal with 12:44 left in the half toward that same end zone that Folk missed from a short while before.
On Buffalo's next drive into plus territory, the hosts again stalled and were about to pooch-punt on fourth-and-6 from the 38. But Leger Douzable jumped across the line for an offside. Manuel then kept on fourth-and-1 for a first down, and followed that with a mortar shot of a pass that T.J. Graham came back to catch in front of Milliner and run into the end zone for a 34-yard touchdown and a 10-0 lead with 4:13 left.
Two Jets offensive plays later, DT Kyle Williams blasted past LG Brian Winters and applied a blind-side strip-sack to Smith in the pocket that LB Manny Lawson pounced on at the 4. Two plays after that, FB Frank Summers took the quick handoff and muscled into the end zone. Bills, 17-0, with 3:19 to play.
Two more plays and Geno misfired down the middle with his first interception of the day, picked by S Jairus Byrd. That set up Carpenter for a 42-yard try, again into the gusts. But Carpenter dropped it over the bar. Bills 20-0 with 1:15 to go.
Not the first half, nor ultimately the game, that Rex, Geno and the Green & White had in mind.
"I'm putting everything into getting better," Smith said. "We've been up and down all season. You can look at it as the glass is half full or half empty. But we're in a situation where we can go to the playoffs. These last six games are going to be crucial."