The spirit was willing but the flesh was sometimes weak and the elements were mostly adverse as the Jets attempted to score their first season-series sweep of the Bills in six years and really scramble the AFC East and American Conference playoff picture at rainy, sometimes snowy Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, NY, today.
The Jets looked as if they were finding some of their second-half magic in tying the score at 7-7 on undrafted rookie RB Zonovan "Bam" Knight's 13-yard touchdown run in the first five minutes of the third quarter. From there the Bills rose up with 10 points on their next two drives and the Jets, despite opportunities in the final six minutes to perhaps force a 20-20 tie and overtime, fell to their division rivals, 20-12.
As a result their record fell to 7-6 while the Bills' record rose to 10-3 atop the AFC East. Wins by the Patriots on Monday night at Arizona and by the Chargers over the Dolphins tonight could nudge the Green & White from seventh place and the last playoff spot in the AFC grid down to ninth. They'll need the healing qualities of MetLife Stadium for their next two games, against Detroit and vs. Jacksonville on Thursday Night Football, to climb back into the thick of the chase.
The Jets also sustained some injuries that didn't help their showing in Western New York. WR Corey Davis exited early, DL Quinnen Williams departed with a non-contact calf injury. And QB Mike White was knocked out of the game twice by hard Bills pass-rush hits but returned after short exams to retake the Jets offensive reins.
White finished with 27-of-44 passing for 268 yards and rookie WR Garrett Wilson teamed up with Knight to contribute 78 yards on six catches, breaking Keyshawn Johnson's 1996 rookie receiving yardage record in the process. The Jets defense, meanwhile, held Buffalo to 232 yards and sacked him three times but couldn't turn the Bills over.
The Jets made it interesting if not nailbiting with rookie Jermaine Johnson's blocked-punt safety midway through the final frame and the ensuing drive toward the Bills' red zone. But RB Michael Carter lost a fumble at the 23 with less than six minutes to play.
They got the ball back at their 36 with 3:13 to play and all three timeouts but the margin of error for a fourth 10-points-plus comeback win kept getting smaller and smaller. Greg Zuerlein kicked a 26-yard field goal with 1:18 left to cut their deficit to 20-12.
C.J. Mosley made a big stop of Josh Allen on a third-and-6 keeper to force one more Sam Martin punt and give the Jets the slimmest of chances to tie the game, taking over at their 21 with 46 seconds on the clock and one timeout left. White dropped back four times but threw four incompletions and it was over.
Second Half: Stayin' Alive
After their waterlogged first half, the Jets came out with a remarkable opening drive in the second half. They moved 72 yads on 10 plays as White converted third-and-12 with a 13-yarder to Garrett Wilson, then a third-and-10 with a 25-yard dime to Braxton Berrios.
The Jets got into the red zone on a C.J. Uzomah catch, but instead of being their graveyard as it was at Minnesota, the Jets got new life as Knight worked his magic again, shaking, rattling and rolling to a 13-yard touchdown to tie the score at 7-7.
With their showing on that drove. the Jets improved their third-down performance in the game to 5-of-10, remarkable considering their average down-and-distance was third-and-12.1. The last time they finished with a larger down-and-distance was 1989 at San Diego, when they averaged third-and-13.1 yet still beat the Chargers, 20-17.
That was still looking difficult in this game since the Bills responded to the tie by untying the score with a six-play, 75-yard dash to Allen's 5-yard touchdown keeper and a 14-7 edge midway through the third quarter.
On the Green & White's next series, White went down again, this time on a crushing blitz hit by LB Matt Milano. Joe Flacco, who came in for two plays when White left on an earlier jarring hit, was stripped in the pocket on his first play, with edge Greg Rousseau administering the strip and the recovery at the Jets 44.
The Jets defense stiffened so the Bills brought on K Tyler Bass for his first field goal try of the day, which he converted from 38 yards for a 17-7 Buffalo lead with 2:07 left in the third period. One drive later, Bass came on for an encore, a 49-yarder that sliced through the precipitation and then through the uprights to increase Buffalo's lead to 20-7 with 12:23 to play.
See the best images from the Week 14 matchup between the Jets and Bills in Buffalo.
First Half: Wet and Close to the Vest
The Jets defense opened strong, with a 3-and-out on the game's opening series, then a big-play second series that featured Sauce Gardner's defense of Allen's long throw toward the goal line for elevated practice squad WR John Brown, then a third-down sack of Allen by Quinnen Williams to force two more punts.
It was the first time the Bills punted in their first three series vs. the Jets since 2019, when they punted on their first four possessions in the Jets' 13-6 win.
Then on the fourth possession, Williams notched his second sack of and team-leading 11th of the season.
But while the Bills gained 56 yards and punted to start the game, the White offense couldn't get much more traction than the Allen offense in the rainy conditions, gaining 65 yards and also punting four times.
On Braden Mann's punt No. 4, Bills PR Nyheim Hines reeled off a 23-yard return to midfield.
And on the first play, Williams went down to the soggy Highmark Stadium turf without being hit. He eventually got up and walked off gingerly to the blue examination tent on the Jets sideline.
With the Bills stopped again and punting, the Jets took over on offense, White delivered a 24-yard completion to Elijah Moore at midfield, but he took a hard shot from DT Ed Oliver and walked off slowly and Joe Flacco came on. But Flacco got only two snaps in before White returned. Didn't matter, though, because the Jets then punted for the fifth time as well.
And for Buffalo, the sixth time was the charm. They moved 70 yards in seven plays, spurred along by C.J. Mosley's rare encroachment penalty when Allen was trying to draw the Jets offside on fourth-and-a-foot at the Buffalo 39, then a hold on Jets nickel Michael Carter II. That set up Allen's toss to TE Dawson Knox, who motored all the way to a double-midair-hit somersault across the goal line with 26 seconds left in the first half for the game's first score and a 7-0 halftime lead.