Updated, 1:05 a.m. Friday ET
Some talked of this Thursday night meeting in terms of a chess match, others in terms of a fashion show. But it was more like Todd Bowles' 16-round boxing match all in one night in the Jets' 22-17 loss to the Bills at MetLife Stadium.
Both teams seeming tight and tested each other out early, defenses prevailing. Then in the second quarter red-clad Buffalo started to open some cuts, with help from two Jets turnovers. In the third they started landing bigger blows with their LeSean McCoy-led running game.
Finally the Jets, in Kelly green uniforms for the night, climbed off the canvas too late. They scored answering touchdowns on Ryan Fitzpatrick passes to Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. But they frittered away a chance to take the lead with a gift red zone TD with 5:12 left.
So Rex Ryan's return to his home office of the previous six seasons proved successful as the Bills raised their record to 5-4 and the Jets dropped to the same, both tied behind the undefeated Patriots in the AFC East.
"I have a level of concern when we lose. I don't have a level of concern of where the team's at," Bowles said after the Jets absorbed their third loss in four games and fell to 1-2 in the division. "I know we're going to fight hard every game. We have to execute better. We have to play better situational football. ... It was a hard-fought game. They made better plays than we made and they won the turnover battle."
Here are nine more observations on tonight's tough Jets loss:
1. Ivory's Back
RB Chris Ivory had been bottled up for three games but he broke out midway through the first quarter. His first big play was a 36-yard catch-and-run from Fitzpatrick to the Bills 23, then he went for 10 yards into the red zone. The Jets stalled but Randy Bullock then came and drilled his first field goal try in seven weeks (or since Houston waived him) from 29 yards out and the Jets, not the team wearing the red unis, drew first blood for a 3-0 lead with 4:01 left in the first quarter.
Other than his first lost fumble of the season, Ivory returned to form with 99 rushing yards and 135 from scrimmage.
2. Fitz Off Target
Fitzpatrick had shown a deft short and mid-range touch even after his left thumb was wrapped for the Jaguars game. But he and his receivers were out of sync in the first half. He completed just five of 17 passes, with a number off target and one deep down the middle slipping through the grasp of a leaping Marshall and into the hands of S Corey Graham for an interception to set up Buffalo's first points of the game. He found some range in the second half but still finished under 50% at 15-of-34 for 193 yards, two TDs and two INTs.
3. Devin Good and Bad
Devin Smith's first catch in three weeks was also a career-long 22-yarder on an in-cut that converted a third down in the second quarter. But after a Buffalo FG, Smith got the first kickoff return of his young career and it didn't go well. He ranged to the left side of the end zone to field Jordan Gay's kick, then ran back to the right, was hit, and as he was going to ground had the ball punched out by Bacarri Rambo. Duke Williams scooped up the loose ball and ran 19 yards for the return TD and a 9-3 lead with 5:38 left in the half.
4. Bad Sandwich
Using the Belichick method, or the Rex method, the Bills, who won the opening toss and deferred, drove for that late first-half field goal, then got the ball back to start the third quarter, and kept right on moving, to Taylor's pass to a wide-open rookie RB Karlos Williams for a 26-yard score and a 19-3 lead.
5. Turnovers Kill
The offensive malaise got to Ivory, who had the ball ripped from his grasp at the end of a 3-yard run at the Jets 23 by Rambo, who forced the Devin Smith fumble earlier. Buffalo cashed that field position in with Carpenter's third field goal, from 29 yards, and the visitors had upped the ante to a 22-3 lead with 12 of the points coming off of turnovers. The Jets have lost their ability to gain a takeaway advantage against the Bills at home. Last 10 games: minus-9 turnover margin.
6. Tying One On
Muhammad Wilkerson flashed around the Bills backfield all night. His second-quarter sack of Tyrod Taylor prevented a field goal attempt and forced a punt, and his third-quarter sack helped force the Bills to settle for three instead of seven. The two sacks gave No. 96 a team-leading seven for the season. Unfortunately, similar to last week against Miami, Buffalo was moving better on the ground (148 yards for the game) than through the air (132 yards).
7. Crucial Juncture
The Jets had the fans on their side as they marched toward the red zone again at the start of the final period. But on third-and-2 from the 20, Decker couldn't hold Fitzpatrick's pass for a first down. And on fourth down, rather than go for a field goal, the call was a wide throw at the line to Marshall, who was well-covered for a 2-yard loss and a disappointing loss on downs.
8. Comeback Bid
But then the Jets rose up to cut the deficit to 22-17 with 7:23 to play on Fitzpatrick's down-the-middle lob to Decker. The 31-yard connection was the duo's seventh TD of the game — and their first that wasn't a red zone score — and it got the MetLife crowd back on their feet. But did the Kelly Green & White have enough time.
9. Bad Snap from Heaven
With a 3-and-out stop at the Bills 28, punter Colton Schmidt was looking to get the visitors out of trouble. Instead, they got in deeper with an errant snap by Garrison Sanborn and Jamari Lattimore's tackle of Schmidt at the Bills 13. The Jets had the ball with 5:12 to play in the red zone and needing a touchdown to take the lead.
Instead, they couldn't move it from second-and-2, with a pair of 1-yard losses and Fitzpatrick's fade that was too high for TE Kellen Davis in the right side of the end zone. Opportunity wasted.
The Jets got the ball back with 24 seconds left and no timeouts at their 36. Fitzpatrick's second INT of the game — Rambo getting involved in his third TA of the game — ended it.