Updated, 5:05 p.m. ET
The Jets came to Buffalo today with their playoff destiny in their hands ... and they left with a bitter taste in their mouths.
A deadly brew of mistakes, bad field position, opponents' ball control and Lake Erie wind gusts spelled disaster for the Jets, who fell to the Bills, 22-17 at Ralph Wilson Stadium this afternoon.
Combined with Pittsburgh's 28-12 win at Cleveland, the Jets (10-6), who would have been in the playoffs with a win or a Steelers loss, fell out of the postseason berth that looked to be theirs as they built their five-game winning streak heading into Orchard Park, NY.
The Bills and former Jets head coach Rex Ryan, meanwhile, got the satisfaction of beating their AFC East foes twice this year by the same score, rising to 8-8, and showing that next year will be no easier a path for the Jets to the playoffs than this season turned out to be.
Photos from the AFC East Divisional Road Matchup at Ralph Wilson Stadium
"I don't think this stage was too big for them," head coach Todd Bowles said afterward. "But at the same time we've got to play smarter than that. ... You're disappointed anytime they don't play well and don't play smart. It just happened to be the last game of the year. We're all grown men. We'll learn from it."
"Give Buffalo credit. They came out and played us extremely tough," MLB David Harris said. "It's unfortunate that we didn't take advantage of this game knowing what was at stake. We didn't make enough plays."
Three Ryan Fitzpatrick interceptions counteracted his two touchdown passes. The second one from the Bills 15 cost the Jets a chance at a go-ahead field goal try. And his last-minute home-run ball to Kenbrell Thompkins, which would have rescued the Green & White playoff hopes, was jarred loose by a well-timed hit by CB Mario Butler.
Here are 10 observations about the Jets' difficult loss to the Bills:
1. Stone Wall at the Start
The Jets defense came out seemingly ready for Tyrod Taylor and company. All of the Bills' first six plays went for zero yards and after Muhammad Wilkerson's third-down-snuffing screen pass tackle, the defense started the game with two 3-and-out series. The defensive control looked good ... but it wouldn't be sustained.
2. Short-Field Shortcomings
But the Buffalo defense was equal to the early challenge and came up with a big field-position win when Ryan Quigley mis-hit a 21-yard punt out of his end zone. The Bills converted big-time against the Jets' red zone defense, which came into the game No. 1 in the NFL, when Taylor scrambled left for 18 yards to the pylon and a 7-0 lead 9:17 into the game.
3. Penalty Tables Turned
The penalty meter was in the Jets' favor to start this game but it swung the Bills' way early on. Three penalties helped keep the Jets offense bottled up in the first quarter and rookie Leonard Williams' unnecessary-roughness call helped moved the Bills closer for their second TD on a 2-yard keeper by rookie RB Karlos Williams and a 13-0 lead.
4. Ivory Eruption
Chris Ivory had been working only third downs behind Stevan Ridley as the starter and without the inactive Bilal Powell as part of the Bowles/Chan Gailey game plan. But Ivory was in for the start of the first drive of the second quarter and his right-tackle burst for 58 yards not only gave the Jets their longest run of the season but lifted Ivory over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. But the best that could be said of the play was that it broke the Jets' horrid field position of the first quarter (15.5-yard-line start to Bills' 46-yard line start) since Fitzpatrick's passes were still knuckling away from receivers and Randy Bullock's 40-yard field goal stayed wide right.
5. Marshall Rises, Milestones Fall
Brandon Marshall had been lying low at the start but erupted on the Jets' second drive of the second quarter, first with a 41-yard grab down the left sideline into the red zone, then for 17 yards on the blitz-beating post to cut the visitors' deficit to 13-7. On the play, Fitzpatrick's 30th TD pass broke the Jets' single-season record that he shared with Vinny Testaverde, while Marshall's 14th receiving TD tied the franchise mark held by Art Powell and Don Maynard and his 64 receiving yards broke Maynard's 1,434-yard mark set in 1967.
"I'm a little numb right now. I have no emotion," Marshall said. "In the end we had our chances and we didn't come through. You've got to take advantage of that moment. That's when you get the chance to make your name. We didn't do that."
6. Possession Drought Continues
Darrelle Revis got his ninth takeaway of the season on the recovery of a fumble forced out of Mike Gillislee's grasp by Damon Harrison. That led to Bullock converting from 39 yards to cut the Jets' deficit to 16-10. But outside of that, Buffalo continued to dominate time of possession and thus the game, much of it through Taylor's 11 completions with WR Sammy Watkins for 136 yards.
En route to Dan Carpenter's 37-yard field goal (34-for-36 career vs. Jets) and a 19-10 lead, Wilkerson left the field with what turned out to be a broken bone in his leg.
7. Decker Joins the Party
Eric Decker, held to one reception in the first half, then jumped into the comeback effort with three receptions, all for first downs and the final one on a third-and-10, step-up 21-yard TD pass from Fitzpatrick. Deck's strike, past S Corey Graham and also on the post route, extended the NFL record held by Deck and Marshall to nine games of teammates catching TD passes in the same game together. With a quarter to play, the Jets were back within a one-score win.
8. Costly Pick
Fitzpatrick and his offense was feeling it again as the unit drove 58 yards to the Bills 14 — go-ahead field goal range — early in the fourth quarter. Then suddenly the Bills were feeling fine with Leodis McKelvin's end zone interception of Fitzpatrick leading Decker too far on the post into end zone. It was only Fitz's second interception of the last six games, yet with 10:43 left, the Jets' margin of error shrunk just a little more.
9. Crushing INT No. 2
Right after the two-minute warning, with two timeouts left, Fitzpatrick dropped back from his 45 on third-and-9 looking for a longball connection. He didn't find the one he was looking for, as, throwing while he was hit by DT Marcell Dareus fighting inside against D'Brickashaw Ferguson, his pass fluttered short and was picked off by LB Manny Lawson with 1:51 to play.
10. The End Game
It looked slim when the Jets got the ball back with 44 seconds left, no timeouts and the ball at their 20. But they came so close to pulling this one out when Fitzpatrick loaded up and threw for a temporarily clear Kenbrell Thompkins down the right sideline. Thompkins had the ball in his hands and had he held onto it after Mario Butler hit him, he would've scored the go-ahead TD. But Butler's well-timed hit jarred the ball loose for a long incompletion.
On the next play, Fitzpatrick threw his third INT of the game to rookie LB A.J. Tarpley and the Jets' hopes, battered the entire game, were finally extinguished in cold, windy Western New York.
"I know we're disappointed. Ten wins wasn't enough for us this year," Fitzpatrick said. "We didn't play well enough to win. Today was our opportunity, we had a chance at the end. That's all you can ask for. And we didn't get it done."