Buffalo Bills: Three stars from Saturday’s win vs. Baltimore

The Buffalo Bills are headed to the AFC Championship Game for the first time since 1994 after a dominant second half against Baltimore.

A celebration 27 years in the making commenced in Orchard Park on Saturday night.

Stefon Diggs earned 106 yards on eight receptions, one of which went for a score, while cornerback Taron Johnson returned an interception 101 yards for another. Both scores came in the third quarter and allowed the Bills (15-3) to pick up a 17-3 lead over the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Divisional playoffs.

The Bills now awaited the winner of the other leg of the AFC Divisional round, with the matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns set to go down on Sunday (3:05 p.m. ET, CBS). If Cleveland wins, the conference championship will be held at Orchard Park, while the Bills will hit the road if Kansas City triumphs.

ESM has three stars who played a major role in Saturday’s game…

3rd Star: WR Stefon Diggs

Stefon Diggs and the Divisional playoff round…after the Minneapolis Miracle and providing the biggest offensive spark on Saturday, it’s hard to find a better combination. Josh Allen wasn’t his usual 2020-21 self, but captured a semblance of it with Diggs, particularly during the game-changing 66-yard drive to open the second half. Facing a brutal 2nd-and-16 after a Pernell McPhee sack, Allen went to Diggs for a 20-yard gain that put the Bills back in Baltimore territory. After some collaboration with Devin Singletary, Allen found Diggs for the score that gave the Bills the lead for good, a three-yard pass to make it a 10-3 game.

2nd Star: CB Taron Johnson

Johnson may not be a household name quite yet, but arguably no one has done more to shift postseason momentum to the Buffalo side than Johnson. One week ago during the Wild Card round, Johnson’s crucial goal-line tackle of Jonathan Taylor on third-and-goal led to a turnover-on-downs and prevented Indianapolis from taking a scary two-possession lead. This time around, Johnson’s shifting became NFL history, as he took back a Lamar Jackson interception 101 yards for a touchdown, tying an NFL playoff record that George Teague held by himself for 27 years.

1st Star: DE Jerry Hughes

One of the Bills’ rare leftovers from their 17-year playoff drought…which becomes more distant of a memory with each passing victory…Hughes played a major role in making Jackson and the Baltimore run game feel uncomfortable. Hughes posted his second multi-sack playoff game in Buffalo (his first coming during their postseason cameo in Houston last year) with two takedowns and two other quarterback hits. The latter category might’ve been even bigger than his sacks. One play before Johnson’s pick-six to glory, pressure from Hughes forced Jackson to rush his pass to a wide-open Marquise Brown. The resulting incompletion paved the way for Johnson to make history and for the Bills’ conference title game dreams become an even truer reality.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Buffalo Bills: Beating the Patriots officially changes AFC East guard

The Buffalo Bills were division champions either way, but a national display of power meant a little more considering who it came against.

Trophies for division titles don’t exist in the NFL. There was no trophy ceremony after the Buffalo Bills won their first AFC East honor last weekend in the Rocky Mountains. Sure, a good portion of Bills Mafia flocked to Buffalo Niagara International Airport to welcome them home, but there was no, say, sword or official championship belt to display upon landing.

But the Bills were more than happy to stage a coronation ceremony in front of a national audience on Monday night.

Granted their fourth consecutive nationally televised contest, the Bills added insult to the New England Patriots’ injury to the tune of a 38-9 shellacking at Gillette Stadium. Buffalo (12-3) dominated every aspect of the victory, outgaining New England 474-201, limiting them to 11 first downs, forcing a quarterback change that signified that the search for Tom Brady’s successor is anything but over, and causing the eternally stoic Belichick to lose his cool on an innocent sideline phone.

The victory is the Patriots’ most one-sided loss of the Belichick era and the worst endured at the modern Foxboro stadium since its 2002 opening.

On paper, the victory over a Patriots team that fell to 6-9 on the season. Buffalo did what they were supposed to do. They did a little thing, thoroughly defeat a squad removed from the playoff picture, extraordinarily well.

But there’s no denying that the opponent played a role in Buffalo’s elation.

“We’re nobody’s little brother. We’re not nobody’s little cousin, little dog,” offensive lineman Dion Dawkins said of the win, per Sean T. McGuire of NESN. “We are here. You’re going to respect us and you’re going to play us hard. You’re going to circle us on your schedule.”

Monday marked the exorcising of horrifying gridiron demons beyond imagination, malevolent football spirits that had haunted Western New York since the turn of the century. The two most dreaded days in Buffalo in recent years…other than opening night of Sabres season…have been the yearly get-togethers with the Patriots. New England entered 2020 with a downright jaw-dropping 35-5 advantage in the new millennium. One of the rare Buffalo victories came when Brady was serving a suspension for his role in the infamous “Deflategate” incident.

But with Brady having absconded to Tampa Bay (and joining the Bills in the NFL playoffs), the Patriots have fallen and the questions have only accumulated. The Bills took a hard-fought 24-21 decision from New England in the Orchard Park portion in November and had a chance to earn their first double against the Patriots since 1999. They entered the game as Foxboro favorites and were in no danger whatsoever of losing their status as division champion.

A nationally televised opportunity to earn that elusive sweep, however, was a perfect chance to stage a changing of the guard through symbolism often found only in storybooks.

The Patriots’ utter dominance in the Buffalo series often served as fuel toward their unprecedented streak of AFC East titles, winning all but three since 2000. Those wins over the Bills (as well as wins over fellow also-rans from East Rutherford and Miam) were unimpressive and easy to dismiss on paper. But New England did those little things extraordinarily well, and did so on a consistent basis. It’s part of the reason why they have, more often than not, been among at least the final four contenders come Super Bowl time.

Buffalo’s synergy in symbolism and the timing of one of their most dominant efforts in recent memory could not have been better. Whereas New England faces indefinite questions about their franchise quarterback slot after Cam Newton was mercifully pulled from the proceedings for Jarrett Stidham, Josh Allen threw four more touchdown passes and strengthened his MVP case. The Patriots’ shortcomings on both the free agent and draft fronts were made all the more apparent through the efforts of Buffalo acquisitions like Stefon Diggs (9 receptions, 145 yards, 3 touchdowns). Shown to be unstoppable to opposing defense over the past few weeks, Allen and Diggs have also laid waste to the Bills’ record books, shattering historic marks left and right en route to AFC East supremacy. Diggs is now the Bills’ single-season leader in receptions and yardage, surpassing campaigns from Eric Moulds, while Allen broke Jim Kelly’s long-standing touchdown pass record.

Elsewhere, day three depth gem Siran Neal, normally a safety, channeled his high school days at Miami Killian and picked up a first down through a fake punt reception from fellow former Cougar Jaquan Johnson…another choice found at the tail-end of the draft.

Those who bore the most brutal form of New England-based punishment played their part in the victory as well. Reserve tight end Lee Smith, used primarily for his blocking talents, scored a four-yard touchdown that permanently shifted momentum after a New England scoring drive…one that proved to be their last thanks to a sterling defensive effort from a Bills defense featuring Jerry Hughes. Smith and Hughes are the lone holdovers from Buffalo’s 17-year playoff drought and the New England nightmares that came with it.

There was no better way for Buffalo to inform New England that there was a new sheriff in town and to warn the rest of the NFL that their Super Bowl dreams are just as legitimate as those conjured in Kansas City.

“We’re going to come out swinging out the gate. That’s just Buffalo Bills football,” Hughes said in a report from Matt Parrino of Syracuse.com. “We find a way to put our backs against the wall, that’s our mentality. Once that kickoff happens, you’re getting us. You’re getting dogs, you’re getting controlled aggression. We’re coming at you.”

“This is an organization, being the Patriots, that (has) given the Bills fits over the years,” Bills head coach Sean McDermott said in the postgame, per Sal Maiorana of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. “It’s a win in both games against the Patriots and then to win the way we did tonight, I think it just speaks volumes about our players and coaches and the team that (general manager Brandon Beane) has put on the field.”

Hughes was all too gleeful to add that, after years of enduring New England’s bullying, it was fun to be on the dealing end of it.

“I was telling some of the guys on the sideline, I haven’t had this feeling in Foxborough ever,” Hughes said in the Parrino update. “This was a nice feeling to come back here in this stadium and return a nice punch in the face. It felt good.”

One could write a book about the dubious streaks this magical season has ended. Buffalo knows their most vital streaks…particularly those of postseason futility…loom large.

But this slaying of the metaphorical New England dragon shouldn’t just scare the Patriots’ faithful…but the rest of the league as the playoffs approach.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Buffalo Bills: Division clinch means everything to playoff drought leftovers

The Buffalo Bills’ AFC East title meant just a little more to Jerry Hughes and Lee Smith, the two leftovers from their lean years.

Arguing over who is most deserving of the Bills’ long-awaited division title is extraordinarily moot. The team has captured its success through a strong sense of unity and would likely scoff at such a debate. But it’s safe to say that this one might mean a little something more to Jerry Hughes and Lee Smith.

No one on the current Bills roster has played more games with a charging pair of buffalo on their helmet than Hughes and Smith, respectively serving as a defensive lineman and reserve tight end. Hughes has partaken in 103 games since coming over in a 2013 trade with Indianapolis while Smith has shown up in 80 contests over two Buffalo stints. In comparison, guard Dion Dawkins and long snapper Reid Ferguson, both 2017 arrivals, are next on the list with 62.

As the longest-tenured Bills on the roster, Hughes and Smith are the only players in Western New York to play on-field witnesses to the dryest spell in Buffalo football history: a 17-year playoff drought that becomes a distant memory with each passing week. This historic season has seen the end of many dubious steaks, including an AFC East division title drought that has stopped at a quarter-century. A good part of Hughes and Smith’s respective tenures, however, have been consumed by building those streaks, even if they personally had little to no role in the gridiron malarkey.

Hughes, for example, has been one of the more reliable veteran pass rushers in football since debuting as a first-round pick of the Colts in 2010. Since the 2012 season, only nine weeks of regular season NFL football have been played without Hughes taking the field…and that’s only because his team had a bye week. In that span, Hughes ranks in the top 25 in sacks (55), quarterback hits (120), and tackles for a loss (80). Hughes has seen his share of individual accolades as well, appearing on NFL Network’s Top 100 Players list in 2015 (No. 63).

But the lack of team success always irritated Hughes. While he partook in a pair of playoff games during his three years with the Colts, he was subjected to several frustrating seasons of football purgatory in Orchard Park. Those campaigns were often defined by wasting fast starts, such as their 5-3 opening in 2014 that led to a 9-7 campaign.

As serviceable comrades dwindled in the defensive locker room, Hughes took on the mantle of locker room leader. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier saw that brand of leadership during Buffalo’s October win over the New York Jets. Facing a strong challenge from a desperate opponent in East Rutherford, Frazier remarked that the only thing more impressive than Hughes’ play on the field was his composure off of it. The assistant coach mentioned that Hughes’ tenacious brand of defense encouraged him to raise the pressure on opponents following one-sided losses to fellow AFC contenders from Tennessee and Kansas City over the fall. It paid off in the form of an 18-10 win over the Jets, one that saw the Bills earn six sacks and allow only 191 yards.

“We didn’t talk about things that needed to be done with the D-line, it was more Jerry taking it upon himself as a leader to pull those guys together,” Frazier said, per John Wawrow of the Associated Press. “Jerry was so positive, and encouraging his teammates on the sideline. I remember saying to myself, `Man, that’s what you need out of one of your star players who’s a leader.‘”

Hughes was the headliner in the aforementioned New York victory, picking up six tackles, two sacks, an interception, and a forced fumble. He was awarded the AFC’s Defensive Player of the Week Award for his efforts.

In the fateful win in the Rockies, Hughes put a dagger in the Broncos during the early stages of the third quarter. Immediately after Buffalo build a 28-13 lead, Hughes treated Bills fans to a showcase from the past, namely from his days as a running back at Stephen F. Austin High School in Sugar Land, Texas. The defender dodged five would-be tacklers from Denver to score a 21- yard touchdown, giving the Bills a 35-13 advantage. From there on out, a countdown began to commemorate the Bills’ first AFC East crown since 1996.

Eschewing expectations, Hughes’ postgame attitude mirrored his teammate’s jovial mood, but the division title has proven to be anything but gridiron nirvana for a man desperately seeking it.

“Man, it feels amazing,” Hughes said in a report from Jourdon LaBarber of BuffaloBills.com, clad in a celebratory t-shirt bearing the insignia “Won Not Done. “This is something that we talked about once I got to this organization. We spoke about bringing a division championship home to Buffalo. So, it feels great to be a part of this team, the way we did it, the way Sean and Brandon Beane were able to assemble the team together and put guys in the right spot so we can be success and the results are showing.”

“I know that we’ve still got a lot more to accomplish. That’s what I like about these guys. We can enjoy a milestone and still understand that the goal is still not reached. So, I’m excited. We’re going to enjoy this tonight and then we’re going to get ready for next week.”

Hughes did enjoy at least a taste of postseason glory last season, earning a career-best three sacks during Buffalo’s playoff cameo in Houston.

Smith may be one of the lesser-heralded members of the Bills’ roster, though his impact cannot be denied. The former fifth-round pick has built a sizable career since experiencing his first NFL release before taking his first snap, bid farewell by the New England Patriots at the end of his first training camp. He partook in parts of four seasons with the Bills before signing with the Raiders in 2015. Smith was asked to rejoin the Bills in 2019 and he was quick to accept, as the tight end was drawn to a Buffalo reunion by the good vibes he drew from the organization, particularly its new direction under current owners Kim and Terry Pegula.

“Mr. and Mrs. Pegula have spared no expense around here. It’s invigorating and makes the players feel not just respected but appreciated. This place is first class,” Smith said in a 2019 episode of team program One Bills Live. “I’m all about enjoying coming to work everyday. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to make a decision of where you want to go then my thing has always been that being around good men that I want to work for.”

Smith’s modern work has mostly come through special teams participation. He did earn a one-yard score in Buffalo’s September win over the Los Angeles Rams and seemed poised to add to that tally on Saturday, but his fourth-quarter catch from Josh Allen was called back due to a penalty.

Buffalo (11-3) is still in contention for one of the top seeds in the AFC’s playoff bracket. Their next contest comes on the road against the New England Patriots next Monday night (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Buffalo Bills: Three stars from Saturday’s win at Denver

The Buffalo Bills departed Denver on a Rocky Mountain high, clinching an elusive division title through a dominant showing.

The Buffalo Bills are coming home for Christmas…and the playoffs as well.

Through a 48-19 victory over the Denver Broncos during the NFL’s Saturday showcase, the Bills (11-3) clinched not only their third playoff berth over the last four seasons but also their first AFC East division title since 1995. Restrictions pending, Orchard Park’s Bills Stadium is likely set to host its first postseason contest since a 1996 loss to Jacksonville in the wild-card round. Buffalo has also reached the 11-win plateau for the first time since 1999.

ESM gives out game balls for the victorious Bills…

3rd Star: DE Jerry Hughes

1 fumble recovery, 1 TD

Hughes’ fearsome size may lead to incredulousness on this end, but he got his football start as a running back at Stephen F. Austin High School in Sugar Land, Texas, earning 19 touchdowns during his senior season. His ensuing time spent in Fort Worth (with TCU) and Orchard Park have rarely given him a chance to showcase his rushing talents, but Saturday’s tilt provided a welcome exception.

With Buffalo holding a 28-13 lead, they closed the book on any idea of a Denver comeback with Tre’Davious White’s sack and forced fumble of Drew Lock. Hughes picked up the loose change and athletically avoided several pursuing Broncos to put in a touchdown that took far more than the 21 yards dictated in the final box score. The 32-year-old earned the second touchdown of his career and his first since November 2014.

 

2nd Star: WR Stefon Diggs

11 receptions, 147 yards

On a historic day for Buffalo football, Diggs was sure to get his personal achievement out of the way early on. His first reception of the late afternoon allowed him to break a tie with Eric Moulds from 2002 for the most receptions in a single Bills season. With 11 grabs on the night, Diggs is likely ensuring that it will be a long time before his contemporaries even sniff his records. Diggs and Cole Beasley each broke the century mark on Saturday, uniting to earn 259 yards from Allen’s arm. Buffalo, however, may have to hold its breath when it comes to Diggs’ status moving forward. Fox Sports’ Lindsay Czarniak revealed toward the end of the game that Diggs was carted to the locker room with a foot issue, though he later returned to the sidelines before the clock let out.

1st Star: QB Josh Allen

28-for-40, 359 yards, 2 TD, 3 carries, 33 yards, 2 TD 

Allen’s success in Colorado probably shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise. After all, he was perfect in terms of the scoreboard during Wyoming’s visits to Colorado State and Air Force. But, for Allen, Saturday’s business was personal. Denver previously passed on him during the early stages of the 2018 NFL Draft, choosing Bradley Chubb two picks before Allen got his call from Western New York.

In his first visit to Mile High, Allen showed a Broncos team at a crossroads when it comes to their franchise quarterback exactly what they were missing. He was responsible for four touchdowns on his own, two each of the aerial and ground variety, and racked up 392 total yards. Technically speaking, Allen was more or less the culprit behind six scores, but the latter couple was wiped out due to penalties. His rushing scores carried historic importance on the Buffalo landscape: he not only tied Jack Kemp for the most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (25) but also passed Willis McGahee to move into the top ten in the rushing score category tying Kemp and LeSean McCoy.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Four plays that decided the Buffalo Bills’ Sunday fate vs. the NY Jets

It wasn’t pretty, but the Buffalo Bills got back in the win column with a win over their divisional rivals in East Rutherford.

The Buffalo Bills’ latest Sunday endeavor was all about the Bass.

Rookie kicker Tyler Bass booted a team-record six field goals on eight attempts, while their defense allowed only four yards in the second half. The offensive performance left a touchdown to be desired, but the Bills (5-2) were able to earn an 18-10 decision over the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Buffalo got back to the win column after consecutive losses. They trailed 10-6 at the halftime break, but shutout the Jets in the latter portion while Bass booted his triples.

“I think for us, figuring out how they were going to attack us, really helped us out,” defender Jerry Hughes said of the halftime shift, per Matt Bove of WBKW-TV. “Working with our coaching staff, everything really just fell perfectly into place in the second half.”

ESM looks back on four big plays, one from each quarter, that shaped Buffalo’s present or future…for better or worse.

1st Quarter: Double Order of Buffalo Swing

Early in the game, the Bills appeared to be channeling the late, great, fictional Admiral Gial Ackbar by silently declaring “It’s a trap…game!”.

Somewhat rejuvenated by the return of franchise quarterback Sam Darnold, the Bills allowed the Jets to infiltrate the red zone, as the green New Jerseyans were 17 yards away from the end zone on their opening drive. It was a process, but the Jets’ early momentum took a massive hit on one play involving two key defenders.

A shared seven-yard sack from AJ Epensa and Trent Murphy stopped the Jets’ aspirations for a red zone touchdown before they ever truly began. Still getting his rhythm back, Darnold could only muster an eight-yard pass to Breshad Perriman and a failed attempt to Denzel Mims, unable to take advantage of five free yards afforded back to them on a Buffalo offsides penalty. The Jets left that drive with a field goal, missing out on a chance to score a touchdown and truly establish early momentum.

2nd Quarter: Diggs with the Bigs

Diggs failed to recapture his early momentum, held to under 50 yards receiving for the second straight game. But the receptions he did make on Sunday…nabbing six for 48 yards…proved that his sense of clutch play was one of the many reasons the Bills traded for the former Minnesota playoff hero.

With the Jets having done the unthinkable in not only scoring a touchdown but also building a two-possession lead at 10-0, the Bills were facing a seven-yard third down at their own 38, sending the Jets’ invisible crowd into a frenzy. Covered by Pierre Desir, who was later called for an illegal contact penalty, Diggs took a short pass from Josh Allen and was able to produce nine yards en route to a vital first down. The penalty was declined, and the Bills would later enjoy the first of Bass’ six field goals on the afternoon.

Diggs would later come up big in the trek to another Bass finisher, earning a 12-yard gain in the third quarter that shrank the Jets’ lead to 10-9.

3rd Quarter: Tyler’s Burden

By the end of Sunday’s affair, Bass had missed nearly as many kicks in his rookie campaign as former specialist staple Steven Hauschka had in each of the last two seasons (having posted matching postings of 22-of-28 in 2018-19). Some even felt that Bass’ job could’ve been on the line prior to Sunday’s proceedings, but it’ll be hard to do that when he just tied a team record also held by 1990s hero Steve Christie.

Bass did miss two more field goals on the afternoon, but he managed to permanently give Buffalo the lead with a 37-yard boot after he failed to tighten things up at the end of the half.

Bass later remarked that it was the words of head coach Sean McDermott that kept his hopes up during a very trying process.

“Coach always talks about character,” Bass said, per Jay Skurski of The Buffalo News. “It’s really not about how many you make. It’s about what you do after a miss, after something goes wrong. Anyone can handle stuff when things are easy. It’s just about when something goes wrong, how do you handle that? You don’t let it define you. You just trust everything you’ve done in practice that week.”

4th Quarter: Coming Up Hughes

The Bills saw several players come up big in Sunday’s victory. On offense, Cole Beasly earned new career-bests (11 receptions, 112 yards) while Tyler Kroft (6 receptions, 84 yards) stood up for a depleted tight end group. Defensively, however, the usual suspects rose to the occasion, particularly on the final drive of the game.

Despite sheer domination in the second half, the Jets’ offense still had a chance to send the game into overtime by getting the ball back with a mere eight-point deficit. But the defense shut down any hope of a comeback through a vital effort from Hughes.

Still seeking the proper respect one of the most consistent names in the league should garner, Hughes opened the drive by swarming the backfield and sacking Darnold. A dangerous hit from Micah Hyde on Breshad Perriman gave the Jets 15 free yards, but more Hughes pressure forced Darnold into a desperate interception, one that commenced the Buffalo celebration. The interception was made possible by a deflection from Quinton Jefferson.

“What are the odds that you have a ball floating around in the D-line territory?” Hughes said with a smile of his big moment, per Jason Wolf of The Buffalo News. “So why not grab it, run around with it, try to score? Let’s have some fun. But certainly, got to get down so we can end that game.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Four plays that decided the New York Jets’ Sunday fate vs. Buffalo

The New York Jets actually held a brief two-possession lead on the Buffalo Bills, but the normalcy of defeat followed soon after.

Usually, three-pointers haunt New York’s trio of professional basketball franchises. This time around, however, one of their football teams ended up on the wrong side of a showcase of triples, namely six from Tyler Bass.

The Buffalo Bills’ rookie kicker converted 6-of-8 field goal attempts on Sunday afternoon, leading a comeback effort over the winless Jets. It negated what was probably the Jets’ most consistent half of the season from an offensive standpoint. They tallied 186 yards and 10 points over the first 30 minutes but only four yards in total over the latter half. Buffalo prevailed by an 18-10 final. Sam Darnold threw for 120 yards and had two passes intercepted in his return from injury, while La’Mical Perine scored his first career NFL touchdown.

ESM looks back on the Jets’ latest loss, grabbing a play from each Sunday quarter that, for better or worse, that shaped their past, present, and future of their team…

1st Quarter: Sack Attack

At first glance, it’s hard to truly hate what the Jets (0-7) were able to accomplish on their opening drive. They were able to enjoy a 29-yard field from former CFL and XFL participant Sergio Castillo to give them a rare early lead. But it could’ve been so much more from a New York standpoint.

In his first drive back from the injury-induced absence, Darnold led a swift, methodical drive, situating the Jets at the Buffalo 17. However, the Bills’ defense gave him a cruel welcome back in the form of a shared sack between A.J. Epenesa and Trent Murphy. The seven-yard loss more or less killed New York momentum before it could truly return, a pair of short passes failed to erase the damage and a Buffalo penalty couldn’t even help matters at a five-yard charge. Not only did it forced the Jets to end a relatively successful drive with a mere Castillo triple, but it was a foreboding warning of things to come. Darnold would go on to be sacked six times over the course of the afternoon.

2nd Quarter: Misplaced Faith

The Jets’ propensity for going for it on fourth down should be somewhat commended. Knowing there’s little, if anything, to lose in this woebegone campaign, New York has taken Bob Dylan’s axiom of “when you ain’t got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose” to heart. The Jets went for it on fourth down 10 times entering Sunday, the fourth-most in the league.

Converting them, however, has been the real challenge.

The Jets converted only two tries in their prior decalogue of attempts, and that number didn’t improve on Sunday. Playcalling has been the main reason behind the lack of success, in yet another recurring problem. Playcalling affairs were turned over to offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains for the Buffalo matter, but his shotgun draw to Perine on fourth-and-one…putting the Jets’ first-down plans in jeopardy before they could ever truly begin…left a lot to be desired. Jerry Hughes and Quinton Jefferson invaded the backfield to stop Perine in his tracks, stifling the Jets’ attempt at points. A field goal was going to do the Jets no good with a 3-0 lead…but neither would a shotgun draw.

THat play wound up permanently shifting the game’s momentum. The Jets earned 103 yards over their first two possessions…they gained 87 for the rest of the game.

3rd Quarter: Can You Diggs It?

Defensively, the Jets actually did a decent job in holding Stefon Diggs in check, keeping him at 48 yards on six catches. But he still managed to change the course of the game in the early stages of the third quarter.

Facing third-and-five at the Bills’ 32, the Jets defense had a major opportunity to swipe momentum away. Alas, they couldn’t stop Diggs to the right, as the veteran receiver picked up a crucial 12-yard-gain that kept the Bills’ drive alive. It would lead to a 46-yard field goal from Bass, a triple that narrowed the Jets’ lead to 10-9. Who knows how much things would’ve changed with this simple stop, but it’s safe to say that that play affected the Jets’ mindset for the remainder of the affair.

4th Quarter: Block-Down

For all their shortcomings, the Jets still had an opportunity to push things to overtime, the score at a manageable 18-10 tally thanks to Bass field goals and a strong defensive effort that kept the BIlls out of the end zone. Alas, it wasn’t enough to push the Jets forward for a new opportunity to nab their first win of the season.

Pressure from Buffalo was raised to 11 on the final attempt, swarming Darnold on the first play of the final drive. They picked up 15 yards on a brutal hit on Breshad Perriman by Michah Hyde, but the Bills continued to be relentless, forcing George Fant into a holding penalty just to keep things relatively sane. It was Hughes that wound up rising to the highest of occasions, not only sacking a reeling Darnold but then picking up an interception through the quarterback’s desperation and sealing the Jets’ fate.

Particularly troubling in this game was the return of Mekhi Becton. The rookie had a decent day blocking, but had two penalties, including one that wiped out a 14-yard third-down conversion from Chris Herndon. Becton had one penalty through the first three games of his career.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags