Monday, October 19, 2009

Bills shock Jets as Sanchez struggles

The Buffalo Bills are not a very good football team. At all. Apparently, the Jets aren't much better.

After a 3-0 start with a rookie quarterback who looked poised beyond his years, hopes were sky-high for the Jets heading into an undefeated battle with the Saints. But the Jets have been exposed in their past three games, allowing 446 rushing yards while Sanchez has thrown one touchdown and eight interceptions, including FIVE against the Bills.

These aren't the Jets' only issues of the moment, either. Nose tackle Kris Jenkins, a vital piece of the New York run defense, suffered a potentially-serious knee injury late in the second quarter. If Jenkins is forced to miss any time, the Jets will continue to struggle to stop the run without a solid replacement (sorry, Sione Pouha).

Back to the football game, however, at least for as long as I can talk about it. This game was sorry on both ends and at times rivaled the boredom that was the Bills-Browns game from last week. The only touchdown of the first half came on a 71-yard run by Thomas Jones, who broke the Jets single-game rushing record with 210 yards on 22 carries.

The score was 13-3 in favor of the Jets at halftime and it looked like New York was going to finish off the Bills and move to 4-2, like everybody expected. But Sanchez was intercepted on the first three drives of the third quarter and Buffalo capitalized on the final two mistakes, kicking a field goal and tying the game with a 37-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Lee Evans. Fitzpatrick replaced Trent Edwards in the second quarter, as Edwards left with a concussion.

Once Buffalo tied the game, it seemed like neither team had any desire to win. The Bills started the final drive of regulation at the New York 49-yard-line, but mustered just 21 yards and left the game on the foot of Rian Lindell, who missed a 46-yard field goal as time expired.

The Jets got the ball and came out strong in overtime, as Sanchez seemed determined to redeem himself for his four interceptions. Jones ran for a first down inside the Buffalo 20 on third-and-four, setting up the Jets for an opportunity at a short game-winning field goal from Jay Feely.

Instead, a holding penalty from backup tight end Ben Hartsock nullified the run and pushed the Jets back beyond the 30. Feely came on to attempt a 50-yard field goal, but punter/holder Steve Weatherford couldn't handle the snap and was forced to roll out, throwing an interception that gave the Bills the ball.

The teams exchanged punts before Fitzpatrick was intercepted by Dwight Lowery, giving the Jets possession near midfield. But Sanchez threw his fifth pick of the game running forward in the pocket, trying to force a pass to Braylon Edwards into triple coverage rather than running when he had an open lane. The Bills proceeded to drive 29 yards from their own 42 into field goal range, and Lindell didn't miss this time around from 47 yards out with just under three minutes left in overtime.

This game really deserved to end in a tie, as neither team showed a strong desire to win. And as many times as the Bills tried to hand the game to the Jets, New York seemed reluctant to take it. Despite rushing for 318 yards the Jets couldn't hang on to the football, and they always say you can't score without the ball.

The Jets allowed over 140 rushing yards for the third consecutive game and get the Raiders next week, who ran for 116 yards in their 13-9 win over the Eagles this weekend. Sanchez will get the pleasure of trying to throw against a secondary that features Nnamdi Asomugha, one of the league's better cover corners, after a week where he completed just 10 of 29 passes for 119 yards.

The way the Jets are playing right now, this could be a tough game. Sanchez struggled without Jerricho Cotchery and Brad Smith this week, as David Clowney proved to be an underwhelming second receiver. If Cotchery and Smith can't get healthy next week and Asomugha locks down Edwards, Sanchez and the Jets could struggle much the same way they did against Buffalo.

With this loss, the Jets fell a game behind the 4-2 Patriots in the AFC East. They will play New England again after the Raiders and a rematch with the Dolphins, two games that looked a lot easier two weeks ago than they do now.

The Jets need their receivers to get healthy to have a chance and without Jenkins in the middle of the defensive line, it will make matters tough on Bart Scott and the rest of the defense to stop the run and create pressure on opposing quarterbacks. After a 3-0 start gave Jets fans hope, the last three games have all but sapped that hope away, at least in the short-term. Things look to be getting worse before they get better.

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