OPINION: Field goals and defense push Bills over Jets

Check out five thoughts from Buffalo's 18-10 win over New York at MetLife Stadium

The Buffalo Bills improved to 5-2 on Sunday afternoon with an 18-10 victory over the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. The win stopped a two-game losing skid for the Bills and gave the team its first regular season series sweep over the Jets since 2015.

It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, but no victory can look good when a team trails to an opponent that’s now 0-7 for the majority of the game. An afternoon that featured no touchdowns from a Bills offense that could use a breakout performance wasn’t reassuring either.

However, a major turnaround from the defense and a solid day for special teams, Tyler Bass and Andre Roberts specifically, was enough to come out on top.

If you’re in the business of looking for silver linings, there are certainly some to take from this game. The Bills did what they had to do to win the ballgame. In the end, that’s what good teams do, right? Under no circumstances could Buffalo take a loss to its winless AFC East rival. They escaped with a result that wasn’t as bad as the worst possible scenario.

Here are five quick observations from the game:

1.) The Bills defense may finally have found itself

New York’s first and third drives of the game ended in a field goal and touchdown respectively. One could only raise their concerns over the Buffalo defense after seeing the unit carved apart by one of the worst offenses in the National Football League, a group that also recently traded its best player in running back Le’Veon Bell and was missing its top receiver in Jamison Crowder due to injury.

While Buffalo stopped the Jets on 4th-and-1 at the Bills’ 19-yard line on New York’s second drive to force a turnover on downs, the real turning point for the defense was cornerback Dane Jackson’s interception with 49 seconds before halftime. Buffalo’s defense made a complete 180-degree turn and absolutely locked things down in the second half.

The Jets’ five drives in the second half ended with four punts (three of them coming following three-and-outs), and lastly a Jerry Hughes interception.

Sam Darnold completed just one pass for four yards in the second half and was sacked six times in the game to go with interceptions. New York’s offense, as whole, finished with just four yards total in the second half, and ended the afternoon with a lowly 190 yards compared to Buffalo’s 422.

The offense didn’t do much to help the defense this week. It’s the only game this season the Bills didn’t score a touchdown, and they still have a long way to go to be where they want.

However, this group deserves a lot of credit for its play in the comeback win.

2.) A new face and a familiar face step up on defense

Matt Milano’s return to the lineup was the main topic of the Bills defense heading into Sunday’s game, but the aforementioned Hughes and Jackson were the ones with standout performances in the victory.

Jackson, a rookie cornerback from Pittsburgh filling the void opposite Tre’Davious White left by injured Josh Norman and Levi Wallace, played very well. Along with his interception, Jackson made a nice play to break-up a Darnold pass to Denzel Mims on 3rd-and-4 at the Buffalo 11-yard line to hold the Jets to a field goal on New York’s opening drive.

Hughes has put in a number of great performances over his eight-year tenure with the Bills. He hasn’t had the best start in 2020, but the veteran defensive end turned it up a gear or two in the second half and really helped spearhead the defense in the second half. Hughes recorded two of the Bills’ six sacks, and also finished with a team-high five solo tackles, along with his first career interception.

3.) Cole Beasley had a big day with John Brown still out

Following issues with his knee all week, Brown was ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Jets, leaving a huge hole on the Bills offense once again. Brown was active for last Monday’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, but wasn’t much of a factor and was noticeably nursing his knee.

With Brown out against New York, someone in the receiving game needed to step up.

Stefon Diggs had another solid game, catching six balls for 48 yards, but it was Cole Beasley who was the Bills' top receiver on the day, finishing with 11 catches for 112 yards. Beasley came up with a number of big catches throughout the afternoon, many to pick up first downs.

The passing attack came alive in the second half, as Allen went 18-for-23 for 178 yards in the final 30 minutes, and Beasley was a big part of that.

It should be noted as well, that with tight ends Dawson Knox and Lee Smith on the reserve/COVID-19 list, Tyler Kroft stepped in and made a few big plays as well. Kroft got involved early on, catching a pass on Buffalo’s first drive. The tight end also had a chance at a catch-and-run touchdown early in the fourth quarter, but stumbled while running along the sideline.

4.) Tyler Bass shined on a day the Bills needed him

Field goal kicking has certainly not been one of Buffalo’s strong points this season. Rookie kicker Tyler Bass still may not have everyone’s full confidence following two more missed field goal attempts on Sunday. However, after attempting a franchise single-game record eight field goals and making six of them, tying a single-game team record set by Steve Christie in 1996, I think Bass deserves a lot of praise.

Yes, Bass missed the first attempt, souring the Bills’ opening drive, and then another 37-yard field goal later on, but any time you make six field goals in a game and those are the only points your team scores and your team wins, you deserve credit.

Bass also showed he is capable of hitting from distance, nailing a career-long 53-yard field goal. There’s still some inconsistency there, but for the young Bass, this game could be a big confidence boost moving forward.

5.) Take the win and move on

This is a bit repetitive, but frankly there's not much more to say on this game. Take the close victory over the winless team with a grain of salt, yes.

There’s still a lot the Bills need to fix, and the players and coaches both know that. That team knows an 18-10 win over the now 0-7 Jets isn’t going to cut it.

The Bills got the win and now they can move on.

New York is in the rear-view mirror, and coming up next is another division rival in the New England Patriots (2-4), a team that’s going through plenty of its own struggles, coming off a 33-6 loss at home to the San Francisco 49ers.

The best advice is to not look at this win over the Jets in a vacuum. Take a few steps back, look at the big picture, and realize 5-2 is a pretty nice spot to be in.

The Bills now have their first “regular” week of preparation for a game in, what feels like, forever to get ready for the first matchup of the season with New England. All we can do now is wait for next Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.

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