Division games are tough for every team, and fans. The tougher the rivalry, the uglier the game. Well someone walloped MetLife with an ugly stick on Sunday. Nobody looked good in that stadium. Not the Bills, not the Jets, not the Refs. Even the fans had their ugly moments, after Rex blew two challenges in a minute and a half and they were unable to challenge a couple of potential turnovers that could have cost them the game. But as a fan (especially of the losing team) I have to find the Good in what seemed so incredibly, incredibly bad. Here are 5 things that I took from Sunday’s game that keep me hopeful for the future of the Buffalo Bills.
1) EJ Manuel Remains Clean- This was by far not EJ’s best looking performance as a Bill. In fact I would say it was his worst. EJ was 21/49 for 243 yards and a Touchdown. He was also sacked 8 times, which is the most sacks a QB on the Bills has taken since Rob Johnson. What we can take away from this game is that Manuel protected the ball very well. His one interception in the season still ranks 1st in the AFC East, though he has dropped behind Miami Quarterback Ryan Tannehill in many of the other key stats. While Manuel needs to learn to throw the ball away a little more instead of taking sacks, the fact that he is not rushing and making costly turnovers shows a lot of maturity.
2) Special Teams Shines- The bright spot of the Buffalo Bills in recent seasons has been their Special Teams squad, and that continues to be true. Dan Carpenter was 4-4 in field goals, including one from 43 yards out. While this “Sparano type” scoring offense is not what we Bills fans want to see, it is still good to see points going on the board. Punter Shawn Powell also showed off a big boot with 7 punts for a total of 357 yards, including a 66 yarder and 3 punts within the 20. The kicking coverage teams also only allowed a combined 71 yards between 3 kick returns and 3 punt returns.
3) Defense Continues to Force Turnovers- While EJ remained clean this weak, the Bills Defense was able to take advantage of a couple of mistakes by Geno Smith, intercepting two poorly thrown balls. However, Buffalo was only able to make 6 points out of these turnovers. The Bills are +2 in the turnover differential this season with 4 Interceptions, 2 by rookie MLB Kiko Alonzo in back-to-back games, and 2 fumble recoveries.
4) Penalty Numbers Down- In a game that featured a team record 20 penalties accepted for the Jets, Buffalo was able to stay relatively clean. Aside from a few costly PI calls and an Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty on Receiver Stevie Johnson, Buffalo’s 7 penalties for 87 yards was their best showing of the season. What they need to work on now is not only keeping the penalty numbers down, but not giving up penalties at the most inopportune times.
5) Buffalo Goes for It- Buffalo was able to tie the game at 14-14 last week against the Carolina Panthers with a two-point conversion. Buffalo did it again this week tying the game at 20 following a two-point conversion to Stevie Johnson. This attitude of confidence to go for it in these situations is a welcome change to the conservative attitudes of previous regimes. I wish I could say the same about the rest of the play calling.
So there you have it. You need to find the good in the very bad in order to keep your head above water as a fan. Sometimes it just takes a little digging to find them.
—Your Friendly Neighborhood Linkage