Sully: This Day, the Jets were the Laughingstock
This is a few weeks overdue, but I should point out that this is the 18th consecutive season in which the Bills failed to be better than .500 after the 10th game of the season. Not once, even in the rare 9-7 season, have they managed to be 6-4.
So standards are understandably modest in Bills Nation, which made Sunday’s stunning, 41-10, rout of the Jets so gratifying for long-suffering Buffalo fans. It’s comforting to know that even in the worst of seasons, when the Bills’ offense is the laughingstock of the nation, the Jets can actually be a bigger joke.
The Jets have often provided comic relief and consolation during the Bills’ millennium of dysfunction. On a bizarre afternoon at MetLife Stadium, a team that had been on a historically bad offensive pace turned into a juggernaut for a day. By halftime, the Bills had 313 offensive yards, more than they mustered in any of their first seven full GAMES.
It was unspeakably bad for Jets fans, who saw their team allow 31 points in the first half to a Bills team that was averaging 10.7 points a game on the season, one that hadn’t scored in double figures in three straight games and had scored no TDs and nine points in the first halves of its seven losses. The Bills had a 28-point halftime lead for the first time since 1992, in the Jim Kelly era.
After six weeks of utterly futile offense, in which they failed to reach 14 points or so much as lead in a game for three weeks, the Bills went nuclear with well-traveled backup Matt Barkley, who hadn’t played an NFL game since New Year’s Day of 2017.
Barkley completed a 47-yard bomb to Robert Foster (Robert Foster!) on the game’s very first play. LeSean McCoy, who hadn’t scored a touchdown all season — or talked to the media for a recent two-week stretch — raced to a 28-yard TD (his first of the season) on the very next play. Two plays and a TD for an offense that had gone 38 possessions without one before a late garbage score against Chicago.
How bad were the Jets? They allowed Logan Thomas to complete a pass on a fake punt — and become the sixth Bill to throw a pass this season. They allowed Barkley to throw a TD pass to tackle Dion Dawkins, who momentarily moved into a tie for the team lead in TD catches with one on the play. They were whistled for three holding penalties on the same 18-yard run.
All of those events occurred before halftime. The only thing that could have made it worse was if some Jets fan threw a dildo on the field. Fireman Ed, who has fans clamoring for a comeback, should have issued a release saying he was done with the Jets for good. It was so bad that Jets media were referencing former coach Rich Kotite, their version of Hank Bullough.
It was a disgraceful, slovenly performance by the Jets, who were supposed to be playing for their embattled head coach, Todd Bowles. They looked like a team that wanted its coach gone yesterday. A lot of fans lost interest when the two rookie quarterbacks, Josh Allen and Sam Darnold, couldn’t play because of injury. The Jets seemed to have lost interest, too.
I don’t mean to minimize a heroic Bills effort. You have to hand it to coach Sean McDermott, who again got his team to rise up in the most discouraging circumstances. A year ago, they won at Kansas City after a pathetic three-week stretch. They stunned Minnesota on the road in September after a brutal 0-2 start. His defense, undaunted despite the offense'e recent struggles, had another terrific game.
Brian Daboll, the offensive coordinator, actually had critics calling for his job after the Bears loss. That’s like Trump blaming government for forest fires. Daboll had one of those inspiring days when you wonder what he could do with real weapons.
Daboll, figuring that Barkley wasn’t ready to lead the Bills with a bunch of short, precise throws, dialed up a bomb on the game’s very first play. Barkley laid it in to Foster. He found Foster for 43 on third-and-20 in the third quarter. Foster became the first Bills wideout to go over 100 yards receiving since last season. Zay Jones had career highs in catches and yards. Whoever called the fake punt, it was an inspired move.
But in the long run, what does it really mean? I don’t want to spoil anyone’s fun, but it still comes down to the two guys who didn’t play on Sunday — Allen and Darnold. When those two were drafted last April (Darnold third overall, Allen seventh), you circled Nov. 11 as a day when we might get to assess their development as rookies. Instead, we got Barkley vs. the ancient Josh McCown.
No matter how humiliating it was, or whether Bowles gets fired, the Jets will still be better off if Darnold winds up being a better NFL quarterback than Allen. The fate of the two AFC East rivals comes down to which young quarterback will be better equipped to lead the way when Tom Brady finally calls it quits in New England.
You can’t put too much stock on one game in the NFL. The Jets bore a striking similarity to the Vikings team that seemed emotionally unready to play in third week of the season. In retrospect, that game seems like a one-week fluke.
Bills fans might wonder if things would have turned out differently if they’d gotten Barkley as the backup quarterback instead of AJ McCarron. I doubt it would have mattered much. More critical fans will wonder if the only real consequence of this win will be picking behind the Jets in the draft.
Again, it depends on your standards. Over the last two decades, suffering Buffalo fans have learned to celebrate any victory, no matter how flimsy or short-lived. You can be giddy about winning with your fourth quarterback in five weeks and finding out that there’s a team with equivalent offensive problems in your own division.
But it will be a long time before we find out which of these teams is farther ahead. The Bills have an estimated $90 million in cap space next year, the Jets $105 million. The glow of this one will wear off soon enough. Some day, you’ll look back on this day and laugh — or depending on what happens with the young franchise quarterbacks, cry.