The generous grade is due, in part, to the fact that for as bad as the offense was, it wasn’t really worse than anyone expected. The run game never got on track and though Josh McCown was hitting his targets early on, it was mostly for short gains before guys like Matt Forte and Jermaine Kearse were snuffed while looking for daylight. One bright side was Kearse, who, despite being on the team for less than a week, seems to already have a solid rapport with McCown. ArDarius Stewart looked comfortable and his acrobatic 9-yard catch in the third quarter, when where he laid out in an effort to get to the pylon, is the type of flashiness this offense desperately needs. Still, Robby Anderson was a non-factor, which will make this far more difficult for Forte and Bilal Powell, who can expect to run up against a bunch of seven- and eight-man fronts if the receiving corps doesn’t start demanding some respect. As it stands, neither running back was especially impressive. McCown wasn’t quite as bad as his stats indicate but he wasn’t exactly lighting up the field, either.
This was supposed to be the unit that gives the Jets hope against beatable teams such as the Bills, but instead, the defense looked helpless against LeSean McCoy and Tyrod Taylor. Shady earned his nickname well, as the Jets were deked on a number of long runs, and generally struggled against any misdirection. The most damning play of the game was on the Bills final touchdown, when Taylor faked a handoff to McCoy and threw to a lonely Andre Holmes in the end zone. Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson both mentioned missed assignments as the primary culprit, and that sort of lack of discipline isn’t something the Jets can afford from the team’s most experienced members. The only thing that saved a defense from the F is Juston Burris’ interception (points off for the fact that he was tripped by two of his own players while trying to run it back) and a solid day from Kony Ealy, who joined the team two weeks ago and learned in a hurry.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-
In many respects, Chandler Catanzaro was outplayed in the preseason and could have easily lost his job to Ross Martin, but the Jets took a chance and Sunday, Catanzaro more than repaid the trust. He hit two field goals, of 48 and 52 yards, to draw the Jets to within 7-6. Lachlan Edwards averaged 49.5 yards on his punts, with his longest at 58.
Todd Bowles put a good chunk of the blame on himself and his coaching staff after the game, and likely with good cause. Bowles’ conservative play-calling didn’t do the offense any favors and he said that part of the missed assignments on defense were a result of coaching mistakes. And then there was the punt. Down by nine with four minutes left, fourth-and-8 on their own 44. Bowles said the team wanted field position and thought they could stop the Bills and score twice. What it looked like was a white flag. It probably wouldn’t have made a difference, but for a fan base as downtrodden as this one, perception does matter. That didn’t look good and, most importantly, it didn’t work.