The Jets opened the season with high hopes and higher expectations, believing that all the changes they made in the offseason would make a big difference on the field and on the scoreboard. But in the first game of the Adam Gase era, they suffered a familiarly brutal loss.
After Le’Veon Bell caught a 9-yard touchdown pass and two-point conversion pass, the Jets led by 16 points with 7:01 left in the third quarter Sunday at MetLife Stadium. But as the Jets of past regimes have done so many times, they coughed it up and sent their fans home angry.
The Bills scored 17 unanswered points in the final 18:48 and beat the Jets, 17-16.
“It is demoralizing when you can play that well and still lose a game,” defensive end Leonard Williams said. “It was just a bad start to the season. We had this game in the bag. We were close to closing this one out and have a great start and we let it slip through our fingers.
“It hurt. They know. They got away with one today.”
It was even more crushing because the Jets were plus-4 on turnovers until the final seconds of the game, when the Bills recovered a desperate lateral.
The Jets’ offense couldn’t score on the three turnovers given to them. The defense scored on the other turnover, which linebacker C.J. Mosley returned 17 yards for a pick-6. The defense also recorded a safety and accounted for the first eight points of the Jets’ season.
So much for the offense being electric, as Sam Darnold predicted it would be. It short-circuited. Gase’s offense scored one TD and couldn’t produce anything in the fourth quarter.
“We were just inept on offense,” Gase said. “Making mistakes we can’t make [if we want] to consistently move the ball. We have a lot to clean up there.”
Bell, playing in his first NFL game in more than 600 days, performed well in his Jets debut, totaling 92 yards on 23 touches and accounting for all eight points the offense scored. Darnold didn’t impress, though, completing 28 of 41 passes for 186 yards and one touchdown. He missed Robby Anderson several times for what would have been long gains.
“We got room for improvement,” Gase said. He was talking about Darnold specifically, but there are problems everywhere.
Kaare Vedvik missed an extra point and a 45-yard field goal in his first NFL regular-season game. The defense fell apart after Mosley, the defensive play-caller, left in the second half with a groin injury.
No one stepped up for Mosley, who had five tackles and two takeaways. The Bills scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns against the Mosley-less defense.
Buffalo tied the score with three minutes left on a 38-yard touchdown pass from Josh Allen to John Brown and took the lead on Stephen Hauschka’s extra point. Allen threw for 254 yards and ran for 38 more and a touchdown.
Darnold had a chance to change the narrative and game with plenty of time left.
“I was excited that we had the ball in our hands to win the game,” Gase said. “We’ve been talking about it the entire training camp. We kept saying, ‘I hope we’re in the situation where we’re either down or up and we have to go win it.’ ”
They blew that chance.
The Jets took over at their 25 and converted a fourth-and-1 as Bell got the yard he needed with some extra effort. After a penalty gave the Jets a first down, Darnold’s next three passes were incomplete, including an overthrow of Anderson, who was wide open. On fourth-and-10 from the Jets’ 40, Darnold was hit while throwing the ball and it fell incomplete.
“We need to continue to fight and finish throughout the fourth,” he said. “Our offense and myself, we need to do a better job of finishing drives.”
Slot receiver Jamison Crowder had a good first game as a Jet, catching 14 passes for 99 yards. Anderson (three catches, 23 yards) and Quincy Enunwa (one catch, minus-4 yards) were non-factors.
“I think we just couldn’t really get in a rhythm, and I put that on myself,” Darnold said.
As good as the defense was for more than half the game, it had some big slip-ups.
Marcus Maye missed an interception just before the Bills kicked a field goal in the third quarter. On that same drive, Henry Anderson was called for roughing the passer on third down, giving the Bills a first down. The Jets allowed touchdown drives of 85 and 80 yards in the fourth quarter.
“The last drive is what every game in the NFL is going to come down to,” Gase said. “This is the last drive. We either got to go win it or we got to stop somebody. We didn’t do either one.”