No fans were permitted inside Bills Stadium. The Jets were allowed to be on the field, but for a good part of the game, they didn’t appear to be there either.
Adam Gase’s offense was atrocious. The Jets opened the game with three three-and-outs and came out of a TV timeout with a delay of game. Sam Darnold wasn’t sharp at all. Gregg Williams’ defense was soft and undisciplined and carved up by Bills quarterback Josh Allen.
This wasn’t the way the Jets wanted to open the 2020 NFL season. The Bills dominated them from the start Sunday, building a three-touchdown lead in the second quarter en route to a 27-17 victory.
"There’s just so much for us to clean up," Gase said. "It was a rough game. We didn’t play well enough. We got to get a lot of things fixed in a short period of time."
The Jets could be going forward without Le’Veon Bell. He suffered a hamstring injury late in the first half and was removed early in the third quarter.
This game was an utter disaster for Gase and his team, especially the offense. The Jets ran 28 fewer plays than the Bills (81-53) and were destroyed in time of possession, 41:16 to 18:44.
With Darnold in Gase’s system for a second year, things were supposed to be different, but the offense performed as badly as it did in the first half of last season.
Yet despite their execution woes on both sides of the ball, the Jets had their chances to storm back.
Allen, who passed for two touchdowns and ran for one, fumbled twice in Jets territory in the first half. Bills rookie kicker Tyler Bass missed two short field goals.
But the Jets’ ineffectiveness did them in.
They made too many mental and physical errors. Tight end Chris Herndon had a costly fumble with the Jets trailing 21-10 early in the fourth quarter. Down two touchdowns, the offense went three-and-out on their first drive of the fourth.
"I missed way too many throws today," Darnold said. "We had opportunities. I just missed guys. I just flat-out missed guys. That’s on me."
Darnold completed 21 of 35 passes for 215 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Jamison Crowder caught seven passes for 115 yards, including a 69-yard catch-and-run that made it 21-10.
Frank Gore was the Jets’ leading rusher with 24 yards on six carries. Bell finished with 54 scrimmage yards on eight touches. Josh Adams ran for a 2-yard touchdown with 57 seconds left to make the final score appear closer than it really was.
"We didn’t do nearly enough to give ourselves a chance against this defense," Gase said.
The Jets allowed Allen to throw for a career-high 312 yards. Allen, who was taken four picks after Darnold in the 2018 draft, was 33-for-46. He also rushed for 57 yards.
The defense also had many silly penalties, including two for roughing the passer, a pass interference and a defensive holding in the end zone on third down.
"We shot ourselves in the foot in the first half," said safety Marcus Maye, who had 10 tackles and two sacks. "It wasn’t anything they necessarily did. It was all us."
This was the Jets’ first game in nearly nine months, and that rust showed. The NFL canceled the preseason because of COVID-19, but that’s no excuse; no team played in the preseason.
The Jets clearly were overmatched against a Bills team that won 10 games last year and reached the postseason. But a
fter falling behind by three touchdowns, they started showing signs of life on both sides of the ball.
They converted Allen’s second fumble into a 31-yard field goal by Sam Ficken just before the half. Three plays after Bass missed a 38-yard field goal, Darnold found Crowder with a short pass and he broke free for a 69-yard touchdown, cutting the Bills’ lead to 11.
On the ensuing series, Bass’ 34-yard attempt went wide right. The Jets needed to capitalize on that but couldn’t.
Darnold took a sack on first down during the series when he should have thrown the ball out of bounds. Two plays later, he threw a short pass to Herndon, who was hit by safety Jordan Poyer and fumbled.
Bass made a 22-yard attempt with 10:42 left to give Buffalo a 24-10 lead. The Jets were fortunate to hold Buffalo to a field goal there, as Allen overthrew a wide-open John Brown in the end zone.
After the Jets gained just two yards on the next series, Bass connected on a 19-yard field goal with 3:18 left to put the game away.
"We just really did not play well," Gase said. "The disappointing aspect was just watching the guys work all week, the excitement level coming into this. We got a lot to work on."