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Jets allow nine sacks, drop season finale to Bills

Buffalo Bills' Jordan Poyer, left, sacks Jets quarterback

Buffalo Bills' Jordan Poyer, left, sacks Jets quarterback Zach Wilson during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022. Credit: AP/Joshua Bessex

After all the strides Zach Wilson and the Jets’ offense made late in the season, they ended it with an ugly performance that showed more regression than progression.

Wilson was sacked eight times and completed only seven passes in a 27-10 loss to the Bills on Sunday in Buffalo. He called some of the sacks "boneheaded" decisions by him. The Bills’ nine sacks overall contributed to the Jets managing only 53 yards of offense in the game.

The Bills clinched their second straight AFC East title. The Jets finished Robert Saleh’s first season as head coach with a 4-13 record and were winless in the division for the second straight year.

"Clearly, we’ve got a long way to go if we want to close the gap with Buffalo," Saleh said. "And New England and Miami, for that matter."

The Jets missed the playoffs for the 11th consecutive year, the longest current streak in the NFL, but Saleh is confident that he has laid the foundation for that long drought to end. Long-suffering Jets fans hope it happens next year.

How quickly Wilson develops and what moves general manager Joe Douglas can make to improve this team will go a long way toward determining that.

The Jets will have picks four (theirs) and 10 (acquired from Seattle for Jamal Adams) in the first round and more than $55 million to spend in free agency to retool this team.

"We’ve got to close this gap," Saleh said. "It’s going to take everybody in the locker room. It’s going to take all the coaches. It’s going to take every decision that we make from now until the start of next season.

"It’s about closing this gap in the division and getting to a place where we’re competitive every single game."

The Bills (11-6) attacked this game as if it were a playoff game, but the Jets’ defense raised their level of play. They held the Bills to 13 points through three quarters and trailed by only three before Buffalo scored two touchdowns in the final 8:21.

"I’m really, really pumped up for the defense," Saleh said. "They played their absolute butts off."

The offense never got anything going, though. Wilson ended up 7-for-20 for 87 yards and a touchdown. The Jets were 1-for-14 on third downs. They had minus-16 yards of offense in the second half and only 5 net yards passing for the game.

"I’m not discouraged at all just because of this performance from our offense," Saleh said.

Bills quarterback Josh Allen was 24-for-45 for 239 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 63 yards. Devin Singletary carried the ball 19 times for 88 yards and had a rushing and receiving touchdown.

The Jets trailed only 13-10 after Eddy Pineiro’s 49-yard field goal with 3:55 left in the third quarter.

The drive started at the Bills’ 22 after Matt Haack’s 9-yard punt, but the Jets went backward from there. Wilson made a bad decision, taking a third-down sack for a 10-yard loss when he ran out of bounds instead of throwing it away. Pineiro ended up rescuing Wilson with the long field goal.

"Some really frustrating plays on my end where I was trying to do too much," Wilson said. "I got to throw that ball away. Kicker makes a heck of a kick and we’re fortunate to get three there. I put him in a bad situation, the team in a bad situation there.

"Those are boneheaded plays on my end."

The Jets’ defense finally broke on Buffalo’s first series of the fourth quarter. The Bills started at their own 49, and

Allen scrambled for 32 yards on first down. On third-and-6, he avoided a sack and kept the play alive before hitting Isaiah McKenzie for a 9-yard gain. Three plays later, Singletary ran it in from the 1.

After the Jets went three-and-out, the Bills put the finishing touches on the game with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Allen to Singletary.

Now the Jets will turn their attention to the offseason, which will be a big one for Douglas.

He had a good draft last year, selecting players on both sides of the ball who look as if they could be with the Jets for years to come — left guard Alijah-Vera Tucker, receiver Elijah Moore, running back Michael Carter, cornerbacks Michael Carter II and Brandin Echols and safety Jason Pinnock.

They are expected to focus a little more on the defense this offseason after putting so much attention on the offense last year to make sure Wilson was in the best position to succeed.

Douglas could look to add either a cornerback or an edge rusher with the Jets’ first pick.

Wilson started this season slowly, had some good moments during the last several weeks and finished with a dud. But Saleh said Wilson’s development from Week 1 has been "spot on," and he saw growth from the team overall.

"We all knew this was going to be a roller coaster of a season with the youth movement that we’ve had," Saleh said.

"The progress this young group has made, while the four-win season is not good enough, it’s very encouraging to go into next year and something that I feel like we can build on so next year in December we’re playing for a chance, we’re playing relevant games in December."

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