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Suddenly, it looks like Bills have problems

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Posted: Monday, September 23, 2013 10:20 am

 EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Jets were just begging to be beaten on Sunday afternoon at Met Life Stadium.

Beleaguered Rex Ryan, whistling past the graveyard where his head-coaching career will likely be buried, possibly even before this season ends, saw his team do everything in its power to avoid going 2-1.

Want proof?

How about a team-record 20 penalties for a numbing 168 yards.

And actually that number does the Jets an injustice. One flag was wiped out by offsetting calls and another was declined because two were called against New York on the same play.

For the record, the Jets were called for four offensive holds, four offsides, three pass interferences (one offensive), three false starts and two personal fouls ... accounting for 16 of the flags.

And, oh yeah, New York lost the giveaway/takeaway battle, 2-0, as rookie quarterback Geno Smith was picked off twice.

But did I mention the JETS WON THE GAME?

WITH THE Ravens invading Ralph Wilson Stadium next Sunday, the Bills won’t have long to ruminate on how they managed to hand a 27-20 victory to their AFC East rivals.

But if you’re looking for a reason, you could do worse than speculate that it was Ryan, the teacher, taking his pupil, Bills’ defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, to school.

The numbers are galling.

Smith, though intercepted those two times, still averaged nearly 21 yards per completion, threw for 331 yards, and guided the Jets to a gaudy 513 yards total offense.

Veteran wideout Santonio Holmes caught five balls for 154 yards, but a trio of nobodies — wide receivers Stephen Hill and  Jeremy Kerley and tight end  Jeff Cumberland — totaled eight receptions for an average of nearly 20 yards per catch.

If that number is lost on you, consider that’s the most yards that a very bad Bills defense surrendered last season after the franchise-standard setting 621 amassed by San Francisco in Game 5.

It gets worse.

The Jets averaged nearly 7 1/2 yards per snap, rushed for 182 yards and made another pedestrian running back — Bilal Powell (who?) — look like the second coming of Emmitt Smith. Powell finished with 149 yards on 27 carries and, for the benefit of contrast, his total output in the first two games was 77 yards on 25 carries.

He improved his average by nearly two yards per carry.

AFTERWARD, Bills’ coach Doug Marrone was bothered by the performance of a unit that had played reasonably well as Buffalo split its first two games. 

“They came out early and got a couple of big third downs and made some big plays,” he allowed. “They scored touchdowns ... we kicked field goals.

“We were able to get the game back to 20-20 (with 10 1/2 minutes to play). But, at the end of the day, we weren’t able to make that big play to get us over the hump ... and they did, they went out and won that game.”

One reason the Jets passing game was so effective — aside from the reality that the Bills never sacked Smith and rarely pressured him — is the fact that Buffalo’s already suspect secondary suffered yet another injury.

For the third straight game free safety Jairus Byrd, a Pro Bowl talent, couldn’t go due to injuries to both feet and nickel cornerback Ron Brooks was inactive for a second consecutive start with a foot injury.

Then, in the first quarter,  starting corner Leodis McKelvin, hardly the reincarnation of Darrell Green but the best the Bills have, had his afternoon ended by a hamstring injury.

As a result, Aaron Williams, ineffective as a corner his first two seasons before being moved to strong safety this year, took McKelvin’s spot. And veteran Jim Leonard, unemployed three weeks ago, came in a safety.

But it was Justin Rogers, and not Williams, who was beaten on the two bombs.

“It’s all about making plays and I didn’t make enough,” he said dejectedly, of allowing a 69-yard TD to Holmes and 51-yard to Hill. “I just have to turn my head around and make a play on the ball ... that’s a technique mistake.” 

And he refused to blame McKelvin being hurt.

“It didn’t contribute at all,” he said. “Injuries happen.”

MARRONE agreed, but the shortage in the secondary has become a concern.

“It’s next guy up,” he said, while admitting, “(McKelvin’s injury) did take us out of one or two packages. It was a point where, basically you have your two starting corners out and Jairus  is out for the game.

“You’ve got three or four good football players that aren’t on the field. Those other guys have done a good job (but) at times they weren’t able to make the plays that they made the last two weeks.”

And suddenly Buffalo has a problem in the secondary, while trying to improve on two years of dismal defensive performances.

(Chuck Pollock, the Times Herald sports editor, can be reached at cpollock@oleantimesherald.com)

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