By Ch2 Sports Director Ed Kilgore
So just what, exactly, did we learn from the Bills 28-24 loss to the Jets?
Not much that we didn't already know, but not all of that is a negative despite the fact the Bills playoff hopes are all but officially dashed now at 5-6 with five games to play.
First and foremost, in my mind, is the fact that Ryan Fitzpatrick is what the Bills brass thought he is; a solid NFL starting quarterback who will probably never be the "franchise" guy that every team hopes to land once every other decade, but not the team's worst problem either. Fitz played well enough to win this game, and that is saying something based on the fact he played without the team's (and maybe the NFL's) best running back, with another new center and with a crop of banged up receivers.
The numbers accurately reflect Fitz' game; 26-39 for 264 yards, 3 td's and no int's. He was sacked three times (twice by Aaron Maybin of all people) but led the Bills to 24 points on the road and it probably should have been 31, and that should give your team a chance to win. Heck, Fitz drove the Bills 90 yards in 13 plays for an early touchdown by also overcoming TWO holding penalties on his offensive line.
Had Stevie Johnson caught a perfectly thrown ball down the middle of the field on the Bills' final drive, it would be Fitz receiving credit for the comeback victory that eventually went to Mark Sanchez. It's a shame too, because Johnson and Fitz went right at "the Island", Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, with success. Johnson, who had all but disappeared in the Bills 3 game slide before this one, was a bit healthier and caught 8 balls for 75 yards and a touchdown all while being covered by Revis. But he dropped the biggest throw of the game, and we can't help but flash back to the drop of a game winning touchdown against the Steelers last season. Fair or not, it's those plays he is remembered for, which is why the fun-loving Johnson needs another reminder that when you call attention to yourself - he was given a 15 yard unsportsmanlike penalty after his td for taunting a Plaxico Burress leg injury in an accidental shooting - your mistakes are magnified too.
That 15 yards also gave the Jets great field position, and the Bills Dave Raynor then botched a squib kick that made the penalty that much worse as the Jets recovered with a very short field. The way Sanchez played most the game, they needed all the help they could get.
Another thing we learned that we already knew, is that C.J. Spiller is not Fred Jackson, although he did show heart in banging into the middle of the Jets 'd' for 55 yards on 19 carries. C.J. is a nice "changeup" back who can also be an effective receiver and return man, but he simply - at least so far - doesn't have the size or strength to be a 20 carry a game guy. No matter, that's what he'll be for at least the rest of this season.
But even with Johnson contributing again, which was huge for the offense, the Bills still lack a quality #1 wr, and even though Brad Smith had a productive day including a td catch, he simply isn't an NFL wide receiver.
The Bills defense didn't come up with any sacks, again, but they did pressure Sanchez enough to make him look simply awful until the fourth quarter. He threw one int and could have had two or three more, but the fact the Bills couldn't really stop the Jets running game took him off the hook. Give Sanchez credit for the winning td drive though, because he made the plays he had to for the win.
Clearly, as we already knew, the Bills have one quality defensive lineman (with Kyle Williams out) in rookie Marcell Dareus, and they have no impact linebackers whatsoever.
Chan Gailey had a pretty good plan for this one and it almost worked, but 9 penalties for 85 yards was clearly not part of the plan for a team that was already lacking in quality personnel. It was also mystifying why the Bills often ran on first down against the Jets 9-man front, instead of checking off to something else. Still, 336 yards, 24 points and NO turnovers on the road means your offense did enough to win.
Maybe the best thing we learned though, is that the Bills are still playing hard for Gailey even though they knew deep down inside their playoff hunt was over a couple games ago. The last five games DO matter, if not to Bills fans, at least to the players who still want to be here next season.