Sal's Sticks: Bills at Jets

November 11, 2018
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The Buffalo Bills ended a four-game losing streak and, in the process, demolished the New York Jets in their own stadium, 41-10.

Here are the Sticks:
 

AHEAD OF THE STICKS

  • QB Matt Barkley

For a quarterback to be signed and just 12 days later be inserted into the starting lineup, on arguably the worst offense in the league up to that point, would normally have disaster written all over it. However, Barkley was very good, especially early on, and made the Bills’ offense look not only functional, but good. The newly signed signal-caller went 15-for-25 for 232 yards, including a pair of touchdowns passes and no interceptions. In the first half, Barkley went 9-for-15 for 146 yards and a touchdown, helping the Bills to a 31-3 lead. His 47-yard hookup with Robert Foster on the first play of the game set the tone for the rest of the afternoon.
 

  • RB LeSean McCoy

Shady was back to Shady for a whole game for the first time all season. McCoy hit the century mark rushing for the first time all season, gaining 113 yards on 26 carries, including two touchdown runs. McCoy was hitting holes, then making people miss, instead of just dancing in the backfield and trying too hard to hit the home run. It made a difference.
 

  • Running game

McCoy got his own Stick for his performance, but the entire running game was so far and ahead where it had been all season until this point. The Bills had been averaging only 97.3 yards per-game on the ground coming into this game, but they ran wild on the Jets. The group totaled 212 yards, including McCoy’s 113, plus 69 yards from Marcus Murphy, and another 32 from newly-signed wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie.
 

  • Offensive Line

See above. The offensive line dominated the Jets' defensive front, opening holes from the get-go, allowing for that 212 yards on the ground and also allowing only one sack on 26 drop backs by Barkley. The unit also had a touchdown of its own when left tackle Dion Dawkins caught a tackle-eligible play in the end zone for six points.
 

  • G Wyatt Teller

Teller started his first NFL game and looked good. He was noticeable on a couple of the big runs the Bills had, and the one sack allowed wasn’t from his side.
 

  • PR/WR Isaiah McKenzie

Another “just signed” guy who played well for the Bills, McKenzie gave them a big boost in the return game, both in punts and kickoffs, taking back four punts for 42 yards, including a 21 yard return, and one kickoff 33 yards. McKenzie added a run from scrimmage for another 12 yards.
 

  • WR Zay Jones

Jones had the best game of his career, catching eight balls for 93 yards and a touchdown. He led all receivers for the game with those eight catches. He did fumble once, and should have been more careful, but made a nice run after the catch on the play and was trying to score, diving towards the goal line and stretching the ball forward when it came out. Luckily, teammate Jason Croom fell on the ball in the end zone for the touchdown.
 

  • WR Robert Foster

Who would have thought Foster would have the first 100-yard receiving game for the Bills in over a year? That’s what he did, grabbing three balls for a total of 105 yards. The last 100-yard receiving performance by a Bills receiver was by Deonte Thompson back on October 22 of last season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That was 21 games ago.
 

  • Big plays

The offense finally had some big plays, and several of them. They had plays of, at least, 20 yards or more, compared to the Jets only having two of them. They had three plays of at least 30 yards, and two that went for 47 and 43, respectively.
 

  • Fake Punt!

Give credit to the Bills’ coaching staff for not only calling a fake punt early in the game (when’s the last time they did that?), but also for setting it up for a while. Logan Thomas, a former college quarterback, was lined up as the up-man in front of punter Colton Schmidt. The ball was snapped to him and he threw it to Foster for a first down. One of the keys to making it work was that the Bills had Thomas line up in that spot several times over the past few weeks, even though he normally doesn’t. So when the Jets saw him there Sunday, they didn’t think anything different of it because they had already seen him there on film.
 

  • Third down offense

The Bills covered 50-percent of their third downs, going 8-for-16 on the day.
 

  • Third down defense

The Jets went 1-for-12 on third downs, and didn’t convert one in the first half, going 0-for-6.
 

  • Pass defense

The Jets had a really tough time throwing the ball all day. Quarterback Josh McCown finished the day 17-for-34 for only 135 yards. The Bills intercepted him twice and sacked him three times, finishing the day giving up only 116 net passing yards and giving up an incredibly low 3.1 yards per-attempt.
 

  • DE Shaq Lawson

Lawson continues to have solid game after solid game as he starts in place of the injured Trent Murphy. Often times his play hasn’t shown up in the stat sheetm but it did Sunday. Lawson registered three total tackles, including one for a loss, a sack, two quarterback hurries, and a pass breakup.
 

  • DE Jerry Hughes

Hughes was terrific on the other side of Lawson, finishing with four total tackles, with half of them coming behind the line of scrimmage, adding a sack of his own, plus two quarterback hurries and a pass breakup.
 

  • Penalties

The Bills committed only four penalties for a total of 30 yards against them on the day.

 

BEHIND THE STICKS

  • WR Kelvin Benjamin

Once again, Benjamin had a ball in his hands he should have come down with for a touchdown. This is becoming too much of a theme for the Bills’ wideout. Barkley put the ball in the perfect spot for someone his size to be able to bring in, and Benjamin had both hands on it, but didn’t bring it down and secure it as he hit the ground. Benjamin was held without a catch the entire day. He was thrown to three times.

 

THE BIG PICTURE

What a crazy game. Who would have thought the Bills could have and would have done this to the Jets after what we’ve seen from them this season? From the start of the game, it was a totally different team. A different offense, different receivers, and, of course, a different quarterback, both in play and in actual name.

I don’t want to gloss over the performance of the defense, because it was tremendous, but we’ve come to expect it from them by now. Outside of the game at the Indianapolis Colts, they’ve been terrific since the second half of the second game of the season, and they’ve certainly been the backbone of this team. In fact, going into this game, many felt the only way the Bills could get into the end zone was if the defense could do it. However, the offense pulled their own weight and then some Sunday, and a lot of that was because of the competent quarterback play they got from Barkley.

Coming into the game, Barkley had a career 8-18 touchdown-to-interception ratio. That didn’t inspire much confidence in him amongst Bills fans, but the faithful also realized he was probably still a better option than Nathan Peterman, who was the backup Sunday, and I think could be on his way out now sooner rather than later.

The question now is, “is Barkley a better option in the next game for the Bills than Josh Allen?" There are a lot of layers to that question and how the answer should be approached. Barkley certainly looked the part of a starting NFL quarterback, and the offense was leaps and bounds better than it had been regardless of who was under center so far this season. Allen was close to being available to play after recovering from his sprained elbow and would have played if he were ready.  

So now what?

Is it more important for Allen to get as much work and as many live reps as possible? Even at the expense of the offense taking a step back from what it was Sunday? Did he see and learn enough in his time away that he can keep it going as well as Barkley did if he does play? Or does Barkley’s performance warrant him staring because he gives the team “the best chance to win?” Does starting Barkley allow Allen to sit and watch and learn more or hinder his development if he doesn’t see the field against a live defense?

These are huge questions head coach Sean McDermott has to answer before the team prepares to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars. Luckily, he has a whole week to figure that out since the Bills are off with their bye next week.  

In the meantime, McDermott and his staff, and all the players and their fans can sit back and enjoy this win over a division rival for a good 14 days. It always feels good to win, there haven’t been many chances to do that, and we have no idea how many more there will be.

Enjoy the bye week.



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