This was another day when the Buffalo Bills looked like they truly are the class of the AFC.
They completely decimated the woeful New York Jets 45-17 at MetLife Stadium, beat them every way possible, and if there was a mercy rule in the NFL – don’t we wish there was? – it would have been called midway through the third quarter when the Bills had just scored their fourth touchdown in a span of about 10 minutes of game clock time bridging the first and second halves to make the score 38-3.
The Bills have had so many of these in 2021 when you think back to the first Miami game (35-0), the Washington game (43-21), the Houston game (40-0), even the Kansas City game (38-20). Their average margin of victory in their six wins is 26.3 points. That’s unheard of in the NFL.
But here’s the thing. Despite all that fun, the Bills also have three losses, and their lead in the AFC East is a scant half game over the red-hot Patriots.
So, they can celebrate this mauling of the Jets, but we know, as do they, that there will be no more layups, at least not for the next six weeks when the arc of where this season is going will take shape against much stiffer competition.
Are the Bills true Super Bowl contenders, the class of the AFC? Or are they a team that has beaten up on a bunch of tomato cans, somehow failed to beat one of those tomato cans (that Jaguars loss, my goodness), and still has a whole lot to prove when it comes to their legitimacy?
It will be fascinating to find out, starting Sunday at Highmark Stadium when the revitalized Indianapolis Colts of Frank Reich come to town.
Here’s how I graded the Bills’ performance:
PASS OFFENSE: A
Now that was more like it. Josh Allen looked like Josh Allen again; Stefon Diggs looked like Stefon Diggs; Gabriel Davis reemerged after a season of inactivity; even the offensive line had a better day thanks mainly to the return of RT Spencer Brown. The Bills took full advantage of a terrible New York defense and lit it up for 489 yards including a season-high 366 through the air from Allen.
Right from the outset Brian Daboll was looking to attack downfield because the Jets were not giving the same troublesome Cover-2 looks the Bills had been seeing lately and Allen turned it loose. The Jets had no one who could cover Diggs, especially after CB Brandin Nichols got hurt, and Allen attacked that weakness. Diggs finished with 162 yards on eight catches and was targeted 13 times. Further proof that chunk plays were the priority, Davis made three catches for 105 yards while Cole Beasley was targeted just twice and caught both for 15 yards.
RUN OFFENSE: A-
There was speculation throughout the week that RB Matt Breida might step in for Zack Moss who was in concussion protocol. Moss ended up playing, but Breida was indeed utilized in a dual-threat role and he produced 28 yards rushing on three carries plus a touchdown, and he caught three passes for 22 yards and a TD. Unfortunately, he lost a fumble late in the game, but let’s hope Sean McDermott isn’t spooked by that because Breida showed he can be a nice change of pace from Moss and Devin Singletary.
Singletary had a nice day with 43 yards on seven attempts and scored a garbage time touchdown, while Moss had 27 yards on seven carries. Daboll also went into his bag of tricks and rediscovered the jet sweep as Emmanuel Sanders had a 24-yard run and Isaiah McKenzie had 17 yards on two attempts and scored a TD. In all, the Bills rushed for 139 yards, 5.8 yards per attempt, and scored four TDs. And Allen had only two carries for three yards. That’s progress behind a line that was appreciably more effective with Brown back and Daryl Williams moved back to guard.
PASS DEFENSE: A+
As is often the case in blowouts, a team’s defensive rankings take a hit because the opposing team racks up a ton of garbage time yardage and that certainly happened here. Mike White finished with 251 yards passing and Joe Flacco 48, but you roll your eyes at that because before he got hurt, White was awful.
The Bills intercepted four of his passes as Taron Johnson, Levi Wallace, Tre’Davious White and Jordan Poyer all got him, plus Micah Hyde forced and recovered a fumble. It doesn’t get any better for a secondary than that as all five starters came up with a takeaway.
There was only one sack, but White was under pressure on many of his 45 dropbacks. Ed Oliver was a beast up front, Efe Obada had the sack plus his hit on White led to Johnson’s interception. The Bills had 10 passes defended as they blanketed New York’s underwhelming receiving corps and the only time the Jets moved the ball was after they fell behind 38-3 midway through the third quarter.
RUN DEFENSE: A-
The Bills were already without MLB Tremaine Edmunds, and then before the game DT Star Lotulelei tested positive for COVID and couldn’t play. That’s a gaping hole in the middle, but it didn’t matter. Oliver was very good, as was Harrison Phillips who had to take a bigger role in the absence of Lotulelei. The Jets rushed for 70 yards and averaged just 3.2 yards per play.
A.J. Klein was all over the place as he filled in for Edmunds and the defense didn’t miss a beat. He was big against the run and even against the pass as he nearly made an interception and recorded seven tackles, two for lost yardage. Matt Milano was in on nine tackles, one fewer than Poyer’s 10. In all, the Bills had six tackles for lost yardage.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B+
Tyler Bass made his lone field goal and all six of his extra points, meaning he still has missed only one kick all season. Four of his eight kickoffs went for touchbacks, and when the Jets did try returns, they managed to average 21.5 yards per attempt with a drive start average after kickoffs at the 26.
Punter Matt Haack isn’t winning over anyone as he punted twice and averaged 39 gross, 35 net. You’d like to think this won’t matter, but at some point, it might. Isaiah McKenzie’s lone punt return was a 26-yarder. In the penalty department, the Bills had none in the kicking game and they managed to draw two worth 20 yards which forced poor drive start positions for the Jets.
The Bills needed to regain some mojo. The loss to Jacksonville was simply absurd, and a lesser team would have let it creep into this week, but that was clearly not the case. McDermott was stern during the week in his dealings with the media, and you know the message was even clearer to his players. He demanded performance, and he got it.
On offense, Daboll finally dialed up the downfield shots that have been missing and he also tried to mix in the run where it was appropriate and he had the Jets off balance all day. Now, let’s not look past the fact that this was statistically the worst defense in the league, but after the Jaguars game, this offense needed a slam dunk and it was a dunk worthy of the NBA’s annual competition.
Defensively, Leslie Frazier had it easy against White. He knew the kid was not going to be able to do anything with the dink and dunk approach and once he had to start pushing it downfield, it was lights out.
Sal Maiorana can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana.
This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Buffalo Bills report card: All three phases dominated the Jets