After 10 punts to start, Bills offense trudges past Jets in sloppy weather

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – We have certainly been spoiled the past few seasons by the dynamic Buffalo Bills offense, which is why it’s hard to wrap our heads around days like Sunday afternoon when Josh Allen and company struggled so much.

It’s just such an unfamiliar sight to watch the star quarterback and his supporting cast play as sloppily as they did in the first half of their extremely hard-fought 20-12 victory over the New York Jets on a miserable December day at Highmark Stadium.

Fortunately for the Bills, they found a little magic at the end of the first half – not coincidentally right after the Jets lost their most dominant defensive player, Quinnen Williams – and then did just enough in the second half to squeeze past a New York team that, without question, has been the toughest opponent the Bills have played all year.

Sound crazy? It shouldn’t.

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Yeah, the Chiefs are very good, and so are the Dolphins. But neither of those teams gave Buffalo more problems than the resurgent Jets did in the two-game series which was split.

For all the fans who wax nostalgic about “football weather”, well, I hope you enjoyed the mess of offensive buffoonery that the rain and wind and generally miserable conditions helped to produce.

That’s not to discredit the mostly outstanding play of both defenses, but if it wasn’t the type of day only water fowl could love, there likely would have been more happening than 10 consecutive punts to start the game, something, according to the CBS broadcast, that hadn’t happened in the NFL since 2016.

As for the Bills, this was the first time they punted on five straight possessions since Allen’s third career start in 2018 at Green Bay.

And yes, if that sounds ugly, it was.

The Bills had 18 net yards in the first quarter, and when they took possession at their own 30 with 3:04 left in the half, they had a total of 38 yards and three first downs.

Here, things finally started to happen, and the Jets lent a helping hand to Buffalo. On a fourth-and-1 at the 39, Sean McDermott made the bold decision to go for it. And yes, it was bold given the way the game was going.

The Bills shifted into a formation where Dawson Knox moved under center, and for some reason, Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley decided to jump over the line and tackle Knox before the ball was snapped. Offsides, first down.

Allen then completed two passes to Isaiah McKenzie for 15 yards, took off for an 11-yard scramble to the Jets 29, and then the Jets Michael Carter was called for defensive holding, giving Buffalo a first down at the 24 with 34 seconds to go.

Knox then followed with the biggest play of the half as he worked himself open on the right side, Allen delivered, and Knox leaped over Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner inside the 5 and somersaulted his way into the end zone.

The Jets shook that off pretty quickly as they took the second half and marched 72 yards in 10 plays to Zonovan Knight’s 13-yard TD run, a play where the Bills missed three tackles. On that series, the Jets also converted a third-and-12 and a third-and-10, the latter a beautiful Mike White to Braxton Berrios 25-yard pass.

And then back came the Bills with a lightning-quick six-play, 75-yard drive that began with a 32-yard catch and run by Stefon Diggs and ended with Allen smashing up the middle from the 5-yard-line to make it 14-7.

With the rain converting to a fine snow, on the ensuing possession, the Bills delivered a major blow on back-to-back plays. Matt Milano crushed White as he delivered a pass and knocked him out of the game briefly.

On the next snap, Greg Rousseau – who had a fantastic game stepping up in the absence of Von Miller – blew into the backfield to sack backup Joe Flacco and force a fumble which was recovered by DaQuan Jones at the Jets 44.

The Bills seemed headed for another touchdown, but Isaiah McKenzie dropped a pass that would have converted a third down, and the Bills settled for Tyler Bass’ 38-yard field goal.

Buffalo tacked on a 49-yard Bass field goal early in the fourth to make it 20-7, but the Jets pulled within 20-9 when Jermaine Johnson blocked a Sam Martin punt out of the end zone with 7:30 remaining.

After the free kick, the Jets were on the move, but Damar Hamlin made a huge play to force a Michael Carter II fumble and Milano recovered at the Buffalo 22. It seemed like that might be the final dagger, but the Jets simply refused to quit.

They got the ball back with 3:13 to go and drove to a 26-yard Greg Zuerlein field goal that cut the gap to 20-12 with 1:18 left, and they still had all their timeouts.

Naturally, the Bills went three and out, and the defense had to survive the final 46 seconds, but here, White threw four straight incompletions to close out the game and send everyone home breathing a cold sigh of relief.

Sal Maiorana can be reached at maiorana@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY