In the first meeting between Jets quarterback Geno Smith and Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel, it was Smith who came out on top in a 27-20 win over the Bills.
The Jets improved to 2-1.
After losing to the Patriots last week, the Jets desperately needed this win to stave off an 0-2 start in the division. What they got was a relatively solid showing from Smith, who struggled in Week 2 with three interceptions in the fourth quarter.
But Smith played relatively smart football and was helped by a receiving corps that limited drops. The young quarterback had both a rushing and passing touchdown but his interceptions will continue to cast doubt on his ability to read defenses.
The signature moment of the game came midway through the fourth quarter when Smith found wide receiver Santonio Holmes on a go-route for a 69-yard touchdown pass and a 27-20 Jets lead.
It was also a “bend don’t break” outing from the Jets defense, including a second-quarter sack by Quinton Coples. The Jets had six sacks on the afternoon, an impressive number considering Manuel was sacked just once entering the game.
The Bills generated only 319 yards of total offense as the Jets’ pass rush kept Manuel constantly guessing.
Three things we learned ...
1. Manuel vs. Smith
It was billed all week long as a battle of the Top-2 quarterbacks taken in this past NFL Draft. Manuel, a surprise selection as the No. 16 pick, had impressed during the season’s first two games with a significantly higher completion percentage, more passing yards and a much higher passer rating than Smith. On the Jets’ first drive, Smith made three third-down conversion attempts and it was his 8-yard designed quarterback draw that gave the Jets a 7-0 lead. Clinging to a 7-6 lead midway through the second quarter, Smith perfectly placed a ball to Stephen Hill for a 51-yard touchdown pass in the face of stiff pressure from the Bills. All told, Smith had pass plays of 45 yards, 51 yards, 40 yards and then 69 yards as he showed off his big arm for the first time.
2. Ground and pound it
With Smith’s struggles last week, the ground game had to get going for the Jets to have any semblance of an offense. The running back tandem of Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory got rolling against the Patriots, but it was a slow start for the Jets Sunday. They had just 27 rushing yards on 11 carries in the first quarter and lost Ivory to a left hamstring injury in the second quarter. Eventually, the Jets got the ground game rolling behind some steady gains from Powell, including a powerful 27-yard run early in the third quarter. Powell finished the game with 24 carries for a career-high 149 yards.
3. Penalties kill the Jets
Cornerback Kyle Wilson gave the Bills a lifeline in the fourth quarter as he committed four straight penalties to extend a Buffalo drive that looked likely to peter out. Instead, the Wilson penalties set up Manuel for a 33-yard touchdown pass to tight end Scott Chandler over the middle. A successful two-point conversion attempt leveled the game at 20-20. The Jets would regain the lead, but Wilson showed that he was a liability on the field. It was a sloppy day overall for the Jets, with Vlad Ducasse, Muhammad Wilkerson and Santonio Holmes all flagged for multiple penalties along with Wilson. The Jets had an absurdly high 19 penalties for 163 yards.
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.