ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP)Before looking ahead to a prime-time showdown against Miami on Saturday – with the top spot in the AFC East hanging in the balance – Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills should be relieved to have the New York Jets off their schedule.
For now, at least.
Barring a playoff meeting, which remains a possibility, no opponent this season has done a better job smothering the Bills high-powered offense than what the Robert Saleh-coached Jets did in splitting their two outings after Buffalo eked out a 20-12 win on Sunday.
It was a win for the Bills that required trickery – Buffalo fooled the Jets into jumping offside on fourth-and-1 to set up its first touchdown – and was keyed by a defense that forced two second-half turnovers before closing the game forcing Mike White to throw four consecutive incompletions and turn the ball over on downs.
Easy as it might have been to suggest the Bills offense didn’t resemble that of a Super Bowl contender, as was raised to Allen following the game, what’s hard to overlook is how Buffalo sputtered in each of its two meetings against Gang Green.
Buffalo managed what had been season lows with 317 yards offense and 19 first downs in a 20-17 loss at New York on Nov. 6. Five weeks later, the Bills set new lows with 232 yards offense and 14 first downs, though this time in a victory.
Take away those two games, and Buffalo is averaging 419 yards offense and 29 points per outing.
Part of the difference Sunday was Allen playing turnover-free football after he threw two interceptions – one in the red zone, and the second inside Buffalo’s 25 to set up a Jets touchdown – in the first meeting.
”We’re 10-3 and finding ways to win football games,” Allen said in response to the offensive struggles Sunday. ”I know that’s not what you what to hear, but just playing complementary football, not putting ourselves and our defense in bad positions, and just trying to win football games no matter how it happens.”
The Bills won despite top receiver Stefon Diggs being limited to three catches for 37 yards, his fourth-lowest output in three seasons in Buffalo, and an offense that committed six three-and-outs, its most since having that many in a 27-10 win over the Jets in last year’s season finale.
What’s encouraging is three of Buffalo’s four final opponents feature defenses ranked outside the NFL’s top 10, with New England (ranked sixth as of Monday) the exception.
On Saturday, the Bills face an altogether different test in hosting Miami (8-5), whose defense has dropped to 20th after allowing a combined 783 yards and 56 points in losing its past two games.
The Dolphins won the first meeting against Buffalo 21-19 in a game played in sweltering conditions in south Florida. This time, the long-range forecast calls for snow and temperatures in the high-20s. The warm-weather Dolphins even resorted to having heaters near their bench during a 23-17 loss to the Chargers in Los Angeles on Sunday.
Buffalo lost in September despite outgaining Miami in yards offense 497-212 and having a near 21-minute edge in time of possession. It was a game which ended with Buffalo’s first-year offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey infamously caught on camera trashing his notes in the visitor’s coaching booth.
Having put the Jets in their rearview mirror, the Bills can do the same to the Dolphins on Saturday in their quest to win a third straight AFC East title.
Pressuring the QB. In Buffalo’s second game since losing Von Miller to a season-ending knee injury, the Bills had four sacks and eight quarterback hits against the Jets.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Third-and-long stops. The Jets converted eight of 17 third-down chances, including five third-and-8 and longer.
DE Greg Rousseau. The second-year edge rusher matched a career best with two sacks, one of which caused backup Joe Flacco to lose a fumble.
A.J. Klein. The special teams protector blamed himself for allowing Jermaine Johnson to burst free up the middle and block Sam Martin’s punt for a safety to cut Buffalo’s lead to 20-9 with 7:30 remaining.
RG Ryan Bates did not return after hurting his ankle in the second half and considered day to day. … DT Ed Oliver sustained a chest injury and is considered day to day … DT Jordan Phillips, who missed one game with a shoulder injury, is progressing, coach Sean McDermott said.
22-4 – Allen’s career record when not committing a turnover.
The Bills have won five straight at home against Miami since a 34-31 loss on Dec. 24, 2016.
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