Jets' turnovers give Bills renewed hope
November, 17, 2013
By Mike Rodak | ESPN.com
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- This was the Buffalo Bills' proverbial "must-win" game.
With their backs to the wall -- losers of three straight and sitting in fourth place in the AFC East -- the Bills got the job done Sunday, cruising past the New York Jets, 37-14.
From start to finish, the Bills had the Jets' number. They sacked Geno Smith four times, including a strip-sack by defensive tackle Kyle Williams that set up a second-quarter touchdown.
"I think we were able to go out and really control the football game," Williams said. "To dominate the football game was good."
"Early in the game, we got a couple three-and-outs," safety Jairus Byrd said. "I think we knew right then that we were in the right direction getting some pressures on them, getting them uncomfortable back there."
Uncomfortable was the perfect way to describe Smith's demeanor. While the Bills' pass rush was ferocious, Smith also crumbled on his own, throwing three interceptions and completing just eight of his 23 passes.
Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports Da'Norris Searcy gave the Bills a 34-7 lead with his 32-yard interception return.
"I just think a few of those passes, if I had put it a touch to the right or to the left, it wouldn't have been intercepted," Smith said. "I think that's just the way the game goes and the way it's been for me up to this point."
Byrd snagged two of those interceptions, while fellow safety Da'Norris Searcy returned another 32 yards for a touchdown.
"The coverage took me that way a little bit and I saw that [the receiver] was sitting there," Byrd said of his second interception. "And it just came right to me."
"I had my eye on him for a second, [but] I think that's part of playing in this league, is having to play guys like that," Smith said. "As soon as you take your eye off them, they can cut a route. They study film and understand the game so well that you can never be 100 percent sure that your guy is going to be there and be open."
It was that sort of day for the Bills' defense, which capitalized on Smith's mistakes and eventually forced backup Matt Simms into the game for much of the fourth quarter, when the outcome was already decided.
Their losing streak snapped, the Bills now stand at 4-7. That's the third-worst record in the AFC, but believe it or not, the Bills are still in the hunt for a playoff spot.
Why? Their upcoming schedule could hardly be any easier.
Following its bye week, Buffalo will host the Atlanta Falcons (2-8) in Toronto before traveling to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-8) and Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9). Sweep that three-game stretch, and the Bills will be 7-7 and still in the mix entering the final two weeks of the season.
They would still need to take care of the Miami Dolphins at home on Dec. 22 and hope the New England Patriots aren't playing for anything at Gillette Stadium on Dec. 29. And even at 9-7, they would still need help to squeak into the postseason.
But there's hope, something that even coach Doug Marrone admitted last week was fading.
"We're not mathematically eliminated. I understand that. But things aren't looking good, especially when you play a game like that," Marrone said last Monday, following the Bills' loss to the Steelers.
There's a lot that stands between the Bills and the franchise's first playoff appearance since 1999, but their win Sunday came right when they needed it the most.
"We needed to win so bad," safety Jim Leonhard said. "We needed to come and bring the energy, and I thought that was the difference in the game."