Jets Coach Todd Bowles is under pressure after missing the playoffs in his first two years. But his team has lost quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, cornerback Darrelle Revis, receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker and several others, and the reconstructed roster does not include many accomplished veterans.
The Jets were held to 38 yards on the ground and just 214 yards over all. With four minutes left in the game and Buffalo up by two scores, Bowles decided to punt rather than go for a conversion on a fourth-and-8 at the Jets’ 44. They got the ball back for one more play, quarterback Josh McCown’s second interception.
“We thought we could get field position, and we had three timeouts,” Bowles said when asked about the punt. “We thought we could stop them and get the ball back. Simple as that.”
On third down, the Jets had a conversion rate of only 28 percent compared with the Bills’ 47 percent.
“Got to be better on third down,” said McCown, a 38-year-old journeyman. He completed 26 of 39 passes for 187 yards. “I’ve got to do a better job of protecting the football. I thought we had some big plays here and there, but not enough.”
Bowles blamed missed assignments for the fact that the Bills gained a total of 408 yards.
“They’re surprising because they’re guys who have been here,” Bowles said of the blown assignments, adding that correcting the problem is partly a coaching issue. “We got to coach it better, and they’ve got to play it better.”
The Bills lifted off early, driving to the Jets’ 8-yard line on their first possession, but an interception by the Jets’ Juston Burris ended the threat. The Jets’ offense went three-and-out on its first two possessions, and it did not get much better after that. The Jets had only 11 first downs compared with 23 for Buffalo.
The Jets have not reached the playoffs since 2010, and the Bills have not done it since 1999. Bowles, now in his third season, has a 15-18 record, while Buffalo has charted a new course with McDermott, a rookie head coach.
McCown, a 15-year veteran who is playing on his eighth N.F.L. team, is not the Jets’ quarterback of the future. He is biding his time until one of the backups, Christian Hackenberg or Bryce Petty, can grow into the job.
At some point, it’s expected Hackenberg will get some action because the Jets need to give him a proper evaluation before decisions are made for next year’s draft, which is projected to be laden with top-flight QB talent.
McCown has taken on a leadership role with his new teammates, and he said he saw good work habits already developing.
“It’s a cool moment in the locker room when you come in before the game and these guys are in their books and studying,” McCown said. “They’ve handled all this well, considering all the moving parts. I’m proud of them for that. And hopefully, those are habits we can build on.”
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