The Jets dominated the Bills today at the Meadowlands, winning 38-7. Gang Green finishes the year 11-5, the most wins the team has posted since 1998. Many of us hoped the Jets would give the starters extended time to try and go into the postseason with momentum. That did not happen. Most of the regular starters were on the bench for good by halftime. The second unit stepped up and largely dominated the Bills. Buffalo wasn't exactly playing with its full deck of cards either, but the guys on the field did everything they possibly could have done.
More after the jump
Joe McKnight: To call this a roller coaster season for McKnight would not be accurate. He started at the lowest of low points, lacking conditioning to keep up in rookie minicamp. He barely made the roster and was a frequent inactive when the year started. He worked hard through the year, steadily got himself into the good graces of the coaching staff, and started earning his keep on special teams. This week he got a chance to carry the ball since Rex Ryan wanted to rest Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson. He got the rock 32 times and ran for 158 yards. He added a pair of catches for 15 yards. What really impressed me was how he got his yards on the ground. The book on McKnight is that he was purely a speed and finesse back, but he didn't look like that today. The blocking was good, but Joe showed fantastic vision. He found small creases in the line and slipped through them. He kept his legs churning and gained extra yardage after contact. He also did show that burst for which he is known. I was glad that the Jets pounded him between the tackles. I know his best attribute might be his speed, but he's going to need to be able to do everything if someone ahead of him on the depth chart goes down. I'm not ready to say he should pass either Greene or Tomlinson on the depth chart yet. He still looked very raw in pass protection. I do think the Jets should find some touches for him to give opposing defenses something else to consider. I don't want to forget to mention his 25 yard punt return either when he made something out of nothing by reversing field.
Calvin Pace: Fans could be excused for asking who that number 97 was making all kinds of impact plays. We hadn't seen him all year. I counted 4 plays he blew up in the first half by getting into the backfield, including Marquice Cole's first interception. He added an interception of his own in the second half. It helped that the Bills kept blowing blocking assignments, but Pace took full advantage of it and displayed a good motor.
Brodney Pool: I was suprised to see that he only finished with 4 tackles because he was flying all over the field in run support. Sometimes safety stats are deceptive because they are making tackles after allowing completions or jumping on guys after long runs. Pool was stopping and redirecting runners close to the line consistently.
Brad Smith: The Bills could not stop Smith from getting to the edge, and Brad broke several big runs on his way to a 60 yard day rushing. He also had a big run wiped out by a penalty.
The Use of Brad Smith: I liked that Brian Schottenheimer utilized Smith a lot today. He also diversified his usage. Brad took snaps under center. He was in the shotgun. He bounced options outside. He cut some back. He threw a pass. He took an end around. This is going to put plenty in the mind of next week's opposing defensive coordinator and force that team to dedicate time focusing on Brad. Time spent on Smith is time not spent preparing for other parts of the offense.
Mike Devito: Devito started at the nose in place of Sione Pouha and did a good job holding the point as Buffalo averaged only 2.1 yards per run.
Marquice Cole: The interceptions were kind of gift wrapped, but he still had to make the catch. The touchdown run was impressive. He was solid in coverage all day and made a nice play catching a punt as a gunner.
Emanuel Cook: Cook made a couple of good plays in special teams coverage, one tackle and one forced fair catch.
Jason Taylor: Like Pace, Taylor was living in Buffalo's backfield and forced an interception with a hit.
John Conner: When the Jets picked him, I wondered whether he might have Le'ron McClain potential as a runner. He hits the line with such authority, it seemed like he would be effective putting the ball in his hands when he did so. Conner ran for 44 yards on 8 carries, including a 16 yard touchdown run. He needs to wrap it a little better, but I liked what I saw from him running. He might have a future as a pure power runner in a rotation with Greene and McKnight.
Mark Brunell: Brunell looked awful when he first entered the game. Almost every throw was either floating badly or short hopping the receiver. Once he shook off the rust, he made some accurate passes, including a pair of touchdowns. The interception was really bad. He clearly doesn't have much zip left on his passes. I still don't feel great about the backup quarterback situation either. I do feel a bit better after seeing Brunell make some accurate passes and heat up to a degree after a rough start.
Kellen Clemens: Threw it twice. Hit one of them. Smartly threw the other away. Had a 10 yard touchdown run. Why not? He'll probably never have another chance to get into this section.
Santonio Holmes: That 17 yard touchdown was a great throw and a great catch.
Braylon Edwards: Burned the Bills for a deep touchdown just like in the first meeting.
Kyle Wilson: I think this game is going to serve Kyle very well. He was excellent in coverage and made some nice plays breaking up throws to Steve Johnson, a really productive receiver. I would have liked to see Wilson work more in the slot to get used to it. Maybe he could have even taken some of Drew Coleman's playing time there. It's different from the outside and requires different skills. I will gladly take this kind of game, though. Wilson is going to be a heck of a player in the not too distant future.
Offensive Line: The line opened enough holes for Gang Green to run for 5.5 yards per carry. The level of play didn't really deteriorate either when Robert Turner and Vladimir Ducasse subbed for Nick Mangold and Brandon Moore. Ducasse in particular seems to have improved from when he looked totally lost on the field in preseason.
Dwight Lowery: Lowery played a very good deep zone. The Bills had trouble finding anything against him. He also got an easy interception and looked explosive on the return.
Steve Weatherford: He's a machine pinning teams inside the 20. He was 4 for 6 and would have been perfect with better tackling on the others.
Lance Laury: He got into the backfield on a pair of garbage time plays.
The Way Mark Sanchez Was Handled: You either let Sanchez throw to keep him in the groove, or you sit him to eliminate injury risk. What the Jets did was the worst of both worlds. He gained nothing confidence or rhythm wise because he didn't throw it. He was exposed to a hit in case of a fumble. That was baffling.
Drew Coleman: I think Coleman generally gets too much heat and that a lot of his problems are the result of a bad pass rush giving receivers too long to get open. I will not say that today, though. The Bills were clearly targeting and having success throwing at Drew early. He did do a nice job on a blitz, though.
Vernon Gholston: A guy with his natural ability should dominate the line of one of the worst teams in the league. We barely heard his name.
That was a great way to end a great season. I know we're all disappointed Gang Green didn't take the East, but you've had a heck of a season in the NFL when you have won 11 games. If you don't win your division with that many wins, it really isn't your fault. Another team just had an incredible season. Today has to make this team feel good. The Bills are pretty bad, but some key guys got rest and others got valuable experience in case they are called upon in the postseason.