Buffalo has seen a lot of hard times throughout their history as an NFL franchise, but so have their hated rivals: The New York Jets. The early 2010s had not been kind to either side and with two ongoing playoff droughts between us, desperation was in the air.
Setting The Scene
It was January 3rd, 2016. Entering Week 17 on the 2015-16 NFL season, Buffalo had already been eliminated from postseason contention, extending their playoff drought to 16 seasons. At 7-8 to start his tenure, Tyrod Taylor had been named a Pro Bowler during his first year with the Bills, and while we had a lot to look forward to, our season was over. Everything was on the line for the 10-5 New York Jets. If they won, they would make the playoffs for the first time since 2010, hoping to travel the road to Superbowl 50. It would take a loss and a Pittsburgh win over the Browns to end their journey. The Bills had nothing to play for except spite, and head coach Rex Ryan was filled with it.
Buffalo opened strong, pinning the Jets at their goal line early on. After an awful punt, they had the best field position of the day. Nine minutes into the contest, Taylor burst up the left sideline and dove for the pylon. His 18-yard touchdown put us up 7-0, but we didn't stop there. After forcing a three-and-out, Buffalo drove right back down the field to do more damage. They played to win on fourth down, just two yards away from the end zone. Karlos Williams burst through the middle of the heap for another score, bringing it to 13-0.
New York, New Strength
Buffalo was set to peel away, but the Jets weren't going out without a fight. Chris Ivory gashed the defense, putting the Bills on the back foot. Though the drive ended in a missed field goal, they had new life and, after forcing a punt, it took them only three plays to find the end zone. Brandon Marshall hauled in a 41-yard deep ball, then a 17-yard TD to cap it off. A late field goal to end the half gave the Bills their two-score lead back, but it wouldn't last.
A Game In The Balance
On the second half's opening possession, Mike Gillislee fumbled the ball. The Jets recovered it in excellent field position. The stalwart Buffalo defense held them to only two yards, but the field goal became complicated again. Taylor took the field, and the offense ate the clock with remarkable effectiveness on his back. Featuring a conversion on fourth-and-six, their nine-minute drive did what was needed; Buffalo had a two-score lead again, and the Jets were in desperation mode. Tragically, it didn't take them long to answer back.
Four minutes later, Fitzpatrick and friends found the end zone, as a perfect pass hit Eric Decker in stride. NYJ 17-19 Buffalo. The New York defense turned it up, forcing a quick three-and-out again before their offense marched their way downfield. Then, from the Buffalo 14-yard line, Fitzpatrick fired a bullet to the end zone, which was picked off by Leodis McKelvin.
The resulting touchback put the ball in Tyrod's hands again, and they chewed up another seven minutes before kicking a field goal. With under five minutes left and a five-point lead, they sent out the defense once more. Seven plays later, Marcell Dareus, hit Fitzpatrick in motion, and the fluttering pass was snagged by Manny Lawson.
One Final Push
The Jets burned their timeouts as the Bills tried to run out the little time remaining, but with under a minute left in the game, we had to punt it away. The Steelers were leading the Browns comfortably, and if New York didn't act fast, they'd be missing out on their playoff spot. With 82 yards to go, 44 seconds remaining, and very little in the way of hope, the Jets needed a miracle. They wouldn't get one. In only three plays, Fitzpatrick was hit on the release for the last time, sailing the ball into the waiting arms of A.J. Tarpley as Buffalo ripped the 'Win-And-In' scenario right out from under the Jets. To see all the action, check the video below.
With time expiring, the score of the Steelers-Browns game emblazoned on the stadium screens, and the ball in their hands, the Jets fell short. It had been Ryan Fitzpatrick's first game back in Buffalo since he was cut from the team three years previously and far from the reunion he'd been hoping for. This time around, it's us with everything we've worked for all season on the line; Let's not allow New York to play spoiler.
If you’re enjoying the series, check out last week’s issue detailing our history against the Atlanta Falcons here. For a more comprehensive look at the Bills-Jets rivalry, check out this article, and don't forget to come back next week for another installment of Bills history.