ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Geno Smith and the New York Jets outdueled Buffalo Bills starter EJ Manuel in the first meeting between the rookie quarterbacks in the Meadowlands on September 22.
Round Two went to Manuel and the Bills Sunday - by a knockout.
Manuel threw two touchdown passes and Smith turned the ball over four times as Buffalo routed its longtime AFC East rival, 37-14, at windy Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The win ended a three-game losing streak for the Bills (4-7). The Jets are 5-5.
Manuel completed 20 of 28 passes for 245 yards with mostly a backup corps of receivers. The rookie quarterback from Florida State threw touchdown passes of 34 yards to wide receiver T.J. Graham and 43 yards to Marquise Goodwin, a rookie receiver noted for his track speed. Graham and Goodwin, who were filling in for injured wide receivers Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods, combined for eight catches and 155 yards.
"For EJ to play that well without a running game and our top receivers at his disposal on a day when it wasn't necessarily conducive for passing because of the wind, that's impressive," said Bills center Eric Wood. "He really made a statement today."
The performance was in stark contrast to last week's showing in a decisive loss to Pittsburgh when Manuel struggled mightily. It also was a far superior performance to the one he had two months ago in MetLife Stadium, when he was sacked eight times and completed just 19 of 42 passes.
"Just played with a lot more confidence," Manuel said, explaining the difference. "Knowing where I'm going with the ball and just letting it rip. That's it."
Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith had difficulties protecting the ball, an issue all season. He threw three interceptions and lost a fumble, leading to 24 Bills points. Smith was 8 of 23 for 103 yards and was sacked four times for minus-30 yards before being benched early in the fourth quarter. Smith has 20 turnovers this season.
"I don't think it's fair to just place it on him," Jets coach Rex Ryan said, when asked if Smith is regressing. "With our protection, you could have had Joe Namath back there and I don't think it would have mattered today. Obviously when you turn the ball over four times, that's a poor performance by our offense and a poor performance by our defense."
Matt Simms was 4 of 6 for 60 yards and one score in relief.
Jairus Byrd, who missed the first five games of the season with plantar fasciitis and held out of training camp, looked like the Pro Bowl safety he was the previous two seasons for the first time in months. His interceptions led to 10 Buffalo points. It was the fifth time in his four-year career that he's had multiple interceptions in a game.
"I hadn't played the game for a while, so hopefully I'm getting (back to normal)" Byrd said. "There's still some mistakes I have to clean up out there, but I'm getting there."
Buffalo took a 3-0 lead on Dan Carpenter's 40-yard field goal with 12:40 left in the half. Manuel completed 4 of 6 for 40 yards on the drive.
The Bills made it 10-0 eight minutes later on a 33-yard touchdown pass from Manuel to Graham, who started for Woods. The score capped a 13-play, 68-yard drive.
Buffalo went up 17-0 on power running back Frank Summers' 3-yard touchdown run less than a minute later. That score was set up when Smith was stripped by Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams and linebacker Manny Lawson recovered at the Jets 4. It was Smith's 17th fumble (fourth lost) of the season.
Smith's turnover problems continued on the Jets next series when he was intercepted by Byrd on a pass intended for tight end Jeff Cumberland. That led to a 42-yard field goal by Carpenter that sent the Bills to the locker room with a 20-0 lead.
The Jets finally broke into the scoring column when running back Chris Ivory scored on a 1-yard plunge midway through the third quarter. The seven-play, 40-yard scoring drive occurred after Bills punter Brian Moorman dropped the snap and had to punt on the run. His kick traveled one yard beyond the line of scrimmage, giving the Jets a first down on the Bills 40.
Buffalo answered with a 43-yard touchdown pass from Manuel to Goodwin with 4:40 left in the third quarter to go up by 20. One play before the touchdown, Manuel found Graham for a 40-yard reception.
With 1:14 left in the third, safety Da'Norris Searcy intercepted Smith's pass and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown that put the Bills up 34-7.
The Jets scored their second touchdown with 9:36 left in the game on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Simms to Cumberland.
Carpenter capped the scoring with a 43-yard field goal with 4:02 to go.
NOTES: Ed Reed, signed by the Jets Tuesday after being released by Houston, started in place of Antonio Allen at safety. He finished with three tackles, including one for a loss vs. Buffalo. ... C.J. Spiller finished with six yards on 13 carries. ... Smith was forced to leave the game with 12:41 remaining in the first quarter after being hit by Bills nose tackle Marcell Dareus. He returned after one play. ... Ivory finished with 98 yards on 15 carries, with 69 coming on a long run in the fourth quarter. ... Buffalo managed just 68 yards on 38 carries, an average of 1.8 yard per carry.