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."
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.
What the Jets said
"Extremely frustrated, man. I hate to come out of games. At the same time, I understand decisions have to be made. The only thing I can do in that moment is just cheer on Matt (Simms), the offense and just take mental reps." - Jets quarterback Geno Smith, reacting to being benched
What the Bills said
"Yeah, it looked like it. He didn't finish the game, so something must have gone on." -- Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso, when asked if they rattled Jets quarterback Smith.
What we learned about the Bills
1. Quarterback EJ Manuel can connect on the deep ball. He's been criticized for his inaccurate deep throws, but yesterday he made two long connections on back-to-back throws to T.J. Graham and Marquise Goodwin that went for 83 yards and a touchdown that put the game away.
2. Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller is in a huge funk. Three weeks ago, the Bills electric running back gained 116 yards on 12 carries against Kansas City's stout defense. Since then, he has 29 yards on 23 carries. This from a guy who averaged six yards a carry last season. Doug Marrone has been displeased by Spiller's propensity to bounce too many runs outside, often resulting in a negative plays.
What we learned about the Jets
1. It might be time to start Matt Simms. Geno Smith's turnover-itis is killing the Jets. He's now up to 20, and if you add the 13 fumbles he's had that his team has recovered that's way too many mistakes to think this is a legitimate playoff team. Simms did complete 4 of 6 for 60 yards and one score - a 13-yard strike to tight end Jeff Cumberland. Asked who will start next week, Ryan said: "We'll look at everything as we go. But again, I don't think it's fair to place it on one man."
2. The Jets run defense continues to be impregnable, but its secondary, well that's another story. Buffalo committed to the run, with scant success (38 carries, 68 yards, 1.8 yards per carry). Its only double-digit gain on the ground was a 17-yarder on a reverse by Goodwin. The Jets secondary was torched deep several times. First-round pick Dee Milliner continues to struggle, but so did their veteran, lock-down corner Antonio Cromartie, who failed to jam Goodwin and was beaten several times by the rookie speed-burner.