The Buffalo Bills needed a solid, all-around effort to snap out of their recent funk. And that's exactly what they gave fans Sunday.
E.J. Manuel threw for 245 yards and two touchdowns and the Bills defense forced four turnovers in Buffalo's 37-14 win over the New York Jets.
Manuel's fellow rookie quarterback, Geno Smith, had one of his worst days as a pro. Smith only completed eight passes, threw three interceptions and lost a fumble. One of his interceptions, a pick by Da'Norris Searcy, was returned for a touchdown.
On offense, the Bills didn't have a lot of success running the ball. But their passing attack came up big without top wideouts Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods. Manuel threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Graham in the second quarter and a 43-yard touchdown strike to Marquise Goodwin in the third quarter.
Prior to the touchdown pass to Goodwin, Manuel connected with Graham for a 40-yard completion.
Graham finished the day with two grabs for 74 yards. Goodwin was Manuel's top target, catching six passes for 81 yards and a score.
With the victory, the Bills improve to 4-7 heading into their bye week. The Jets fall to 5-5. The Jets have alternated wins and losses to start the season, which is an NFL record. No team has ever alternated wins and losses through their first 10 games.
Here is this week's Buffalo Bills report card:
GRADING THE UNITS
OFFENSE - B-
This was a much better performance by the Bills offense, mainly because E.J. Manuel had success throwing the ball. Manuel threw two pretty passes on one drive -- a 40-yard completion to T.J. Graham and a 43-yard touchdown pass to Marquise Goodwin. He had a good rapport with Goodwin, who was his top receiver against the Jets. Goodwin caught six passes for 81 yards, including the touchdown catch.
While the Bills' passing attack was successful, the running game had a subpar day. Fred Jackson had 12 carries for 34 yards and C.J. Spiller was held to only six yards on 13 carries. As a team, the Bills only managed 1.8 yards per carry. That's a problem the Bills need to find a remedy for. The rushing attack struggled against Pittsburgh and struggled against the Jets. The offensive coaching staff needs to find a way to get Jackson or Spiller going.
As for offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, who has been criticized in this space throughout the season, he decided to coach from the sidelines Sunday. He usually coaches from the booth, but made the transition to the field. Was it noticeable? Probably not. But it has to be easier for offensive players to get his feedback in real time instead of waiting for calls down from the coaches box.
The Bills have plenty to work on, but they should be encouraged by this offensive performance. Manuel showed he can win games with his arm and Goodwin established himself as a serious target. It was a good win -- an important win -- and the Bills offense were a big reason why this game was a blowout.
DEFENSE - A
You will rarely find an "A" grade in the weekly report card, but the Bills defense deserves one after their performance against the Jets.
The Bills sacked Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith four times and recorded three interceptions. Kyle Williams, who had two sacks Sunday, also forced a fumble, which was recovered by Manny Lawson. The fumble recovery set up a touchdown.
Kiko Alonso was a tackling machine against the Jets. He had 13 tackles, including seven solo tackles. Aaron Williams also had a double-digit tackle day, with 10 tackles (six solo).
While the defensive line and linebackers played well, the secondary were the stars of the show. Jairus Byrd had two interceptions and Da'Norris Searcy's 32-yard interception return for a touchdown gave the Bills a 34-7 lead.
The Bills not only held the Jets to 14 points, they also held the Jets offense to 267 total yards. The Jets only had 133 passing yards against the Bills, while rushing for 134 yards. Half of that rushing yardage total came on one play, when Chris Ivory picked up 69 yards on a run in the fourth quarter.
You won't have trouble winning too many games if your defense has a game like this every week. Sacks, takeaways and stops. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has done a great job with this unit. For most of the season, the defense has shined. The Bills might be 4-7, but their record could be a lot better and a big reason why is the defensive unit.
SPECIAL TEAMS - B
This was a much better day for the special teams, with the exception of Brian Moorman's bobbled snap that led to a 1-yard punt. Aside from his bad punt, Moorman had a decent day kicking the ball. He doesn't need to be great, but he needs to be a good directional kicker and boom some long ones when needed. As long as he can do that, he will still have a job.
Kicker Dan Carpenter continued his solid 2013 campaign with three field goals -- all three from 40 to 45 yards. Carpenter now has 22 made field goals this season, including eight from 40 yards or more.
The Bills' kick coverage continued to be an important piece of the special teams unit. But the return units committed a couple of penalties on returns, which has been a problem for Buffalo this season. You can make the case that block in the back penalties are garbage (I do it on a weekly basis) but rules are rules. The blockers on kick and punt returns need to be smarter. Don't hold. Don't block in the back. Make a clean block and let your returner do their thing.
COACHING - B+
The Bills coaching staff rebounded from a horrible game last week against Pittsburgh with a well coached outing Sunday against the Jets.
Head coach Doug Marrone's staff was prepared for the Jets. While the running game struggled, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett's unit was able to pick up yards through the air and scored a few touchdowns. Hackett's decision to move down to the field was a smart one. It should help his players, especially quarterback E.J. Manuel. It has to help a young quarterback to have his offensive coordinator down on the field with him. Let's hope it stays that way.
On defense, it had to feel good to be Mike Pettine after this game. The defensive coordinator, who previously coached the Jets defense, made Geno Smith's life miserable today and his unit registered four sacks, four takeaways and a touchdown. Pettine's influence on this team has been a big reason why the defense is a much better unit this season. He deserves a lot of credit for this win.
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
OFFENSE: Marquise Goodwin. With Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods out, Goodwin stepped up and served as E.J. Manuel's No. 1 receiver against the Jets. Goodwin led the Bills with six catches for 81 yards and a touchdown. He burned by Antonio Cromartie for a 43-yard score in the third quarter. He also added a 17-yard run in the second half.
DEFENSE: Kyle Williams and Jairus Byrd. We have co-players of the game this week, with Byrd and Williams sharing the honor.
Byrd had two interceptions and a sack against the Jets. He also had four tackles. He now has three interceptions in two weeks and is showing why he's one of the best safeties in the NFL.
Williams had three tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. The sack and forced fumble helped set up a Bills touchdown in the second quarter. Williams now has seven sacks this season, which is a career high.
Scott Chandler. Chandler had two catches for 40 yards, including a 31-yard reception. But he also missed a pass when he was wide open.
Chandler has had a decent season, but he's also had a fair number of drops or bobbled passes this season. If he's going to be a top receiving target for the Bills, he needs to be more dependable. He needs to make catches, especially when he's wide open. Sure, Manuel's throw could have been better. But it was still catchable. And Chandler needs to make more of those plays.
STAT OF THE GAME
Kyle Williams' 2013 sack total. With seven sacks this season, Williams set a new career high. His previous high was 5.5 sacks in 2010.
STAT OF THE GAME II
Kiko Alonso hits the century mark. With 13 tackles Sunday, Alonso hit triple digits in tackles this season. He now has 112 tackles, which is good for second in the NFL.
The Bills (4-7) get Week 12 off. They will return to action Sunday, Dec. 1 against the Atlanta Falcons. The game will be played at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.