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Bills found way to lose Sunday that had been unseen for 62 years

By Tim Graham

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- When I spoke to eight-time Pro Bowl guard Stevie Wisniewski for my NFL Sunday story about overcoming penalties, he shared with me a stat from when he was a coaching intern for John Harbaugh at Stanford.

"If you're minus-one or minus-two in turnovers and also have a net difference of over 30 yards in penalties," Wisniewski said, "it's about impossible to win a game. That doesn't matter who you're playing."

Wisniewski couldn't recall the exact number, but said he thought teams lose 98 percent of the time they're overmatched in penalties and turnovers like that.

The New York Jets did that Sunday, yet the trounced the Buffalo Bills in every other facet of the game to win, 27-20, at the Meadowlands.

The Bills had seven penalties for 87 yards. That's too many.

But the Jets had 20 penalties for 168 yards, a net advantage of 81 yards for the Bills. The Bills gained eight first downs from penalties, tying a club record.

The Bills also were plus-two in turnovers. Jets quarterback Geno Smith threw a pair of interceptions, while the Bills had zero giveaways. The Bills hadn't gone turnover-free on the road since November 2011.

"Obviously, whenever you lose a tight game you're kicking yourself," Bills safety Jim Leonhard said. "It's a division game. It means a lot. To not get that win definitely hurts. We definitely felt like we let one slip."

The last time a team committed 20 penalties and won was 1951, when the dominant Cleveland Browns did it.

The Jets overcame the steep odds not with Otto Graham, but with a rookie quarterback.

The Jet gained 513 yards, the most in Rex Ryan's tenure. Running back Bilal Powell had a career day with 149 yards. Smith threw for 313 yards and a couple of deeeeeeeep touchdowns. Santonio Holmes had a career-high 154 yards. He and Stephen Hill each had a 30-yard average and a touchdown.

"Everything we did was self-inflicted," Bills linebacker Arthur Moats said. "We gave up big plays. You can't do that. It doesn't matter what quarterback is out there. It's the NFL."

The Bills, meanwhile, failed to score a touchdown on any of their three red-zone appearances.

The Jets sacked Bills rookie EJ Manuel eight times and recorded 16 quarterback hits. Defensive linemen had three sacks. Linebackers had three sacks. Defensive backs had two sacks. Only one member of the Jets' starting front seven didn't have at least one QB hit.

"Their penalties were offset by the sacks they got," Bills receiver Stevie Johnson said. "It was an even matchup.

"They made their mistakes; we made ours. It was a tough way to lose."


Arthur Moats | EJ Manuel | Geno Smith | Jim Leonhard | Rex Ryan | Stevie Johnson
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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |