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NFL: Bills banking on focused effort vs. Jets

Riled up by a flat performance and shocking loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Buffalo Bills are looking for a punching bag.

Next on the schedule: Sunday’s trip to New Jersey to face the 2-6 Jets and backup quarterback Mike White.

The Bills (5-3) didn’t score a touchdown and lost a 9-6 rockfight to the Jaguars last week.

What looked to be the cakewalk of a schedule stretch was dealt a shocking blow with an embarrassing loss. Bills’ running backs managed only 22 yards on nine carries, symptomatic of a problem that has plagued Buffalo all season.

Although the Bills have averaged a respectable 4.4 yards per carry rushing, above the league average of 4.3, it becomes only 4.0 if you take away the 319 yards accomplished from the jaunts of quarterback Josh Allen. The loss to the Jaguars was no different, as Allen had 50 yards on five carries, but struggled to make things happen in the passing game.

That shortcoming has only been exacerbated because of injuries along the offensive line. Right tackle Spencer Brown and right guard Jon Feliciano both missed the Jacksonville game. Feliciano (calf) has been placed on injured reserve, but Brown (back) returned to practice Wednesday on a limited basis.

“I thought we’d be further along,” Buffalo coach Sean McDermott said. “I thought we’d progressed in that area.”

The stagnant ground attack has led to games such as Sunday’s, in which Jacksonville took away the deep game from the strong-armed Allen and forced him to try to nicked-and-dime his way underneath with short throws. He couldn’t do it, throwing two interceptions.

“It all fits together,” McDermott said of the balance between running and passing. “It all has to work together.”

Perhaps the Jets’ run defense will serve as a needed tonic. New York was gashed for 260 yards on the ground in a 45-30 loss to Indianapolis that wasn’t as close as the score indicated, and allowed 148 yards rushing two games earlier in a 54-13 blowout loss to New England.

In between, the Jets managed to beat Cincinnati and limit the Bengals to 51 yards on the ground. Of course, coach Robert Saleh hopes that front seven is the one that shows up this week.

He said, “Are there things that we have to get better at? Absolutely. Does our youth show up on tape sometimes? Absolutely. Are there things that I think we are improving on? For sure. In between those games is our really great performance against Cincinnati.”

Saleh insisted that, “The staff is doing a really nice job. The players are doing a really nice job. We just had two bad games against two pretty good offenses.”

Saleh said White will start again after a forearm injury suffered early in the loss to the Colts caused numbness in his fingers and prevented him from gripping the ball. Saleh indicated that rookie Zach Wilson (knee) still isn’t quite ready, although he will run the scout offense this week. Joe Flacco will be active as the backup this week after sitting out the first two games of his second tour of duty as a Jet after being traded by Philadelphia.

For Buffalo, tight end Dawson Knox (hand) returned to practice on a limited basis but his status for the game is uncertain. Running back Zack Moss (concussion protocol) also is iffy. Matt Breida could start in his place.

–Field Level Media

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