ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Too often under former coach Rex Ryan, the Buffalo Bills folded under the pressure of close games. Despite playing down to the level of their opponent at times Sunday, the Bills showed improved mental toughness in first-year coach Sean McDermott's debut by closing out a 21-12 home win over the New York Jets with a strong second-half performance. Buffalo scored back-to-back touchdowns and then intercepted QB Josh McCown twice to seal the win.
"That's a resilient football team," McDermott said after the game. "Good football teams are resilient."
What it means: The win gives the Bills sole possession of first place in the AFC East after New England's loss and the postponement of Miami's opener. The division lead is an unexpected early victory for McDermott, but as he said Friday, it is not an accomplishment that will be on the minds of Buffalo's players or coaches. The Bills still have much to prove after beating the lowly Jets. It is too early to say the Bills will be better than where most projected them to finish. Many predicted this victory. "This is one win," McDermott said after the game. "Let's keep things in perspective."
What I liked: Stop me if you have heard this before: RB LeSean McCoy was the engine of the offense. For a third consecutive season, McCoy is the most important player for an offense that was inconsistent in the passing game Sunday. While McCoy was sometimes bottled up at the line, he had 159 total yards (110 rushing, 49 receiving). He took himself out of the game after a 3-yard run near the goal line early in the fourth quarter, appearing to be in significant pain on the sideline. McCoy, who was later cleared to return, said after the game his wrist went numb, and he did not want to attempt a carry for ball-security reasons. Disaster averted for Buffalo.
What I didn’t like: It was a mixed bag for quarterback Tyrod Taylor and the Bills' passing offense. Taylor's first half was worse than his second. He completed 11-of-19 passes in the first two quarters for 132 yards, one touchdown and a goal-line interception that helped keep the game close. Overall, Taylor seemed more comfortable throwing to tight end Charles Clay than to receivers Jordan Matthews, Zay Jones or Andre Holmes -- all newcomers this season. Clay had nine targets while Buffalo's wide receivers totaled eight targets. Taylor's chemistry with receivers might take time to develop, although he said Sunday that the game plan was to target McCoy and Clay against the Jets' linebackers.
Fantasy fallout: McCoy fantasy owners should be happy about his big day, but it could have been much bigger. The Bills used McCoy only sparingly in the red zone, replacing him at times with burly backup Mike Tolbert. After McCoy hurt his wrist, Tolbert entered the game and scored a 1-yard touchdown. Taylor also tossed a pair of 1-yard touchdown passes, to Clay and Holmes, that prevented McCoy's fantasy owners from potentially picking up points for a rushing touchdown.
Bills' run defense dominant: The Bills' starting defense was dominant in the preseason, allowing only nine points in 16 opponent possessions. It continued to look stout Sunday, especially against the Jets' rushing attack. New York had only 38 rushing yards on 15 attempts. With Bilal Powell and Matt Forte both ineffective, the Jets were forced to center their offense around McCown, who attempted 39 passes. That is not a winning formula for the Jets, which was a victory for Buffalo's defense.
What’s next: The Bills (1-0) hit the road next weekend to play the Carolina Panthers. The game will be a homecoming for McDermott, who spent the past six seasons as Carolina's defensive coordinator, and for first-year general manager Brandon Beane, who spent the past 19 seasons in various front-office roles for the Panthers.