EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — It appeared everything was going the New York Jets' way for a successful season opener.
Le'Veon Bell looked anything but rusty in his return from a nearly 20-month layoff. C.J. Mosley was making big plays. The defence was causing turnovers and keeping the Buffalo Bills out of the end zone.
Then, just like that, a promising start suddenly deteriorated into a brutal loss.
Josh Allen threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to John Brown with 3 minutes left, and the Bills overcame four early turnovers and rallied from a 16-point second-half deficit to stun the Jets 17-16 on Sunday.
"We're OK, man," safety Jamal Adams insisted. "It's not the end of the world. It's one loss. We'll be all right."
Maybe so, but this certainly wasn't how the Jets wanted to kick things off in Adam Gase's debut as coach.
It was eerily reminiscent of last year's blown 16-point loss to Tennessee under then-coach Todd Bowles. That Jets team also squandered a 15-point advantage against Green Bay in a season marked by four blown fourth-quarter leads.
"That's last year's team," linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. "Half the guys that were on the team last year aren't even here."
New faces, new season — but same problem.
"When you take a loss like this, it kind of defines you," said Bell, who ran for 60 yards on 17 carries and had six catches for 32 yards and a touchdown. "We want to see how guys respond."
While Gase was composed in his postgame news conference, his frustration was clear.
"That was a little disappointing considering our defence was playing really well in the first half," Gase said. "Those guys brought great juice and created turnovers. We were just inept on offence, making mistakes that we can't make to consistently move the ball.
"We have a lot to clean up there."
The Jets took a 16-0 lead with 7:01 left in the third quarter when Darnold hit Bell on a TD pass and a 2-point conversion.
"Whenever you get four-plus turnovers and we're not turning the ball over as an offence," Darnold said, "we've got to win that game."
But, Buffalo got onto the scoreboard on its next possession on Stephen Hauschka's 43-yard field goal. It was a drive kept alive by Henry Anderson being called for roughing the passer on third-and-10 from the Jets 49. A diving Marcus Maye also dropped an interception on the play right before Hauschka's field goal.
Mosley also left during the drive with a groin injury, and Gase said he'll be evaluated. Rookie Quinnen Williams, the No. 3 overall pick, hurt an ankle during the game and was seen leaving the stadium in a walking boot.
Meanwhile, Allen was marching the Bills through a suddenly porous Jets defence, capping an impressive drive by pump-faking, taking off to his right and stepping inside the right-front pylon to make it 16-10 with 10:21 remaining.
"I felt like our energy died, man," Adams said. "We weren't playing team ball. Any time you do that, a team's going to take advantage of it."
The Bills were also able to capitalize on the Jets' seemingly endless kicking woes.
Kaare Vedvik, claimed off waivers from Minnesota last weekend, missed an extra point on the Jets' first touchdown and was wide right on a 45-yard field goal try.
"It sucks," Vedvik said. "Everybody wants to do their part and carry their own part in helping the team win. And a close game like that? Yeah, it was bad."
Gase wouldn't commit to Vedvik being the Jets' kicker moving forward, saying only that he'd have "a conversation with the personnel guys."
The Jets need to figure that all out, along with moving forward from this loss by next Monday night when they host the Cleveland Browns and try to avoid opening 0-2.
"We can't let one game define our season," Gase said. "They're going to line us up next week and nobody is going to care if we won or lost the week before."
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