EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - So much for six months of anticipation for the Buffalo Bills' football season.
"It hurts, it's no fun, it's awful, all of the above," said coach Chan Gailey after the Bills' 48-28 loss to the New York Jets.
"It's unacceptable, it's embarrassing, and unfortunately it happened in the first game," said quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
"I want everybody to feel like crap for the next 24 hours, and then turn this thing around," said linebacker Nick Barnett.
The new and improved Bills were missing in action, as the team suffered its biggest opening-day defeat since 1997 and allowed its second most points ever in a season opener.
Fitzpatrick resembled "Bad Fitz" of the second half of last season, throwing three interceptions.
The defensive backs looked a lot like last year's group, which ranked 21st on third-down defense. New York converted a phenomenal 10 of 14 third-down situations.
The Jets led, 27-7, at halftime and 41-7 midway through the third quarter.
Making matters worse, the Bills suffered two key injuries. Running back Fred Jackson has an apparent sprained knee and looks like he's out for the short term (weeks). Slot receiver David Nelson suffered a serious knee injury and looks like he's out for the season.
Fitzpatrick, who led the NFL in interceptions last season, was primarily responsible for the Bills' early hole. On the Bills' fourth play from scrimmage, Fitzpatrick hitched then threw to the left sideline for Stevie Johnson. All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis easily stepped in front for an interception that gave the Jets the ball at their 39-yard line.
"I was late on the throw," Fitzpatrick said. "Versus a great player, especially someone of Revis' caliber, you can't be late on a throw."
Fitzpatrick threw an interception on the second drive, too. It was a pass in the short middle for Nelson that was a step behind the receiver. Jets cornerback Kyle Wilson, near Nelson's inside hip, grabbed it and gave his team possession at its own 48.
It wasn't a case of a Jet dropping back in a zone blitz and surprising Fitzpatrick.
"That's the frustrating thing of the day," Fitzpatrick said. "They were probably more vanilla than they've been in the past, in terms of they weren't running crazy schemes. They were out there just playing us. The one to David was just man coverage. It was one where I just threw it behind him before he came out of his break. As he comes out, the ball's behind him and Wilson picks it."
Fitzpatrick's third pickoff, on the third play of the third quarter, was returned 40 yards for a touchdown by Antonio Cromartie. On that one, it's likely Nelson didn't break the way Fitzpatrick expected. But the damage had been done in the first half.
"He was really bad early," Gailey said of Fitzpatrick. "Some of those I put him in bad situations with some play calls. But after we got past a couple of those bad situations he did some decent things. Overall it was not a good day, a bad day for him."
The Bills' defense could not bail out its quarterback.
After the first pickoff, the Jets drove 61 yards in eight plays, capped by a 12-yard TD catch by second-year slot man Jeremy Kerley. Sanchez threw a perfect pass to the left side of the end zone, over the arms of Bills cornerback Leodis McKelvin, who also gave up a 21-yard catch to Kerley on the drive.
"It was just a nice thrown ball by Sanchez," McKelvin said. "He put it in a high space where I couldn't get the ball. It was in the right spot for him to get the ball. But I could have played through his hands [tried to knock the ball out], and it would have been better for me."
After the second Fitzpatrick pick, the Jets drove 52 yards in just five plays, capped by a 33-yard Sanchez throw to 6-foot-4 rookie Stephen Hill down the left sideline. Bills rookie Stephon Gilmore bit on Hill's fake 10 yards downfield and was two steps behind.
"I think I coulda made two plays out there," Gilmore said. "The one play he gave me a double move and I tried to jump it. On the other play [a 27-yard, third-quarter flea-flicker pass], I was over the top, and I was in good position, but the quarterback threw a good ball."
Even the Bills' special teams got in the bumbling act. Brian Moorman, great in preseason, hit a low, 3.4-second hang-time punt that Kerley returned 68 yards for a score that put the Jets ahead, 21-0.
Sanchez finished 19 of 27 for 266 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Bills back C.J. Spiller rushed for 169 yards, 110 in the second half.
The Bills relied mostly on their four-man pass rush on third downs. It didn't work.
"You get a mixture of max [protection] on their play-action stuff, and they're getting the ball out quick," said defensive tackle Kyle Williams. "It's a combination of things."
"He definitely got the ball out on time," Barnett said. "We've gotta play a little more aggressive. We've got the talent. But we've got to play some aggressive on those guys out there and make him pull that thing down just a second and we can get to that quarterback. - I'm kinda just talking out of one ear, but we'll watch the film and then see."
The Bills will try to figure it out by Sunday's home opener against Kansas City.
"I don't think the sky is falling," Gailey said. "Everybody's gonna say it is. . But I don't believe it in a million years."