ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Josh Allen led three consecutive first-half touchdown drives, and the Buffalo Bills overcame their own sloppiness and injuries to two starting linebackers in a 27-17 season-opening win over the New York Jets on Sunday.
John Brown had six catches for 70 yards and a touchdown, and Stefon Diggs finished with eight catches for a team-leading 86 yards in his Bills debut after being acquired in a trade with Minnesota in March.
Allen finished 33 of 46 for 312 yards in becoming Buffalo’s first player to top 300 yards since Tyrod Taylor had 329 in a 34-31 overtime loss to Miami on Dec. 24, 2016.
Buffalo’s defense was a force despite losing Matt Milano to a hamstring injury in the second quarter, and after the outside linebacker intercepted Sam Darnold’s weak pass over the middle. Middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds did not return after hurting his shoulder while trying to tackle Jets receiver Jamison Crowder, who scored on a 69-yard touchdown catch and run, which briefly cut Buffalo’s lead to 21-10 with 5:10 left in the third quarter.
The Bills defense, however, came through on New York’s next possession. Safety Jordan Poyer stripped the ball from tight end Chris Herndon, and the fumble was recovered by Jerry Hughes at the Jets 38 two plays into the fourth quarter.
The turnover set up Tyler Bass hitting a 22-yard field goal — after the rookie missed his first two attempts wide right. Bass, a sixth-round draft pick out of Southern Georgia, won the kicking job ahead of veteran Stephen Hauschka last month.
Bass’ first miss from 38 yards led to Crowder’s touchdown three plays later.
Allen also scored on a 2-yard run, though his fumbles proved costly with both coming inside Jets territory. The Bills’ opening drive ended at New York’s 19, when Marcus Maye punched the ball out of Allen’s arm and the ball sailed into the hands of safety Bradley McDougald.
After driving the Bills on three consecutive scoring drives, Allen closed the first half by fumbling at the Jets 12.
Darnold finished 21 of 35 for 215 yards, with a touchdown and an interception in a matchup of two of the five quarterbacks selected in the first round of the 2017 draft. Crowder had seven catches for 117 yards and a touchdown. Josh Adams scored on a 2-yard plunge in the final minute.
The Jets finished the game without starting running back Le’Veon Bell, who was ruled out in the second half due to a hamstring injury.
New York resembled the team that opened 1-7 last season — a stretch that began with the Jets squandering a 16-0 lead at home in a 17-16 loss to the Bills — as opposed to the one that closed 6-2, including a season-ending 13-6 win at Buffalo in a game the playoff-bound Bills rested most of their starters.
And so much for the optimism coach Adam Gase placed in Darnold before the start of the season. The Jets managed one first down on their first five possessions, with the fifth ending when Darnold scrambled to his left, turned and threw across his body back into the middle of the field and intercepted by Milano.
The Bills and Jets remained in their locker rooms for the playing of the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
Bills’ Cody Ford made the switch from right tackle to right guard to replace injured starter Jon Feliciano (torn pectoral muscle). Offseason free agent addition Daryl Williams started at right tackle.
The numerous Bills and private parking lots around the stadium — some which usual begin filling up two days before a home-opening kickoff — were completely empty. The Bills barred fans from tailgating, and Orchard Park declined to provide business licenses to private operators.
Inside Bills Stadium, the first seven rows from the field were covered in blue tarp and featured logos of team sponsors. A slogan printed on the tarps on each side of midfield read: “Bills family honors those on the front lines.”
Very little crowd noise was being pumped in, and players could be heard yelling out calls and checks could be heard echoing through the empty stadium.
Jets: Host San Francisco 49ers on Sept. 20.
Bills: At Miami Dolphins on Sept. 20.
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