The Buffalo Bills’ team that started 5-1 made a cameo appearance, but that other team showed up just in time to put an exclamation point on an incredibly disappointing finish to a once promising season.

The Buffalo Bills’ team that started 5-1 made a cameo appearance, but that other team showed up just in time to put an exclamation point on an incredibly disappointing finish to a once promising season.

Toss out the calculators, because Buffalo (6-8) has been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs with Sunday’s 31-27 loss to the New York Jets at Giants Stadium.

The Bills took a 27-24 lead with 5:30 to go in the fourth on Fred Jackson’s battering ram-like 11-yard touchdown, but after a defensive stop, Abram Elam sacked J.P. Losman and forced a fumble, which was scooped up by Shaun Ellis, who rumbled 11 yards for the go-ahead score with 1:54 left.

“He’s a big-play specialist,” said Jets head coach Eric Mangini of Elam. “Whatever his job is, you can always count on Abe to take care of that responsibility.”

Elam said he knew something good would happen late in the game to give the Jets a chance to win.

“Every time the Jets and the Bills play it goes down to the wire,” Elam said. “We wanted to continue to grind it.”

The Bills got the ball back two more times after that play, but both drives ended with interceptions by Losman, who had three on the day, including a final-play pick by Kerry Rhodes in the end zone.

Buffalo head coach Dick Jauron said the call was his to pass, rather than run the clock out. However, Jauron rationalized the call by saying the clock would have stopped after the play anyway for the two-minute warning.

“That goes right on me,” Jauron said. “It backfired, clearly, and caused us to lose the game.

“It turns out to be one of those times in the game that’s good for a pass,” explained Jauron. “If it’s incomplete, you don’t give them any more time.”

While not normally stopped for post-game quotes, offensive coordinator Turk Schonert backed up Jauron’s reasoning.

“You go with what you call, what your gut feeling is,” Schonert said.

Despite playing their best game in three weeks, the Bills, who have lost seven of their last eight, will watch the postseason from home for the ninth straight season.

The Bills are certainly no strangers to heartbreaking losses, this season included, but this one likely will rank near the top – at least as the regular season goes.

“I’ve been around the league long enough to know anything can happen and it has,” Jauron said.

Thomas Jones rushed for 78 yards on 20 carries and scored his 13th rushing touchdown of the season, a new Jets’ team record. It also was Jones’ 15th touchdown overall this season and the eighth straight game he has scored, both of which also are team records.

The Marshawn Lynch-led Buffalo ground game piled up 187 yards, including 127 by the second-year back on 21 carries, but Losman threw for only 148 yards on 24-of-39 passing. Losman, starting for the second straight week in place of the injured Trent Edwards (groin), threw for a touchdown and rushed for another.

Losman explained on the last of three New York sacks that gave the Jets the lead for good that the call was fine, but he has to either throw the ball away or make sure he holds onto the ball as he goes down to the turf.

“Coach put a lot of trust in the players to make the play,” Losman said. “It’s a funny-shaped ball for a reason. It bounces weird ways sometimes.”

Brett Favre completed six of his first eight passes, but finished 17-for-30 for 207 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions that led to 10 Buffalo points. Favre also had a 27-yard run on the Jets’ opening drive of the game on a 3rd and 1 to set up the first Jets’ score.

Laveraneus Coles caught five passes for 82 yards, while Jerricho Cotchery had an 11-yard touchdown reception.

New York (9-5) remains in a three-way tie atop the AFC East with Miami and New England heading into next week’s game at 3-11 Seattle before a Week 17 showdown with the Dolphins at home.

Leon Washington had only carry, but he made it count, scampering 47 yards for a touchdown that gave the Jets a 21-17 lead at halftime.

Jackson carried seven times for 31 yards, including the touchdown, and caught six passes for 24 more yards.

Losman completed passes to nine different receivers, including rookie wideout Steve Johnson’s 2-yard touchdown – the first of his career - late in the first half that gave20Buffalo a short-lived 17-14 lead.

“Even though they started fast, we got a couple of turnovers and we responded with those turnovers and got touchdowns,” said Losman.

New York jumped out to a 14-3 lead after the first quarter, but the Bills hung tough and got a couple of those strange bounces that would later go against them.

Buffalo used a fake punt, sending linebacker Keith Ellison on a direct snap for six yards, to set up a Rian Lindell 34-yard field goal, then in the second quarter, linebacker Paul Posluszny picked off a pass that went off Coles’ hands and bounced off Leodis McKelvin that set up Losman’s eight-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 14-10.

Roscoe Parrish later returned a punt 56 yards deep into Jets’ territory, setting up Johnson’s go-ahead touchdown.

“That s all nice and good, but we didn’t get it done when it counted,” said Buffalo linebacker Kawika Mitchell. “That’s the most important thing. You can do what you want in the first, second and third quarters, but in that last two minutes, if you’ve got the game won, you’ve got to pull it out.”

Mitchell may have been referring to McKelvin’s 100-yard kick return touchdown early in the fourth that would have put the Bills ahead by three, but referees whistled Jon Corto for holding.

Later on, Jackson got called for holding on a punt that push the Bills back to the 10, five plays prior to the Elam sack and forced fumble.

“It’s been that type of season,” said Buffalo wide receiver Lee Evans. “On that last play, it certainly took a bounce for the worst for us.”

Evans called the play call that resulted in the Jets’ go-ahead score “a little surprising.”

"Looking at that situation, it is hit or miss,” Evans said. “Instead of sitting here trying to criticize that one call or whatever it may be, we had opportunities to win this football game.”

While very little has gone right for the Bills’ offense in recent weeks, scoring only three points the last two weeks, they had far better success against the Jets – ranked fourth in the NFL against the run – making run-stuffing defensive tackle Kris Jenkins a non-factor, unlike the Week 9 contest in Orchard Park.

Jenkins had only a pair of tackles, but linebacker Calvin Pace had two sacks and Ellis and David Harris made 11 tackles each for New York.

The Bills will now try to be a spoiler, as they visit Denver next week, then close the season at home against New England Dec. 28.

“We had high hopes, expectations, even until the last few weeks,” said Buffalo defensive end Chris Kelsay. “To lose it the way we did it today, it’s disheartening.

NOTEBOOK: New York’s 2008 first-round pick, LB Vernon Gholston, who has only 12 tackles in 13 games, was inactive for the first time this season … Buffalo WR James Hardy (knee) did not return after leaving the game in the first quarter … After lifting his self-imposed gag order with the media, Lynch declined to speak to reporters after the game when approached at his locker.

Daily Reporter