For five games, Todd Bowles made this coaching thing look easy. The New York Jets were 4-1, one of the surprises in the NFL. He was pushing all the right buttons, on and off the field, but there was one situation that hadn't presented itself -- managing a close game in the fourth quarter.

A few weeks later, a picture is starting to emerge. It's not flattering.

There have been a few questionable decisions over the last few games, but let's cut to the chase: On Thursday night, he may have cost his team a win by mismanaging the final 20 minutes in the 22-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills. There was the two-point conversion he didn't try in the third quarter, along with two failed fourth-down plays in the fourth.

The decisions provide great fodder for talk-show debate -- we could go back and forth -- but the facts can't be disputed: The Jets reached scoring territory three times in the fourth quarter and came away with only seven points. They left at least six points on the field. They lost the game by five. Do the math.

"They're mistakes if they don't work and you're a genius if they do work," Bowles said Friday. "The ones that don't, I don't look at them as mistakes. I look at them as learning experiences. They don't work out all the time. Sometimes it's not in the cards."

Bowles is a first-year coach, so you can't expect him to be Bill Belichick on the sideline. For the most part, I think Bowles is doing a good job, but the Jets are 1-3 in games decided by seven points or less. He'll have to flip that if they want to stay in playoff contention.

The first questionable decision came after Brandon Marshall's touchdown with 4:39 remaining in the third quarter. Down 22-9, Bowles opted to kick the extra point instead of trying a two-point conversion. A successful two-point conversion would've made it 22-11 -- a two-possession game. The NFL success rate is 50.9 percent. The standard two-point conversion chart says to kick the PAT when trailing by 13 points, although there's a more sophisticated chart that factors time remaining into the probability. That chart says he should've gone for two.

"We knew we needed two scores to win anyway, so it didn't make a difference," Bowles said.

Bowles adhered to conventional wisdom, meaning no two-point tries until the fourth quarter. He was in a point-gathering mode, taking a 22-10 deficit into the fourth quarter. If that's the way you're going to play, he should've taken a 38-yard field goal instead of trying a fourth-and-2 early in the fourth quarter -- which backfired. A field goal would've made it 22-13, which would've become 22-20 when Eric Decker scored with 7:20 on the clock.

Now you're in a field-goal game, and that would've been huge when the Jets recovered the botched punt snap at the Bills' 13 with 5:12 to play. They would've been in position for a potential game-winning field goal, perhaps a touchdown. They would've been in control. Instead, they were down by five, approaching the possession with a touchdown-or-bust mentality. That led to another mistake.

With three timeouts and the two-minute warning, Bowles should've kicked the field goal and put the game in the hands of his defense. We all know what happened -- the ill-fated pass to Kellen Davis on fourth down.

"We were going for the win," Bowles said. "We had the momentum and we were going for it. We weren't exactly moving the ball offensively with a great amount of success to go the whole field to try to get a touchdown or field goal to win the ball game. So my thought was to get it there.

The offense marched 69 yards for a touchdown on the previous possession, so I'm not sure why he'd say they hadn't been moving the ball.

No doubt, there were many reasons for the loss, including a minus-4 turnover margin, but Bowles missed a chance to close out what would've been a terrific comeback. Again: Three scoring chances in the fourth quarter, only seven points.

A crushing loss.