No matter how much of a diehard Bills fan you may be, there is no way you saw this one coming. The Bills were down Sammy Watkins, without one of their top cornerbacks in Ronald Darby, facing an offense that put up 40 points last week and a team considered by many to be a Super Bowl contender – and they absolutely dismantled them. Rex Ryan did say earlier in the week that maybe this was exactly the team they needed to play, turns out it was.
By getting in the win column Buffalo salvages a season that so many had already given up on and restores order at One Bills Dr. The dominating performance was impressive, but it was a little rough around the edges.
Here’s 5 Yays and 5 Nays for Week 3:
1) The secondary
After being absolutely embarrassed by Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets last week for 374 yards of passing, the Bills secondary rebounded in a big way yesterday, without the services of Darby, mind you. The Bills entered Sunday as one of only six teams to not have an interception, they left with four of them. Meanwhile, Arizona hadn’t turned the ball over in two games and surrendered four in one day. As a unit, the Bill secondary also helped break up nine of the 10 passes the team deflected on the day. There were numerous occasions where Ryan sent up to seven DBs on the field at once, something we haven’t seen all season, and it worked. If anyone was doubting this group after Week 2 they made sure to remind you who they are this Week with a solid performance.
2) The pass rush
This was one of my musts heading into Week 3. The Bill had to get after Carson Palmer and get him off balance to have any chance of beating Arizona and they exceeded expectations. On the day they accumulated nine QB hits and four sacks – doubling their total on the season – they were flat out relentless. Specifically Jerry Hughes continued to cement himself as one of the leagues top pass rushers. He only finished with two tackles and one sack, but Carson Palmer felt his presence throughout the game. Buffalo showed no remnants of a pass rush last season, so to see the success they’ve had in the early going this year is a breath of fresh air.
3) Kyle Williams
For as great as Jerry Hughes was for a third consecutive game, it was Kyle Williams that stood out more in my mind this week. He gave us of a flash of the dominant pass rusher he’s been most of his career in a four tackle, one sack performance. Williams also recorded two quarterback hits as well. The question now becomes can he sustain that level of play beyond one week? If so this Bills pass rush will have people reminiscing of the 2014 unit that recorded 54 sacks, once Marcell Dareus returns in Week 5. But at 33 years old it may only come in spurts for the veteran.
4) LeSean McCoy
No surprise here. McCoy posted his best performance of the season, piling up 110 rushing yards on 17 carries and scoring twice. It was the first time since 2013 that McCoy reached the end zone twice and ran for over 100 yards in a single game. It was exactly the type of performance he and the offense needed after they struggled to run the ball in Weeks 1 and 2. Playing without Sammy Watkins the Bills needed someone to step up and McCoy provided that spark. His 110 yards accounted for more than half of their 208 rushing yards on the day.
5) Anthony Lynn’s plan for Tyrod Taylor
Rex Ryan repeated all week that he wanted to make better use of Tyrod Taylor’s “unique abilities,” and he got his wish on Sunday. Anthony Lynn deserves a lot of credit for the way he utilized Taylor yesterday. We saw numerous read option plays that allowed Taylor to get into open space around the edge of the formation and pick up huge chunks of yards, like that 49-yard gain on their third series. It’s no surprise that was not only the longest run of Taylor’s career, but the longest by a Bills QB in team history. Before losing a few yards late in the game by taking a knee, Taylor had actually recorded a career high in rushing yards for a game as well with 82. Whether or not this become a normal practice we’ll see. Taylor kind of downplayed it after the game saying it was simply “the formula for winning this week.” However, there’s clearly an emphasis on using Taylor’s legs more in this Anthony Lynn offense, and why not?
1) Third down efficiency
Despite the win this still remains a major issue for the Bills. Heading into Week 3 the offense had posted a miserable 26.1 conversion percentage on third down, good for 29th overall. In situations where they faced third-and-four or less they had converted just three of their 11 opportunities. On Sunday they finished the day four-of-13 on third down – about 31 percent – and while they converted all three of their third and less than five situations, the fact that they only had three such opportunities in that range of yardage is disappointing. Lynn emphasized putting together long sustaining drives and converting on third down is a big part of that. They have to get better.
2) Untimely penalties
It didn’t end up costing them in the end, but boy was there a sense that this was setting up for another Bills collapse after Jerry Hughes was called for unnecessary roughness on that Carson Palmer sack late in the second quarter. Buffalo would have had a stop there on third down, but instead it kept the drive alive for Arizona and led to their first touchdown of the game. It felt like momentum had swung. Fortunately the Bills didn’t let things unravel from there and on Arizona’s first possession of the second half they forced a three and out, then kept there foot on the gas the rest of the way. Regardless, it could have served as a crucial turning point in the game had the Cardinals been able to mount a comeback and pull of a win of their own. Hughes always seems to be the culprit in this, but in general they have to avoid those useless penalties when they have a game in their control.
3) We still don’t know if Tyrod Taylor is “the guy”
For as electric as Taylor was with his legs, there wasn’t much light shown on him as a true quarterback. Now obviously he isn’t a “true quarterback” by nature because he has that special running ability. But at the end of the day Taylor has to show he can be a pocket quarterback when it’s necessary, before the Bills can guarantee the money they owe him ahead of next season. Think about the strategy Baltimore and New York both employed to defend Taylor. Both teams emphasized “making him a quarterback,” or in other words taking away his legs. In the two games he’s been forced to stand in the pocket they’ve lost. In Week 3 he still failed to find open receivers over the middle of the field. Don’t let a W hide the fact that we still have more to see from Taylor.
4) M.I.A. Charles Clay
Off of that last one Charles Clay remains invisible in the Bills offense and one reason why could be a lot of his routes wind up over the middle of the field. Throughout training camp and the preseason there was a constant point made in getting Charles Clay the football and yet through three games he’s got a whopping 12 targets and seven receptions, none of which came yesterday mind you. He was only targeted twice on the afternoon. Clay can be a playmaker if the Bills choose to use him. They’ve failed miserably at that so far.
5) Dan Carpenter’s missed PAT
No one struggle with the pushed back extra point last season more than Dan Carpenter, and in Week 3 he missed his first of the 2016 campaign. He went on to redeem himself by hitting two field goals to contribute to the Bills win, but that missed PAT certainly lingered on some minds. Carpenter was fortunate the game wasn’t closer. Hopefully this doesn’t become a common theme as it did for the veteran kicker who missed six extra points in 2015.
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