LOS ANGELES CALIF. – Under the gorgeous backdrop of mountains and the Los Angeles skyline, the Bills performance in a 30-19 win over the Rams was far less stunning. But it’s not always about how pretty it looks, as long as it works and on Sunday, a bend but don’t break mentality on defense and hot and cold offensive effort, worked.
“Obviously, that was a tough win, but man, it was a great win, Rex Ryan said afterward. “We knew it was going to be a tough game. Obviously, this team came in with a lot of confidence, winning three games in a row. It was some tough sledding … I think really the difference in the game, obviously, the play on special teams was tremendous, and then creating turnovers, and then playing red zone defense. That was the key, defensively, and then on offense, just keep grinding it out.”
Buffalo’s defense struggled to slow down an offense that ranked in the bottom four in most statistical categories entering Week 5. The Rams recorded 345 total yards – the most in a single game for the Rams this season – while Case Keenum accounted for a season-high 271 yards thought the air. Still, when the Bills defense needed stops they got them, like on the four separate occasions where long, fluid drives ended in Los Angeles field goals. And when Nickell Robey Coleman made a game-changing pick-six in the third quarter to give the Bills a lead they’d never surrender.
It was quite a moment for the USC alum, playing in his old digs for the first time since his junior season in 2012.
“It was a good homecoming for me,” Robey-Coleman said. “I first just want to thank God for everything that happened today. The performance that I had I feel like it played a big part in the defense. The guys we all worked together today and we just communicate, everything was on point. We knew exactly what they was trying to do and we was just able to make a couple plays.”
The other standout on defense, veteran linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, who now leads the league in sacks after a seven tackle, three sack, four QB hit day. Through five weeks he’s tallied seven total sacks, surpassing his career high of 2.5 and joining former Bills Bruce Smith and Mario Williams as the only players to register six or more sacks through the first five weeks of the season.
“Not at all,” the 33-year old responded when asked if he ever imagined putting up these numbers when he signed with the Bills in the off-season. “I mean obviously my role when I first got here was to play special teams and be a rotational player, and due to circumstances – whether it was injuries or guys being released – I kind of accelerated into a starting role and have done a good job taking advantage of the opportunity I’ve been given.”
Of course Ryan joked that this is exactly what he expected “Absolutely. We knew we were getting a great pass rusher (DE Shaq Lawson), it’s just his name might not have been Lorenzo Alexander … You talk about a great pro that you wish every one of your players would emulate – to be honest with you, there are a lot of guys like that, but man, he’s right at top of the list.”
Like Robey-Coleman, it was also a homecoming for RB Reggie Bush, a playmaker who has no shortage of highlights from within the walls of the Los Angeles Coliseum. Ryan gave him just one opportunity to relive the glory days, a run that went for three yards in the third quarter.
On this day though it was LeSean McCoy, a University of Pittsburgh grad who had Los Angeles reminiscing about the aforementioned USC legend. The 28-year-old was downright impossible to bring down, juking, weaving and darting his way to 150 yards for the first time in a Bills uniform and seventh time of his career. Somehow he was unimpressed with his effort.
“There were some plays I missed today, McCoy remarked after the win. “I could have easily have had over 200 yards. Just small things, I get so wrapped up in just trying to make too many plays. Sometimes you do things and make it harder on yourself when you don’t have to.”
As a whole, the running game amassed 193 yards on the day, nearly two thirds of the Bills total yardage.
TE Charles Clay paced the Bills receiving wise with five catches for 73 yards. He’s emerged as a favorite target for quarterback Tyrod Taylor since Anthony Lynn took over the offensive coordinator role.
For the Bills QB himself, it was really a tale of two halves. On the opening drive of the game Taylor was impressive, running for a first down on third-and-19 on the fourth play from scrimmage. Then, completing four of his six pass attempts of the drive, including a touchdown to new WR Justin Hunter on a busted play, to give the Bills their first lead. It was everything Buffalo needs to see from the quarterback they’re contemplating waging the future with.
And he wasn’t done, orchestrating a quick, two play touchdown drive after the Bills defense had forced a fumble, then a very impressive two-minute drill series just before the half that ended in a tie-breaking field goal. Taylor went to the locker room with 102 passing yards and two touchdowns. He’d finish the day with only 124 yards through the air.
“They made some adjustment in the second half,” Taylor said of the drop in production. “We were able to move the ball early on in the game. Later in the game we had to finish those drives. It was a good team victory, but definitely some plays there we left out there on the field.”
The underwhelming performance is trumped though by a Bills win, their third in a row – something they haven’t done since they started the 2011 campaign 3-0.
Of course to the detriment of his own team, Rams head coach Jeff Fisher’s decision making helped the Bills immensely down the stretch. With his team down only seven, 23-16, and the Rams piecing together an 89-yard drive that got them to the doorstep of the end zone late in the fourth, Fisher opted to play it safe on fourth-and-goal and kick a field goal. Being conservative came back to haunt them after forcing a Bills punt then promptly faced a fourth-and-five from their own 23 on the next possession. Apparently it took being backed up in their own end, still trailing by four for Fisher to take a gamble as they tried to catch Buffalo off-guard with a fake punt, which was snuffed out by Ronald Darby to essentially seal their fate.
The sluggish defensive outing began almost immediately as Keenum to completed his first four pass attempts of the game on a methodical drive that ended at the Bills 19 with a field goal.
It was Buffalo’s turn and they immediately took advantage of a decimated Rams defensive line by opening up a huge hole for McCoy on first down, who rushed for a 15-yard gain.
One play later however, Taylor fell victim to one of the more embarrassing blunders in football, lining up in the shotgun behind guard Richie Incognito instead of his center Eric Wood. Once the ball was snapped it sailed to the left of Taylor who had to track it down back at the 24 for a huge loss.
He’d make amends though a few players later, dropping back to pass on third-and-19, avoiding some pressure and taking off up the middle for a 22-yard gain and a Bills first-down. Later in the drive Taylor would hit Clay over the middle for a 29-yard pick up and the Bills had first-and-goal at the Rams four. The drive would end with a nifty third down touchdown pass where Taylor escaped the pocket, booted to his left and hit Justin Hunter in the back corner of the end zone for a TD. Beautifully executed indeed.
On the ensuing Rams drive, they’d push the ball to the Buffalo 39 before LB Lerentee McCray punched the ball out of Gurely’s arms and recover the fumble himself to give the ball back to the Bills.
The quick drive that followed at to begin the second quarter was highlighted by a 53-yard run by McCoy – the longest of his Bills career – and resulted in a five-yard Mike Gillislee touchdown run. Dan Carpenter’s poor PAT attempted was blocked and the lead held at 10, 13-3.
After exchanging punts, Los Angeles would tack on a field goal, then a one-yard Todd Gurley touchdown on back-to-back methodical, penalty aided drives and it was all tied up with 1:56 left in the half.
That proved to be more than enough time for the Bills to steal the lead back, as Taylor led the no huddle offense on a 10 play, 76-yard drive to set up Carpenter for a chip-shot, 23-yard FG as time expired.
In the second half the Bills offense ran into some turbulence punting the ball away on back-back-to-back drives while the Rams evened things up at 16 with a field goal in between.
The tie was short lived as Robey-Coleman single-handedly stole momentum with his interception-touchdown, which gave the Bills a lead they’d never surrender.
“We was in man-to-man,” Robey-Coleman explained. “On film the whole week they’ve been showing us that same look, where they like the out breaking routes the press outs, and I just trusted my technique, I broke when he broke and the ball was there and I just intercepted it.”
The Bills would add a Taylor-to-Marquise Goodwin touchdown as insurance, then intercept Keenum for a second time, just for good measure.
Buffalo finished with only 15 first downs, were four-of-12 on third down and outgained 345 yards to 305 yards. On the flip side though the Bills are now plus nine in turnover margin, with three they snared today. The way they did it today was a but unconventional, but it’s a win the Bills will take it nonetheless.
Now at 3-2, that dreadful start to the season is in the rear view mirror and a very friendly portion of the schedule awaits.
“It feels great,” Ryan said, sarcastically adding, “You know me, I’m just an average coach and I’ve very rarely won three straight games. We’ve just got to go for four, now and that’s where the focus is.”
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