Make it three straight wins for the Bills after that dreadful 0-2 start to the season. That’s the NFL though, things can change on a weekly basis. Week 5 was by no means Buffalo’s best performance, but several key players stood out and they did enough in some key spots to pull away and ultimately earn a victory over the Rams.
Here’s my five yays and nays from Sunday:
1) Lorenzo Alexander
What a day for the 33-year-old linebacker. Seven tackles, three sacks, four QB hits. As the league’s leader in sacks (7), Alexander is slowly proving that age is just a number. The Bills basically signed this guy off the bargain rack at Macy’s and he’s played above and beyond anyone could have expected. Even Rex Ryan, who joked that he knew this is what they were signing up for with Alexander, has been blown away by the veteran LB’s performance so far this season. It really is remarkable and althought his role will likely be reduced when rookie Shaq Lawson is able to play in a few weeks, he’ll certainly remain part of the rotation.
2) LeSean McCoy
He may have thought it was a mediocre outing – claiming that he missed on a few plays and should have scored a touchdown – but lets call his performance what it was, stellar. McCoy was athletic and elusive, leaving Rams defenders whiffing badly all afternoon. He finished with 150 yards rushing and averaged 8.3 ypc. In the second quarter he ripped off his longest run as a Bill, 53 yards right up the middle of a wounded Los Angeles defense. It certainly helped that the Rams were missing three key players along their usually dominant defensive line in DE Rob Quinn, DL Michael Brockers and DE Wille Hayes, but Aaron Donald’s presence is enough to disrupt a running game and he was mostly neutralized by the Bills O-line. Shady has totaled 330 yards on the ground in the three weeks since Anthony Lynn took over the offensive coordinator duties, and has looked as spry as he did during his Eagles days
3) Tyrod Taylor using the middle of the field
At least on the team’s first couple drives, Taylor was confident in delivering the ball over the middle of the field. Twice on the Bills first touchdown drive he found tight end Charles Clay, the second of which nearly went for a touchdown. There’s still some consistency issues for Taylor. He threw for 102 yards in the first half then only 22 the rest of the way. Obviously every week isn’t going to require Taylor to throw 30 times and nearly 250 yards like we saw in Week 4. However, it’s been a roller coaster with him through five weeks and it’s still debatable if he’s worth the $90 million contract he signed back i August. His ability to throw over the middle, at least early on, was promising though.
4) The turnover differential
If there is one thing the Bills have done well this season it’s protect the football, while forcing turnovers from their opponents. On Sunday the defense snared two interceptions and forced a fumble, bumping the team’s overall turnover differential to +9 on the season. Through five games they have created 11 turnovers, giving it away only twice. Ball security is crucial and the Bills do it better than 30 other teams in the NFL.
5) The Los Angeles Coliseum
The iconic Los Angeles Coliseum certainly lived up to the hype. From the press box we had some stunning views of downtown LA, the Hollywood sign and rolling mountains as a backdrop. Yes it’s older and a little corky for 2016, but that’s part of the beauty of it. There’s so much history within those walls. What a special place to view a game. The game atmosphere was tremendous too. Los Angeles is a great sports town, so even thought they haven’t had an NFL team in 21 years, they showed up and were loud.
1) The hot and cold offensive performance
The offense had a pretty solid first half, scoring on three of their five possessions with drives of 76, 63, and 70 yards respectively. The last of those was a very impressive two-minute drill series that ended with the Bills kicking a field goal as time expired to jump in front 16-13. The second half was a very different story. Each of their first two drives resulted in three and outs, and even after a roughing the kicker penalty gave them a second chance on the second possession, they promptly went three and out again. The only other scoring drive they put together came when they were gifted a short field thanks to Jeff Fisher’s silly fake punt attempt.
2) Third down efficiency
Last week in New England the Bills were seven-for-15 on third down – they’re best percentage in a single game this season – and I left it off my list of yays, simply because there were five things I liked better. Regardless it was a short lived trend as Buffalo resorted back to their inconsistent ways in Week 5, converting just four of their 12 third downs. Oddly, Taylor converted their longest third down distance of 19 yards with a 22-yard first quarter scamper, yet they failed on several third downs of three, six and seven. They actually converted on four of their six third down tries in the first half, then went zero-for-six the rest of the way. The offense has to improve in this area.
3) Stephon Gilmore
It certainly wasn’t Gilmore’s best day. He played soft in coverage throughout the game, picked up an obvious holding penalty in coverage on a drive that ended in a Rams FG and looked silly biting on an out an up pass play in the second half. For a guy ooking to cash in on a big extension this off-season, this game didn’t did him no favors
4) Giving up 271 passing yards to Case Keenum
On his two interceptions Keenum looked like his usual, inaccurate, mediocre self, but when he wasn’t turning the ball over, the Rams QB surgically moved the ball against the Bills defense. His 271 passing yards were a season high and tied for the third best single-game yardage total of his career. Yes the Bills got the last laugh with the two interceptions, but the fact that he was able to pick apart the defense for some long drives was disappointing.
5) Dan Carpenter
I sense a theme here. Carpenter has popped up under the nay section for three straight weeks now. He’s now missed a kick of some kind – either a field goal or PAT – in four of the five games the Bills have played. This week it was his line drive PAT that was blocked and allowed the Rams to twice, tie a game that should have been a Buffalo lead. In typical Dan Carpenter fashion he didn’t miss a kick of any kind the rest of the way, but this compounding problem can’t be ignored. He should be walking on thin ice, but the problem is who else is out there right now?
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