105.5 The Team – Another week, another win for the Bills. Their fourth in a row and they did it in blowout fashion, dismantling the 49ers, 45-16. Don’t look now but the Bills now have the highest scoring differential in the NFL (+59), and they’re doing it by running the football. Of course San Francisco’s terrible run defense made that easier in Week 6, but the Bills can only play who’s in front of them.
There wasn’t much to dislike about this game as a whole. Here’s this week’s five yays and nays.
1) The offensive line + LeSean McCoy
This one is a a gimmie, but it has to be on the list. The offensive line led the way for Buffalo runners to rack up 312 yards on the ground. The incredible rushing display went into the record books as the team’s fifth highest single-game total in team history and the most since they ran for 315 yards against the Falcons in 1992. It’s no secret pounding the rock is Buffalo’s strength and they did it exceptionally well this week, albeit against one of the worst rushing defenses in the league.
Can’t talk about the run game without mentioning LeSean McCoy who has to be loving Anthony Lynn as his offensive coordinator. He paced Bills runners with 140 yards and a career-high tying three touchdowns in Week 6. McCoy gave major props to the o-line afterward, saying they made his job easy. Over the last four weeks McCoy has 470 yards and five touchdowns. Remember when Chip Kelly traded him to the Bills for Kiko Alonso? Ya that was highway robbery. The only back who’s compiled more yards than McCoy this season is rookie Ezekiel Elliot.
2) The red zone defense and offense
One of the Bills strengths on both sides of the ball is the red zone. Ahead of Sunday the Bills defense had allowed only six touchdowns on 16 red zone opportunities to opponents. They improved upon that margin further by forcing field goals on each of San Francisco’s two trips to the red zone. On the flip side the Bills offense has been very efficient inside the 20 this season and improved their red zone numbers by going a perfect 4-for-4 against the 49ers this week. On the season they’ve scored touchdowns on 11 of their 15 red zone opportunities (73.3 percent). Winning in the red zone on both sides of the ball consistently will go a long way for the Bills.
3) Third down efficiency
One of the best barometers for how your offense did each week is third down efficiency. If a team is converting on third down, that usually means they’re sustaining long drives down the field. This week the Bills had their best single-game third down conversion percentage of the season, moving the sticks on eight of their 13 third down opportunities. That’s about 62 percent. They generally did a good job staying ahead of the sticks on first and second down, in order to set up some more manageable third downs for themselves, which paid dividends.
4) The Bills ability to close
While the offense struggled through a good portion of that third quarter, clinging to a four point lead, 17-13, this one had the feel of one of those games that Buffalo would inevitably choke away down the stretch. We’ve seen that narrative oh so many times. However, after that huge fourth down stop by LB Preston Brown and the defense, the offense got it rolling and buried the 49ers with four straight touchdown drives. The ability to close games is something past Bills teams lacked, so it’s very encouraging to see from this group.
5) Nickell Robey-Coleman
The Bills nickel CB is only five-foot-eight and only plays a limited percentage of plays in a game, but boy is he opportunistic. A week removed from being named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week after not yielding a single reception in coverage, intercepting two passes, and taking one back for a touchdown, the small but mighty defensive back was at it again. This time his moment came on special teams after the Bills had just scored a touchdown to go up 31-16. On the ensuing kickoff Robey-Coleman hawked down 49ers returner Keshawn Martin, forced a fumble and recovered it in one swift motion to quickly get the ball back to Buffalo deep in enemy territory. In hindsight the play looks like a blip on the stat sheet, but all this guy does is make impactful plays. The Bills are lucky to have him.
1) The Bills inability to contain Colin Kaepernick
In his first start since Week 8 of last season, Kaepernick was a much more efficient runner than he was a passer. There were several occasions where the Bills struggled to contain him. It was the biggest worry I had with Kaepernick coming in. One play that comes to mind is his 29-yard run on third-and-eight late in the third quarter, which gave San Francisco a new set of downs at the Buffalo 40, just before the Bills defense forced that turnover on downs. Kaepernick’s escapability also helped him avoid a safety on their second drive of the third quarter, when he somehow shook Jerry Hughes’ grasp in the end zone and picked up 10 yards. Containing him was definitely an issue at times and with other mobile QBs on the schedule, most notably Seattle’s Russell Wilson, they’ll have to work on it.
2) The start of the second half
For the second straight week the Bills went cold on offense at the start of the second half. It was unfortunate because they had closed the first half scoring on each of their final three drives. Conversely their first three drives of the third quarter covered all of 16 yards and resulted in punts. Fortunately after that monumental fourth-down stop by the defense at the 4:35 mark, Buffalo was able to slam the door with four consecutive touchdown drives to end the game. Still, that lull from halftime until late in the third quarter cannot continue to be a habit. The Bills have to find away to get the intensity back up after the restart.
3) The busted coverage that led to a 49ers touchdown
It’s really the only blunder the defense made all day, but at the time it as obviously very costly and gave the 49ers the lead, early on in the second quarter. San Francisco came out with three receivers bunched up in the slot to the right side and at the snap both Ronald Darby and Stephon Gilmore followed Jeremy Kerely on a quick out towards the sideline and left Torrey Smith to run free behind them. With no safety help he was able to wait for a severely underthrown pass and weave his way for a touchdown. One breakdown doesn’t overshadow the overall performance of the defense by any means, but it’s something for the Bills to fix in film this week.
4) McCoy’s scary moment
No one liked this. No one. When Shady went down and grabbed at his right knee just before the half, every Bills fan in New Era Field had to feel like the season had suddenly slipped into oblivion. It was one of the scariest moments for any team or fan base to go through. Fortunately he’s okay, and even McCoy felt lucky afterward. We’ll try not to speak of this again, but man was that a tense moment.
5) The Colin Kaepernick hate
Overall I felt Bills fans handled themselves in a respectful manner in regards to Kaepernick. There was the pre-anthem chants of “USA!,” mixed with some boos. Nothing wrong with any of that stuff, in fact it was expected. What was troublesome though were some of the highly offensive and egregious shirts being worn or sold outside the stadium. I respect everyone’s right to have an opinion on this issue. Just as I respect Kaepernick’s right to kneel during the anthem and encourage discourse. But some of these shirts and even some of the tailgating activities went a little too far. Now I won’t let the actions of a few individuals represent the entire group, but for those select few, be better.
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