105.5 The Team – There are a handful of reasons to be upset Bills fans: Monday’s sickening loss, the inexcusable officiating, the embarrassing secondary, this gong-show of an election. Take your pick.
Of all the infuriating Bills losses that have taken place over the course of this 16-year playoff drought, that 31-25, Monday night loss may top them all.
What’s most disappointing is that Buffalo had numerous opportunities, including two fourth quarter possessions, to take control of that game and couldn’t, either due to lapses on the defense, or referee incompetence.
So many things went wrong, and yet so many things went right. I’ll cover both sides of the spectrum in this week’s five Yays and Nays.
1) Tyrod Taylor
As always we start with the positives and without question Tyrod Taylor’s play has to top the list. Finally, the 27-year-old resembled something of a franchise quarterback completing 27 of his 38 pass attempts for 289 yards a touchdown. Pro Football Focus found that when you remove his four throwaways along with the one time he was hit on his release, Taylor was actually 27 of 33 on “aimed” passes, with two of those six incompletions being drops. His 87.9% Accuracy percentage led all QBs in Week 9.
He did throw a pick, but it came on a play where it looked like there was a miscommunication between himself and Robert Woods. That aside, there’s a case to be made that this was the single best game of Taylor’s young career as a starting QB. He looked poised in the pocket, and when it did break down on him, instead of simply taking off and running, he extended the play, kept his eyes downfield and delivered perfect passes all over the field. For example, that third-and-21 conversion on the final drive of the game was wizardous.
The only thing missing was a signature, fourth quarter comeback. Had he completed that he may have won over all Bills fans in a single night. Unfortunately that will have to wait for another day. Now the question becomes is this sustainable? If so he may actually be worth that $27 million guaranteed.
2) Third down offense
Finally Buffalo put together a game where they kept the ball moving on third down, converting on a franchise record tying 12-of-17 third downs. They set the tone early by going a perfect five-for-five in those situations on their second series of the game. Very impressive for a team that entered Week 9 converting on just 35.29 percent of their third downs. As you’d expect it paid dividends for the Bills. Besides a one-play scoring series and two first half three-and-outs, they strung together drives of 17, 12, seven, eight, 13, 11 and nine. If only the Bills had cashed in on a few more of those drives.
3) The mixed backfield of LeSean McCoy and Mike Gillislee
For the first time this season we saw the Bills utilize both LeSean McCoy and Mike Gillislee out of the backfield and the results were magnificent. Having McCoy back to his usual, elusive self was a huge boost in it’s own right. He piled up 85 yards, while Gillislee added another 32, plus a touchdown as the change of pace guy. I loved this strategy and I wish they had taken advantage of it to this extent earlier in the season. McCoy is obviously the feature back and deserves the majority of carries, but to have Gillislee spell him occasionally, gives the Bills a talented one-two punch at RB.
4) Robert Woods
When you have a career day, there’s no doubt you’ll make this list. As Taylor’s go-to option, Woods nabbed career bests in receptions (10) and receiving yards (162). Woods did not play against Miami in Week 7 due to a foot injury, then attempted to tough it out against New England last week and was mostly a non-factor. He’s clearly the best option in Buffalo’s passing attack right now and this breakthrough performance suggests he’s feeling just fine. That’s a good sign moving forward.
5) Bills edge rushers
Throughout training camp Rex Ryan vowed that his defense would be better in 2016. In regards to the pass rush, he’s kept his promise. Just to put things in perspective, last year Buffalo’s front seven combined for just 21 sacks. Through eight weeks they had already eclipsed that mark with 26, then went out and added four more on Monday night to make it 30. Seattle had no answers for the Bills edge guys, Jerry Hughes and Lorenzo Alexander. That pair combined for two sacks and four QB hits. Rookie Shaq Lawson and the old vet Kyle Williams each earned a sack as well. Some criticisms of Rex Ryan’s defense are warranted, not in when it comes to the pass rush. This unit is elite.
1) The secondary
For as dominant as the Bills pass rush is, the secondary is an abomination. The duo of Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby, so reliable a season ago, are getting smoked every single week. We’ll cut Darby a little slack for Monday night, because as Rex Ryan revealed afterward he was feeling sick, which led to his removal from the game. Regardless, it wasn’t the first time he’s struggled. Also, with Aaron Williams likely done for the season, if not his career, the safety play has been equally as miserable. There’s almost nobody the Bills can count on, on the back end, in a scheme that relies on good coverage. A contract extension for Gilmore is looking less likely every week. The reaction here is to blame Rex Ryan for another year which the defense has failed to meet expectations on his watch, but I don’t know if it’s that simple. Ryan vowed to make the defense better and in many ways he has, particularly in the front seven. He, like all of us, was not anticipating the secondary would be this unreliable.
2) The officiating
That sequence before the half was infuriating. For an entire officiating crew to let Richard Sherman’s roughing the kicker penalty go, then essentially force the Bills into a delay of game, is laughable. The explanation of the first one from head referee Walt Anderson was that because Sherman was offsides and the play was essentially dead, they didn’t feel the need to assess roughing the kicker. So what he’s essentially saying is, as long as the play is dead feel free to run into whoever you want with no repercussions. Might as well start decapitating opposing QBs once the play is dead too.
Personally, it’s that second incident that frustrates me more. For Anderson to be standing over the football, prohibiting Buffalo from snapping it and not notice that the play clock was running is inexcusable. And if you thought the crew could have maybe gotten together and rectified the blunder, you’re giving NFL officials way too much credit. Seems like a pretty simple fix. This league has a lot of issues; clueless officiating is right at the top of the list. That sequence of calls, or lack thereof, weren’t the only reason Buffalo lost, but the fact that officiating impacted the final result at all is bad enough.
3) Jordan Mills
Mills had a rough day trying to block Cliff Avril. It seemed like the Seahawks very talented defensive end was in the backfield on almost every play, as he finished the day with 1.5 sacks and three QB hits. According to Pro Football Focus, Mills received a 33.3 overall grade, after surrendering 10 total pressures on Monday night, including two sacks. If Tyrod Taylor wasn’t as shifty as he is, those numbers could have been even worse for Mills. He got worked.
4) Losing Eric Wood
Watching Wood get carted off in the fourth quarter with a broken leg was a crushing sight. Wood is the ultimate team guy and one of the most humble, hard working players on the Bills roster. The fact that you rarely hear his name brought up on game-day is a testament to just how good he is upfront. Rex Ryan said via conference call that on the bus ride to the airport, Wood felt he had let everyone down and was already plotting out how he can make a quick recovery and get back on the field. That’s just the type of guy he is. The news that he’ll be out for the rest of the season is devastating. Certainly hope for a speedy recovery.
5) Richard Sherman’s explanation
As bad as the refs not flagging Sherman for roughing the kicker was, the corner’s explanation for what happened was even worse. Basically, Sherman tried saying he was just playing hard, going for the ball and didn’t want to give the Bills an easy play. That’s fair. However, he then blamed Dan Carpenter for the contact that occurred between, saying “maybe he shouldn’t have tried to kick the ball.” So apparently it’s on Carpenter for not letting up as he tried to attempt a field goal? Give me a break. Sherman is smart enough to know how ludicrous pinning the collision on Carpenter sounds.
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