105.5 The Team – Sunday’s 28-21, Bills win can be described as a tail of two halves. As much as Rex Ryan pokes fun at playing local high schools during his weekly press conferences, in the first half it was his team’s offense that resembled one attempting to make the leap to the NFL.
Then Shady did his thing on the first play of the third quarter, breaking off that beautiful 75-yard scamper for his second TD and it flipped a switch. Back and forth both teams went matching each other touchdown-for-touchdown, until a fourth Bills score was too much for Jacksonville to equal.
Make it two uglier games in a row, but the fact they’re both wins is what really matters. Like Kyle Williams said down in Cincinnati in Week 11, they’ll “take them anyway they can get them,” at this point. Still there are plenty of things to like and dislike from this game.
1) LeSean McCoy
He entered the half with just 5 total rushing yards and a gift of a touchdown. The Jaguars had clearly game planned to stop the run and it was working. Then on the first play from scrimmage of the second half: handoff, jump step, stutter step, GONE – for a 75-yard touchdown run, the longest of his career. He’d finish the day with 103 yards on the ground, a mere 19 of which came after contact, which tells you his O-line was doing their job. When healthy, Shady has been nearly unstoppable.
2) Sammy Watkins
Even in a limited role – he played 43 percent of the Bills offensive snaps – Watkins’ impact was evident. A three catch, 80 yard day isn’t necessarily eye popping, but one of those was a 62-yarder and Jacksonville had be mindful of his presence in the passing game. More importantly, Watkins said this is the best he’s felt in a long time, even adding that there is “no issues” with the foot after playing an entire game. The Bills will need his services the rest of the way.
3) Second half Tyrod Taylor
We’ll get to the first half, but Tyrod Taylor’s second half was pretty superb by his standards. He went into the half with 48 yards passing and 14 yards rushing. He’d go on to add 118 more through the air, another 24 on the ground and a touchdown of each variety. For those keeping score at home that’s 166 passing yards and 38 rushing. He completed 12 of his 18 total passes, one was that 62-yard bomb to Sammy Watkins, another was a perfectly placed ball to Justin Hunter for what wound up being the game winning touchdown. He also kind of, sort of got a monkey off his back in that he led a fourth quarter comeback. Granted, it came in the opening minutes of the quarter and not in crunch time, but a comeback is a comeback. Pro Football Focus found that Taylor was especially productive when throwing the ball outside the numbers, where he connected on 11 of 13 throws for 160 out of his 166 yards and a touchdown. It was good to see Taylor turn things around in a big way after halftime and he certainly had a big hand in helping the Bills earn the win.
4) Marcell Dareus
Given the four-game suspension he served and the numerous injuries that have led to him missing games, this has pretty much been a throw away season for Marcell Dareus, up until yesterday. Finally he was able to break out, for eight total tackles, five solo and two sacks. Dareus only had two sacks in 15 games last season. It was also his first multiple sack game since Week 10 in 2014. He was disruptive, which is exactly what the Bills paid him over $100 million dollars to be. It was easily his best game of the three he’s played in this season. Hopefully similar performances will follow.
5) The red zone offense
The Bills offense may have some limitations, but one thing thing they do exceptionally well is score when they get into the red zone. On Sunday they were a perfect three-for-three scoring touchdowns inside the Jacksonville 20, which pushed their yearly red zone scoring percentage to 66.67 – fifth best in the NFL.
1) First half Tyrod Taylor
I said I’d be getting to it. For as productive as Taylor was in the second half, his first half was pretty forgettable. It was very obvious in the early stages of that game that Jacksonville’s gameplan was to load the box to stop the run, and that they had zero respect for Taylor as a quarterback. While he did complete seven of his 11 passes first half throws, he only accumulated 48 yards, on top of ooking timid in the pocket. On one very distinct play on their first drive of the second quarter, Taylor missed a wide open Charles Clay over the middle of the field and waited until Clay had run completely across the field where safety Tashaun Gipson was waiting to break up the pass. Fortunately Gipson got their early and was called for pas interference, but had Taylor thrown the ball when Clay was wide open, an easy completion would have had the same result. It was just the latest example of Taylor’s deficiencies when it comes to reading opposing defenses. According to Pro Football Focus, Taylor only attempted four passes over the middle of the field, with three of those traveling fewer than 10 yards in the air. Throwing in between the hashes has been an issue for him all season.
2) Failure to contain Blake Bortles
The Bills may have held Bortles to just 126 yards passing, however their inability to contain him as a runner was a disappointment. On a handful of occasions Bortles was able to elude the pressure and take off for huge chunks of yardage at a time. His longest run of the day came on the first possession of the game, when he scrambled for 27 yards on third-and-six from midfield. It should have been a wake up call for the defense. Too bad he went on to break off runs of 15 yards twice, among a few of shorter distances as well. He accounted for 81 of the Jaguars 183 total rushing yards. The Bills defense was ill-prepared to handle Bortles’ mobility.
3) Third down offense
For as good as the red zone offense has been, the third down offense has been a travesty this year. Go back and read these Yay or Nay reaction pieces from the previous nine games and you’ll certainly see it under the Nay section more often than not. The Bills finished five-for-12 on third down this week, bringing their season percentage to 39.2, which ranks 18th overall in the NFL. Putting together sustaining drives has been one of the Bills shortcoming this year and their third down efficiency is a big reason why. In fact they’ve gone three and out on 24.37 percent of their drives, the seventh worst percentage of all 32 teams.
4) More casualties at wide receiver
The Bills receiving corps seems to be suffering through some sort of epidemic. Every week the football Gods take another casualty, or multiple. For Percy Harvin, the severe migraines that led to his retirement in the first place cost him two days of practice last week and ultimately Sunday’s game as well. It’s obviously not a good sign that he could only get two games under his belt before this issue reemerged. Ryan said they’ll be patient with him moving forward.
The Bills lost another receiver during yesterday’s game, as third-year man Walter Powell came up lame with an ankle injury, blocking near the end zone in the third quarter. He was carted off and his status moving forward remains unknown. Either way it’s hard to imagine the Bills surviving many more injuries, particularly on the offensive side of things.
5) The lack of help around the league
While the Bills took care of what they can control by earning a win, around the league they got little to no help in their playoff push. Buffalo remains in ninth place in the AFC a game back of the last wild card spot, with the Steelers, Broncos and Dolphins still ahead of them. The only result that helped the Bills cause was Kansas City’s 27-24, overtime win over Denver. San Francisco made things interesting with Miami, nearly forcing overtime with two plays inside the ten as time expired, but the Dolphins were able to hang on. Luckily Buffalo still plays two of the teams ahead of them in Pittsburgh and Miami, so a path to the postseason is there, it’s just an uphill climb.
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