Big plays keep Bills season alive

November 27, 2016
The Bills are 2-2 in must wins and because of that, the 2016 season stays alive, at least for another week. 

Perhaps some of you were unnerved or angry at just how close a game against a 2-8 Jacksonville Jaguars team proved to be, but at the end of the day, the Bills found a way to win which is all that matters when there is such little room for error.

I’m not surprised the Bills offense struggled in the game, although they did end up scoring 28 points.  Injuries to Robert Woods and Mike Gillislee and an illness for Percy Harvin kept weapons/depth off the field.  

Tyrod Taylor made a handful of plays but once again either didn’t see or decided not to throw the ball to open receivers on numerous occasions.  
I didn’t expect Le Sean McCoy to have such a hard time running the ball but give credit to the Jaguars who wisely decided to stop him first and foremost.  McCoy did end up with 103 yards on 19 carries but 75 of those yards came on a touchdown run to start the third quarter.

At halftime, you might have thought the Bills getting to 28 points was a pipe dream.  Buffalo scored a touchdown on their final possession of the first half but they only had to go 22 yards thanks to a 43 yard punt return from Brandon Tate.  On their 4 drives prior to that, the Bills offense managed a measly four first downs and 48 net yards.  Nothing was working. The Bills were down 7-0 and fans might have mentally been adding this game to the long list of heart stomping, soul stealing losses.

But the offense got their act together just enough and produced a handful of big plays in the decisive second half. 

It started with McCoy’s career long 75 yard run for a touchdown on the very first offensive play of the third quarter.  Some of you probably missed that if you were late coming back to the game from the halftime break.  It was vintage McCoy who faked out two Jags defensive backs and exploded through a hole.  McCoy faked to his right and it was enough to take those Jags would be tacklers out of the play.  After that, it was a foot race and no one would catch the Bills offensive MVP of the season.

The next big play from the offense came with the Bills trailing 14-13.  Welcome back Sammy Watkins! He was getting open on some plays and on others was worth a target while facing one on one coverage but only had two targets through the first 30 minutes.  Watkins caught both of those targets but you had to be thinking it was time for Taylor to just throw the ball out there and let his best receiver make a play.

That’s exactly what happened and in a play that looked like one of many from last season, Taylor and Watkins hooked up on a 62 yard bomb.  Give Taylor credit because he threw a perfect deep ball, dropping it in exactly where it needed to be.  Give Watkins credit because he did a great job of holding off Jacksonville cornerback Jalen Ramsey who had very good coverage on the play.

That put the Bills at the Jags 13 yard line and it led to a Taylor touchdown run to give the Bills a 20-14 lead.

Even though they were 2-8 coming in, the Jaguars have played a number of teams tough.  The last three games they lost to potential playoff teams Kansas City, Houston and Detroit by a combined 15 points.  The Jags answered the Bills TD with a 65 yard touchdown drive of their own to go back in front 21-20.

Now we get to big play number three from the Bills offense and one of those moments that makes you believe Taylor is/will be the guy.  On 2nd down from the Jags 16 yard line, Taylor threw a ball to the end zone.  The press box is in that corner of the field and when that ball left Tyrod’s hands, I had a bad feeling.  It was intended for Justin Hunter but there were two Jags players in coverage.  But Taylor put the ball up high enough that only the big 6’4” Hunter could make a play. Heck of a throw by the Bills QB and an even better catch by Hunter who leaped up for the grab that would put the Bills ahead for good. Taylor trusted his receiver to make a play if the quarterback gave him a chance.

After looking abysmal through most of the first half, the Bills offense put up touchdowns on four of five drives from the second quarter into the fourth.  The offense also converted a pair of third and sevens on their final possession which allowed them to run out the final 3:25 of the game.  A job well done by a beat up group.

The defense had some issues in this game.  They weren’t good on third down(Jacksonville was 8-15) or in the red zone(Jags were 2-2). Bills opponents have now scored touchdowns on 10 of their last 11 red zone trips.  Ronald Darby left the game in the first quarter with a concussion.  Corey White had a bad day filling in for Darby and Jonathan Meeks was a liability at safety.  Even so,  they still limited Blake Bortles to 50% completions(13-26) and just 126 yards.  The Jags top three receivers, Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marquise Lee combined for seven catches and 73 yards.

In the fourth quarter, with the Bills nursing the seven point lead, the defense came up with a pair of stops.  First, they forced a three and out which included a run stop on 3rd and one.  On Jacksonville’s final drive, the Bills stopped them on downs and the last play was an appropriate one.  Nickell Robey-Coleman, who was flagged for a very questionable pass interference call that cost the Bills last year’s game against Jacksonville, made the play that stopped a 4th and nine pass to Marquise Lee.  Call it poetic justice. 

The calendar will now turn to December and the Bills will indeed still be “in the hunt”.