Bills do the expected, but I'm still angry

December 24, 2017

I didn’t think there was any way I’d be angry with whatever took place during the Buffalo Bills' game in New England. After all, I was fully prepared for a 28th loss in the 31st game against Tom Brady. I was wrong. I was angry. Angry with the replay review process, Sean McDermott, Rick Dennison and Tyrod Taylor, in no particular order.

I’ll start at the back end of that list. If the fates of Taylor and Dennison were not yet sealed, this game ought to have done the trick. This isn’t to say Taylor didn’t make some nice throws because he did but here we are again with the crux of the Taylor problem. There needs to be more. There HAS to be more. Taylor, once again, had a handful of plays where he was gun shy, not willing to take a chance and let someone try to make a play. There were times where he should have thrown the ball away to avoid negative plays and sacks. There were other times where he made bad choices on throws and times where it looked like he forgot that Kelvin Benjamin, a pretty big target, was on the field.

On the Bills' first possession of the game, they moved the ball down to the Patriots' 18-yard line before the drive died. Facing a 3rd-and-11, Taylor stepped up in the pocket too fast and it created a sack for New England.

In the second quarter, facing a 3rd-and-2 at the Patriots' six-yard line, Taylor had LeSean McCoy open near the goal line but under threw him. A good pass there and all McCoy has to do is turn and walk into the end zone for a touchdown. The Bills decided to go for it on fourth down, which was the right call, but Taylor is sacked. He ran to his right but didn’t attempt a throw. Why not take a chance? Maybe someone makes a play, maybe there’s a penalty. Even if the Patriots get an interception, you’re about to turn the ball over on downs anyway. Try and make something happen for goodness sake!

Later in the second quarter, the Bills have a 3rd-and-4 at their own 41-yard line and they get aggressive. I’m okay with that because you need plenty of points to beat Brady. They take a deep shot with Charles Clay, who has a step on his man but the ball is overthrown by four or five yards and he can’t even attempt to make a catch.

Let's move on to Dennison. First off, I need to point out a statistic: The Bills offense has not scored a touchdown in the second half of the last five games. One wonders what Dennison and the offensive staff are doing at halftime and what kind of adjustments they are making in game because it's producing nothing.

Now I will admit I don’t know if this particular situation is on Dennison or Taylor but this sequence was maddening. The Bills get the ball to start the third quarter and move downfield, all the way to a first down at the New England 10-yard line. They call a pass play and the ball ends up in the hands of Patrick DiMarco for an eight-yard loss. Why is DiMarco on the field if you are planning to pass? That part is on Dennison, but I really doubt that play is what he wanted. There’s a back open in the right flat, but Taylor doesn’t go there even though he has moved to that side of the field. Instead, he throws back to the other side, to a fullback, who is WAY behind the line of scrimmage. Hey Tyrod, how about just throwing the ball over Dimarco’s head and out of bounds so you don’t lose yardage on the play?

Now facing a 2nd-and-18, what is the Bills solution to this problem? A quick slant to Mike Tolbert. You have to be kidding me with this stuff! As for Dennison, why is Tolbert out there at all when you are going to pass? He was lined up outside when the Bills went with an empty backfield. Again, I don’t know if the play was called for Tolbert as the first option or not, but Taylor didn’t even look at the other four guys running routes and give them a chance to get open. He looked right at Tolbert and quickly threw a slant which Tolbert dropped.

On 3rd-and-18, the Bills again went with an empty backfield and had all five guys run routes towards the end zone, but of course Taylor wouldn’t pull the trigger. He opted to scramble and had no prayer of getting a first down. What made all of this even worse was the fact that there wasn’t a single target for Benjamin. He had a couple of catches on the Bills' final drive of the first half and should have had a touchdown if not for the incompetence of the NFL (more on that in a moment), but they failed to give him a shot on this drive, while finding time to get a target each for DiMarco and Tolbert.

On to Sean McDermott, who remains an enigma when it comes to in game decisions. I’ll give him this, he is unpredictable but I don’t mean that in a good way. In the second quarter, they did go for it on a 4th-and-2 at the New England six-yard line and it was the right decision, even though they didn’t score. If you’re going to beat Brady, you need touchdowns and not field goals. Going for field goals when facing the greatest quarterback of all time is like trying to fight Muhammad Ali, but deciding to box with one hand behind your back.

Down 23-16 with 13:28 left in the fourth quarter, the Bills were facing a 4th-and-1 at the Patriots' 32-yard line. McDermott opted for the field goal attempt, which is normally money in the bank for Stephen Hauschka, but he missed. Even if he made the field goal, it still would have been a terrible decision. After the game, McDermott said he wanted to come away with points.

He should be thinking touchdown and not field goal. So you could have gone from down seven to down four, who cares? Your defense is not stopping New England’s offense. They had given up points on five of the previous six drives by the Patriots, so you need to get into the end zone at that time. 

Okay now to the replay review process. The Bills lost what was called a touchdown by Benjamin just before halftime on a replay reversal. I’ll be honest with you - I don’t know if Benjamin was able to get two feet in bounds with possession. He was clearly able to get both feet in, but the ball was moving at that point. By the time he secured it, I’m not sure he got the second foot in bounds. But the call was a touchdown and there’s no way you can tell me the replay angles were incontrovertible evidence. I thought there had to be clear video evidence to overturn a call made on the field by officials. That, my friends, was not clear video evidence. In fact, the replay review took so long that I figured they were trying to find a clear look but couldn’t see it so the call would stand. In the meantime, the two men who previously held the job of supervisor of NFL officials, Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino, both tweeted out that the call of the touchdown should NOT have been overturned. The NFL continues to kill its own sport.

Now that I’ve gotten all that anger out of my system, here’s the good news. Despite getting absolutely no help on the out of town scoreboard this weekend (okay, all of the anger isn’t out of me yet), the Bills can still make the playoffs. All it takes is a win at Miami and a Baltimore loss at home to Cincinnati. The Bills can also end the 17-year drought with a win at Miami and losses by Tennessee at home to Jacksonville AND the L.A. Chargers at home to Oakland. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.  

Now its time to go hit the egg nog. Merry Christmas everyone!