CAPACCIO: Bills-49ers: Arrow Up/Arrow Down

October 16, 2016

By Sal Capaccio

Twitter @SalSports


Four for four.

The only time we ever hear about that in Buffalo is usually from a fast food menu. But, now the Bills have us talking pretty seriously. A four-game winning streak for the first time since 2008, and this city is feeling pretty good about it's team right now. 

So for the fourth straight week, it's time to start with the Arrows Up:

Arrow Up

RB LeSean McCoy

He's simply been incredible this season, especially over the past four games, and was again on Sunday, turning in one of the best performances of his entire career. Shady ran for 140 yards (10th most on his 8-year career) and also scored three touchdowns (he had only done that two other times). He had 106 at halftime in this one and finished with 7.4 yards per carry. McCoy once again made gains out of what looked like nothing, and made defenders look silly in the hole.  It looked like a serious injury to his knee right before halftime, but he came back in, and thankfully for Bills fans, showed it was nothing major.  Because without McCoy the Bills would have a tough time winning games.  With him healthy, they’re as lethal as you can get running the football.

FB Jerome Felton

Felton paved the way for not only McCoy's big day, but also Tyrod Taylor (68 yards rushing), Mike Gillislee (60), and everyone else who contributed to the whopping 312 yards on the ground for the Bills, their highest output in a game in 24 seasons!  Felton just destroyed guys on some plays, leaving gaping holes to run through. He's been on the field a lot more over the past four weeks, since the offensive coordinator change, and it's showing up on the stat sheet and the scoreboard. 

Offensive Line

This group has been playing really well up front, but they put an exclamation point on that Sunday with that rushing performance.  They did it with both power and finesse against the Niners, depending on what the situation called for.

WRs Robert Woods and Justin Hunter

After last week’s performance by the wide receivers and some dropped passes, the group needed to bounce back, and Woods and Hunter were great examples how they did. Woods was targeted six times, grabbing five balls for 44 yards and had his first TD catch of the season. He even did it while hobbling around on a bad ankle, fighting through it from the end of the first half on. Hunter grabbed his second TD in as many weeks after just being picked up off the waiver wire. He now has two catches in a Bills uniform, both going for touchdowns.

Redzone defense

The Bills came into the game ranked second in the entire league, only allowing 37.5% TDs by opponents in their red zone. The 49ers were 0-for-2 against them. It's a big reason the unit has now only allowed one team to score 20 points or more on them this entire season.

CB Nickell Robey-Coleman

You couldn’t tell on the stat sheet just how big of an impact Robey-Coleman made in this one. He was around the ball often when it was thrown and had a huge pass break-up on a third down. He also led the team in special-teams tackles with three and forced a fumble on the kickoff that was ultimately recovered by Buffalo. He was solid all afternoon.

LB Zach Brown

Brown was once a again a one-man stat machine.  He filled up the sheet with 7 total tackles, 2 of those for losses, a sack, and a QB hurry.

Arrow Down

3rd quarter play calling

It was nice to see the Bills put San Francisco away in the fourth quarter, but the truth is they could have done it earlier had they not tried to get so cute in the third quarter and just stuck with running LeSean McCoy. But, instead, Anthony Lynn used what seemed like the entire playbook, with lots of different personnel packages, including EJ Manuel getting time at QB.  McCoy only touched the ball via a running play twice in their first three drives out of the locker room.  They allowed the 49ers to hang around after their first three drives of the second half were 4-plays punt, 5-plays punt, and 3-plays punt.  They got back to what was working in the fourth quarter and that led to three straight TD drives.

RB Jonathan Williams’ fumble 

These are things coaches find to pick on when their team wins 45-16. The Bills played a very good football game, but they weren't perfect. The rookie fumbled with only 4:37 left in the contest. His team already had the game in hand, essentially, but Bills defenders were trying to keep the Niners under 20 points if they could. Luckily for them and him, it worked out. But a rookie fumbling a ball when he doesn't get many chances is not good for him. He has to do better than that.

The Big Picture

It's not intentional to only have two items on the Arrow Down list. And in fact, I had to think quite a while about what to put on there. But after 45–16, there really isn't a ton to criticize or even point out that went wrong. The Bills played well in all three phases and beat a team they should. They did not really allow San Francisco to threaten in the second half.

Now it's on to Miami and another very big divisional game on the road. After the Dolphins beat the Steelers pretty handily, there's no way anyone should think this game will be like Sunday. But, the way the Bills are running the ball and facing Miami, who was last in the NFL against the run coming into the week, it's still set up pretty well for them to go 5-2 and have the Patriots coming to town the following week.

As it stands right now, the Bills are in a playoff spot. Who would have thought that could be the case now after the first two weeks? Give Rex Ryan credit. He deserves it along with the rest of his staff. When everyone else counted this team out at 0-2, he made a controversial change and stuck with his convictions on it and continued to have his players work and fight. Now, they have seen the results.

Many believe the way the Bills are winning, running the ball as well as they are and playing solid defense with a limited passing game that's efficient enough to manage the game well, isn't a formula for sustainable success for the entire season. But, they keep using it and keep winning right now. So that's what we're going to see, because at the end of the day, it doesn't matter how you got there, as long as the scoreboard is in your favor. And at the end of the season, no one checks how you won games at the door before letting you into the playoffs. They just let you in if you win enough games. 

And right now 4-2 looks - and feels - pretty good. 

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