CAPACCIO: Bills-Jaguars: Arrow Up/Arrow Down

November 27, 2016

By Sal Capaccio

Twitter @Salports

Quite simply, the Bills got away with one. They didn't play very good football, yet still won against an inferior team, beating the Jacksonville Jaguars 28-21. More on all of that later, but since it is a win, as usual, I start with my Arrows pointing Up.

Arrow Up

DT Marcell Dareus

Dareus finally had the game we've been hoping and expecting him to have. He had eight total tackles, three of those for losses, two sacks, and another two quarterback hurries. He absolutely dominated and filled up the stat sheet in the meantime. Unfortunately, he left the game late with an abdominal injury and wasn't on the field during the Jaguars final drive.

WR Sammy Watkins

Watkins makes this list for two reasons, really. First, he led the team in receiving by a wide margin. He had three catches, and although that's not a lot, it still led the entire team. He also had 80 yards receiving. The next closest pass-catcher was LeSean McCoy's 31 yards. It was of course helped out by a beautiful 62-yard completion against Jalen Ramsey. The second reason Sammy is here is because he got through the game playing even more snaps than he said he thought he would and looked fine and said he felt good afterward. That's great for the Bills going forward. 

PR/WR Brandon Tate

Once again Tate went under-the-radar as a player who contributed to the Bills win. As a punt returner, he had a huge 43 yarder the Bills desperately needed at the end of the first half to set them up in terrific field position at the Jacksonville 22 yard line. Then, on the same drive, as a wide receiver, Tate had a key second down reception that resulted in their first touchdown of the game three plays later. 

Tyrod Taylor to Justin Hunter TD

The touchdown Tyrod Taylor threw to Justin Hunter was a big-league play. A terrific throw in a spot only Hunter could catch it because of his height, then Hunter going up to grab it while spinning back inside between two defenders. It was a great play all-around and came when the Bills were down one point in the fourth quarter. Ultimately, it served to be the game-winning score.

Pass defense, especially on Jags WRs

Jacksonville threw for only 118 net yards. They averaged only 4.2 yards per pass play, which is very low.  Blake Bortles completed only 50% of his passes (13/26). But it was the job the Bills DBs did on Jaguars receivers that really stood out. The trio of Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee, and Allen Hurns combined for only seven total catches, even though they were thrown to a total of 16 times. Lee only had 37 yards, but that led the entire group. Robinson had 24 yards and although Hurns scored a TD, it was on his only catch of the day, a 12-yard catch and run. 

2nd half offense

The Bills scored six points in the entire first half. Their first four drives resulted in punts before finally scoring a touchdown with :20 remaining. LeSean McCoy had 5 yards on eight carries the entire half. However, the second half was a completely different story. Buffalo scored touchdowns on three of their first four possessions, put up 22 points, and McCoy ran 11 times for 98 yards and added a 25 yard reception on top of it. The Bills had 153 yards in the third quarter alone, mostly all coming on two separate 75 play TD drives.

Arrow Down

First half offense

The offensive performance in the first 30-minutes by the Bills was just that. Offensive. I'd say it was quite possibly the worst half of football they played all season. They had a total, TOTAL, of 63 yards. They went 2-7 on third downs. They averaged 2.3 yards rushing. Their first two possessions were both three-and-outs. Their first three possessions resulted in nine total yards. Their first four possessions were all punts. They didn't score until there was :20 remaining. And they even missed that extra point. It was putrid.

Offensive Line

It was just a bad day for the Bills OL. Even though things turned around in the second half, it still was a struggle for much of it. Tyrod Taylor was sacked five times, albeit a few were him running out of bounds before the line of scrimmage. But he was under duress much of the afternoon. The league's leading running game was saved by a big 75 yard scamper by Shady McCoy. Otherwise, Bills RBs combined for 40 yards on 21 carries. The Jaguars DL got to spots much quicker all day and beat the Bills up physically too often.

EJ Manuel at QB for 4th down hard count

I thought it was ridiculous at the time, and still can't figure out the purpose. It was third and one for the Bills at their own 30 yard line. They were up by seven points with only 7:00 remaining. I understand a first down can go along way to put the game away, but there's just no way in the world anyone was fooled into thinking they were actually going to go for it in that situation with the ball there. As soon as Manuel came onto the field, everyone had to know it was simply to try and draw the Jags offsides. They, of course, didn’t bite. It did burn a good 30 seconds off the clock, but there was still plenty of time remaining that it didn't really matter. It also cost the Bills a timeout they fortunately did not need later in the game.

Colton Schmidt 

It wasn't an awful day for Schmidt by any means. However, he needed to pin the Jaguars deeper than he did on a few occasions. His directional kicks went out of bounds too soon and of the six times he punted on the day, none of them settled inside their 20 yard line.

Defending the QB running

Blake Bortles looked like Michael Vick running the football against the Bills defense. He carried it 8 times for 81 yards, including several key scrambles that resulted in first downs. Buffalo’s defense simply didn't account for him as a runner, even after Jacksonville lost their number-one running back in Chris Ivory and their number-two, TJ Yeldon, wasn't on the field much. Bortles didn't do much in the passing game. But it was his legs, not his arm, which continually hurt the Bills.

3rd down defense

For the second week in a row, the Bills opponent was 8/15 on third down. That's over 53%. It's also way too high. They're not getting off the field when they have opportunities, and it's hurting both sides of the football.

Red Zone defense

Jacksonville was 2–2 on scoring TDs once they got inside the bills 20 yard line. That means they have now allowed 11 touchdowns in the last 12 times their opponent has been in the red zone. Obviously, an incredibly too-high rate.

CB Corey White

The man who was competing for a starting cornerback spot just a week ago got his chance for extended playing time when Ronald Darby went out of the game and into concussion protocol.  And it wasn’t a very good performance.  White was beaten several times one-on-one down the sidelines.  He consistently never looked back for the ball and that resulted in Allen Robinson grabbing a big pass over his head and another that was fortunately reversed because Robinson’s foot came down out of bounds.  With all the injuries at the safety spot, White worked a little bit there during the practice week.  Maybe it impacted the way he played corner?  But whether it did or didn’t he needs to play much better, especially since Darby could very well be out next week against the high-potent Raiders passing attack.

The Big Picture

As I stated to open, the Bills didn't play their best football. Far from it. They can be thankful they got a win, put it behind them, and just move on. And they have no choice to do just that with a huge, huge game coming up next week at Oakland. The Raiders are currently tied with New England for the best record in the AFC at 9-2. It's unlikely the Bills will catch them as far as record, but they haven't been getting any help from anywhere recently and have to keep pace and keep winning every week in order to even have a small chance to get into the playoffs at the end.  This win puts them over the .500 mark for the first time in a month.  

All the Bills can do is control how they play and what happens in their own games. Watching the scoreboard won't matter if they can't take care of their own business. But they won't take care of anything playing like they did Sunday next week against the Raiders, or even the following week at home to the Pittsburgh Steelers. It's the biggest and most important two-game stretch in December they've had in many years. With the way things are shaking out around the conference, even splitting these games might not be enough, even if they win the rest. It might take a clean run-of-the-table from here on out.  

But they'll have their chance to do it. The Raiders have a very, very potent offense, but have struggled on defense this year. Buffalo will have to have its offensive line play much better next week against Kahlil Mack, Bruce Irvin, and company.  And their passing defense will have to have another strong performance against the 4th ranked aerial offense in the NFL. 

But, heck, at least we are talking about that possibility and not already about the 2017 draft. It's a lot more fun that way.

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