One and done for the Bills

January 7, 2018

When the week began, my biggest concern about the matchup with Jacksonville was whether the Bills offense could get into the end zone against Jacksonville’s top ranked defense.  Mind you I was thinking Le Sean McCoy might not play at all in this game. McCoy played and honestly did more than I had expected after his injury but the Bills could not manage to get into the end zone just the same.  They were painfully close late in the second quarter with a first and goal at the Jaguars one yard line but had to settle for a field goal.  

That was the closest they got to a touchdown all day.  In fact no other drive from the Bills offense went further than the Jaguars 38 yard line.  It was that kind of a day.
You won’t win many football games scoring three points.  The Bills defense did all it could other than score a touchdown themselves.  They rendered Jags running back Leonard Fournette a non factor.  He was held to 57 yards on 21 carries.  The Bills decided, and rightly so, to load up and stop the run and make Blake Bortles beat them.  The scoreboard says he did but Jacksonville won despite having Bortles at quarterback.  It was Bortles’ legs that did the most damage.  He ran for 88 yards which was one yard more than his passing total for the game. 

Like the Bills, the Jags decided to do everything to stop the run and make the other teams quarterback beat them.  Sadly, the Bills were unsuccessful. McCoy gutted it out with 75 yards on 19 carries and added another 44 yards in the receiving game but a Bills passing game that was the worst in the NFL during the season was awful once again. 

In what could turn out to be his last game as a Bill, Tyrod Taylor was just 17-38 for 134 yards and an interception.  If you’re looking for what ifs from his performance, for sure you’d bring up a play on the drive that produced the only points of the game from the Bills. 

On first down at the Jags 23, Taylor missed Nick O’Leary with a deep middle throw to the end zone.  O’Leary had a little separation on the play and a good throw would have been a touchdown but Taylor put the ball out a bit too far and O’Leary couldn’t even attempt to make a catch.  

The drive produced another head scratcher when the Bills ended up with a first and goal at the one yard line.  They went with a two back, two tight end set and called a run pass option.  The five offensive linemen, two tight ends and the fullback all blocked for a run.  LeSean McCoy, the second back in the I set, was expecting a run but the moment Taylor began his drop back from center, he looked to his left and attempted a pass to Kelvin Benjamin.  It was incomplete but it wouldn’t have mattered because Benjamin was called for offensive pass interference. Following two incompletions the Bills settled for the field goal and their best offensive chance of the day was gone.

It was frustrating watching the Bills offense because you never truly felt they were going to get a touchdown after that opportunity. Jacksonville ended up with a field goal drive of their own before halftime and their best drive of the day produced what turned out to be the game winning touchdown in the third quarter.

Because the Bills offense was so bad, the good news is there isn’t a lot to beat yourself up about.  There was some questionable clock management on the final drive before halftime.  Then in the second half the Bills had what appeared to be a first down at the Jags 37 yard line on a pass to Charles Clay.  The Jags claimed he had stepped out of bounds before the catch and they were right. The Bills didn’t get the next play off quick enough so Jacksonville challenged the play and the call was overturned.  Buffalo had at least 25 seconds to get back to the line and run a play.  Ironically, they had done that properly earlier in the game when the Bills were the benefit of a bad spot by the officiating crew. The Bills went incomplete pass, sack and punt after the overturn.

I’ll be honest with you, I wasn’t angry when the game and the season came to an end.  In large part because the playoff appearance was so far fetched for me, this game was pretty much the Bills playing with house money.  But also because we all knew the shortcomings of the quarterback and the passing offense.  This was the 11th sub 200 yard passing game for the Bills in 17 games this season.  The Bills went the last 10 games of the season getting no more than 24 points in a game.  They averaged just 15 points over those 10 games. Here’s another telling stat for you: The Bills played seven games against teams in the playoffs including this matchup.  In those seven games, the offense scored just three touchdowns and one of those was when they were down 47-3 to New Orleans.  When the Bills played up in class, so to speak, the offense was rarely good enough. 

Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane have to spend the off season attempting to build a real NFL caliber passing offense and that includes the quarterback position and the wide receivers. But that is another story for another day.

The last eight days were among the most enjoyable for me in the last 20 years.  The days leading up to the game were ones I will never forget.  It was great to see the pride, the joy, and  the generosity coming out from Bills fans across the country.  Let’s hope our days of playoff droughts are over, at least as far as the Bills are concerned.