Well, THAT happened. Itís never easy to see the Bills get dominated by an opponent, but it wasnít the first time it happened and it wonít be the last. As a fan it does shake you back to reality from the snuggly warmth of a four game winning streak. Iíve enjoyed Buffaloís streak, but I was wary that it could come to a sudden end, and Sunday in Miami was that end.
As Buffalo losses goes, this was classic clunker Ė a game where you really had to try hard to find anything positive. Miami outgained the Bills 454 yards to 267 and had 256 yards on the ground (214 of those yards to Jay Ajayi Ė the guy whoís been available on you fantasy waiver wire for weeks). Miami held the ball nearly 15 minutes longer than the Bills, dominating the time of possession.
Statistically speaking, the best the Bills can boast are fewer penalties/yards (6/45 vs. 13/116), better punt average yards (45.1 vs. 35) and no turnovers, none of which mattered at all. The final score of 28-25 shows three point loss, but the truth lies well beyond those misleading numbers.
Heading into the game there were questions about the availability of several players, including the Billsí top rusher, Lesean McCoy, and their top receiver, Robert Woods. Woods had been in a walking boot most of the week so his inability to play on Sunday was no surprise, but it did leave a very threadbare receiver corps. Reports from pregame warmups looked promising for McCoy Ė several local outlets reported he looked good to go and the Bills obviously agreed because he was in the starting lineup. Sadly, McCoy was far from his normal self, rushing only eight times for 11 yards with a long of four yards before aggravating his hamstring injury and leaving in the second half. The Bills spread the ball around with throws to three wide receivers, two tight ends and a running back, but the offense never seemed to get into a groove to keep the chains moving.
From my vantage point, the game was really lost because the Bills were dominated in the trenches on both sides of the ball. The Bills formula for success this year is built on being able to run the ball and put up a stout defense, and the Bills linemen didnít allow either of those things to happen on Sunday.
Offensively, a line that had done a really nice job of coming together and opening big holes in the running game was completely shut down by Miami. McCoy never made it to the second level on any of his runs Ė as soon as he got the ball and hit a hole it closed up on him for a minimal game. On several plays he met with defenders in the backfield and only through his amazing shiftiness did he gain anything at all. The hamstring injury didnít help turn things around, and neither did the lack of rush attempts given to Mike Gillislee. The Bills finished with a terrible 3.0 ypc. If run blocking was a problem, so was pass blocking Ė Tyrod Taylor was sacked 4 times but turned many other potential sacks into short gains with his ability to scramble. The inability to win at the line of scrimmage translated into short offensive drives and long defensive shifts for the Bills, something I will address shortly.
Defensively the Bills also looked terrible in the trenches. The Miami line did a great job of pushing the Bills off the ball and opening big holes for the running game. They also kept Ryan Tannehill relatively upright to complete passes as needed. I was amazed at how easily the Dolphins ran the ball on the Bills. On many plays it was obvious Miami was going to run the ball, and even knowing that the Bills were powerless to stop it Ė ball to Ajayi, single cut and straight ahead power Ė the Bills could do nothing. When a team shows run and continually gains more than 5 ypc, you know youíre getting beat. Once into the second level the Bills missed tackles galore Ė 16 missed tackles by 10 different players. Tackles that could have stopped drives and allowed an exhausted defense to rest but instead the unit continued to wilt in the hot Miami sun.
And then our favorite topic, Taylor. Hard to pin this loss on the quarterback Ė he threw for 221 yards and a touchdown while completing 50% of his passes Ė he did not turn the ball over. Those arenít great numbers, but they arenít terrible, either, especially given the losses of Sammy Watkins and Woods. Taylor also rushed seven times for 35 yards, the Bills top rusher (yikes). As in just about every other game this season, Tyrod didnít lose the game for the Bills like a long line of quarterbacks past.
Taylor also didnít win the game for the Bills, something we have to see before we can confidently call a guy a franchise quarterback. With six minutes to go in the third quarter the Bills were up by 11 points, but the way the game was going I donít think even the most ardent Bills fan felt confident in a win. In the fourth quarter with the Bills nursing a three point lead, Taylor led a six play, 27 yard drive. When Miami jumped ahead of the Bills on the scoreboard, Taylor had two three-and-out drives. In the end the Bills did manage to score a touchdown in garbage time, but it was too little, too late.
Taylor is a heck of an athlete, and his ability to make plays with his feet is pretty special Ė heís fun to watch. Statistically speaking, if you compare him with the Bills previous quarterback, Kyle Orton through the first 7 games of the season, Orton had the better passing yardage average (258 vs. 185 ypg) and a better quarterback rating (98.2 vs. 91.8). I know plenty of fans will scream at me for making this comparison and Iím not trying to say that Tyrod is Orton Ė what Iím trying to say is that, from a numbers perspective, Taylor is not significantly better when it comes to throwing the ball or winning games. You probably donít remember Orton in fond terms, but thatís because he wasnít a very likable person and he did find ways to lose games for the Bills Ė Tyrod is likable and is not the reason the Bills have lost games.. Iím not trying to pick on Tyrod Ė I like Tyrod Ė I just feel as if he hasnít proven that heís the quarterback of the future and thatís a problem because he had a few opportunities to show it Sunday and did not.
And now the schedule gets tough Ė New England with Brady and a national night game in Seattle. I didnít expect these as wins when the schedule came out and I donít expect them to be wins today. I donít think Buffalo has the talent to beat a New England or a Seattle team at this point, although Iíll certainly be cheering for them. Sadly, I see the same old Bills team I see almost every year Ė full of so much promise that ultimately doesnít pan out. McCoy reinjured is hamstring, Aaron Williams took a vicious hit and his health is unknown, Woods is still limping around and Marcell Dareus has yet to see the field this year. I want to be excited, I just canít.
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