Monday, October 12, 2015

Lucky vs. Titans; Outlook Questionable

Well, this guy sums it up pretty good. Basically what is he saying is "same old Bills." And in a lot of ways, I think this is true. Yes, I know Tyrod Taylor is getting all sorts of praise for his early play and according to my nine-year-old son he had the second most fantasy points of any quarterback in the league yesterday, but what I saw vs. the Titans on offense was unsustainable. Taylor threw for 109 yards on the day, with 46 of them coming on one play. You're not going to win too many games in the NFL with this type of offense. We scored 14 points!

Luckily, the Titans were equally incompetent on offense, even though they outgained the Bills 276-209, piling up an especially large edge in the first half. The problem was that Tennessee failed to convert several trips into our side of the field into many points, while the Bills were 2-for-2, scoring TDs on both legitimate drives that I recall. Neither Bills TD was particularly impressive from a planned-and-executed play perspective - Tyrod scored on a great scrambling run on what was basically a broken play a called QB draw, and Hogan bobbled but hung on to a low thrown two-yard pass on 3rd and goal to provide the winning points. To me, these types of plays are somewhat lucky and could have gone either way - and we're kinda lucky the Titans didn't pull off similar plays.

Yes, the defense was good, especially in the second half, but we've known we have a good defense for three years now. Stephon Gilmore was especially impressive, including on the game-clinching interception. And he has clearly taken strides forward this year in Ryan's defensive scheme, so let's give Rex some credit for that - Revis emerged as an All-Pro under Ryan as well, but let's also remember both players were fairly high draft picks, so it's not like Ryan uncovered diamonds in the rough. Otherwise the defense has been, at best, as good as last year, and definitely weaker against the run.

The "same old" part of my analysis applies largely to the QB play. Remember in 2008, when the Bills got off to a 4-0 start and SI's Peter King named Trent Edwards his quarter-season MVP? Or, in 2011, when the Bills got off to a 4-2 start and signed Ryan Fitzpatrick to a huge contract extension? Now, I hate to say Taylor is going to end up like these two flameouts, but unfortunately, all the signs seem to be pointing that way. To me, Taylor appears to have a limited skill set - he can run the ball and throw deep fairly effectively, but is maddeningly inconsistent on shorter and middle-range throws. Some of this may have to do with his receivers, and missing a stud like Sammy Watkins is certainly affecting him, but Taylor's aim looked pretty bad yesterday. I just don't think you can win consistently in today's NFL without some semblance of a decent short-to-mid-range passing game and the Bills showed up without one yesterday.

I worry that after getting film on Taylor, NFL defenses will adjust and take away his limited strengths and that eventually his reckless running (while exciting) will lead to injury. This would, of course, lead to EJ, who on paper would appear to have a broader skill set, but we've seen EJ in games, and paper has not necessarily translated to performance. So, yeah, I'm worried about the Bills season.

Could LeSean come back and take some of the burden off the QB and enable us to win mainly through "ground-and-pound" offense and good D? That was the plan I thought, but through five games, I certainly haven't seen anything resembling a dominant running attack, with Karlos Williams appearing to be our best back and Williams now out with a concussion before he proved he could handle a full-game load. Take out Taylor and yesterday's rushing numbers were 50 yards on 21 carries. That's not going to get it done. And McCoy is out for at least a few more weeks with Williams status uncertain as far as I know.

Do we have a plan B? I guess let Taylor scramble and throw deep and hope Watkins' return (imminent?) opens up the field more for underneath throws that hopefully Taylor can connect on like he did vs. Miami, as compared to yesterday's struggles.

Good luck Bills. I know we have the talent to beat Cincy next week, but if we can't execute any better on offense, I don't know that it is possible. That said, Dalton is known to be susceptible to pressure and as yesterday's second half proved, the Bills are still capable of that. Once again, go Bills!

As a side note, I think my friend Matt deserves his share of credit for the Bills win yesterday. We enjoyed the game at his house, complete with a wonderful spread featuring grilled chicken wings and pulled pork. Absolutely delicious. Unfortunately for Matt, he had to be barred from watching the game from his captain's seat in the living room, as we noticed in the second half that every time he left the room good things would happen for the Bills and when he returned, our luck was reversed. I won't give specific examples, but the evidence was undeniable. So, Matt had to watch most of the 4th quarter craning his neck from the living room threshold to see the TV, a sacrifice he willingly made to ensure victory. If someone who knows Rex Ryan is reading this, please pass it on as another example of how great Bills fans can be - something he continually seems to be expressing his admiration for, in what is at least a great PR move on his part.

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