Joe B: 7 observations from Buffalo Bills - Denver Broncos (9/24/17)

ORCHARD PARK, NY (WKBW) - The Buffalo Bills shook off a slow start near the beginning of the game, came together and rallied for a 26-16 victory over the previously unbeaten Denver Broncos. The Bills seemed to get a total team effort on the way to getting their second victory of the 2017 regular season.

How did they pull it off? And how were they able to shake off yet another slow start?

Seven observations from the Bills’ victory over the Broncos:

1) McDermott is 2-for-2 in closing out games
- It’s young into his head coaching career and there are some minor things to complain about with his style, but at the end of the day, he’s perfect in an area that has been lost on the Bills for years on end. McDermott, and the players on his team are taking a lead in the fourth quarter — and actually finishing games without beating themselves. It’s a novel concept, seeing as how Rex Ryan’s teams beat themselves more times than we can count. However, the early trend shows that when they get a lead, the team continues to execute which highlights the preparation and everything that goes along with it. It’s the self-professed “process” that Sean McDermott goes on and on about, but it’s a big part of it, and it helps bridge the talent gap in a lot of different areas. The first time around it was just against the New York Jets, so you could chalk it up to the lack of talent to the opponent. This time though? While Von Miller’s penalty after a stopped third down late in the game certainly helped things for the Bills, they still took advantage of the opponent’s mistakes and collected a victory by closing out the game — and it was against a very talented team. Every single thing the Bills are doing under their new head coach is a step forward, and it seems through three weeks, they are at the very least headed in the right direction for the time being. Can he and his team continue it? That’s the beauty of a 16-game season, you never know what identity the team will take on by the end of the season. It’s a good start, but we need to see the whole thing through.

2) Tyrod silences the Peterman noise for the time being
- Following the Bills Week Two dud on the offensive side of the ball, there seemed to be a growing contingent of fans that wanted to see what rookie Nathan Peterman might be able to do in Rick Dennison’s offensive scheme. Tyrod Taylor certainly struggled in that game, and then again in the early stages of the Bills win over the Broncos — but he shook off the slow start to have his best drive of the 2017 season against a great defense. And it was all started off by an adjustment — and a throw he missed earlier in the game — that he didn’t make the same mistake to miss when it was open later on. In the first half, Nick O’Leary was crossing the middle of the field about 20-to-25 yards away from the line of scrimmage, and Taylor instead opted for a safe throw underneath for a minimal gain. In the third quarter, with the Bills trailing the Broncos, Taylor found his man for a picture perfect throw along the sidelines and it gave the Bills a 31 yard gain, which completely flipped the field for the offense. Two plays later, Taylor read the defense and found Jordan Matthews for an additional 25-yard gain. He capped it off with a touchdown throw to Charles Clay, in which he manipulated the defenders by threatening to run, only to allow Clay to release from the line of scrimmage and find a wide open area for a touchdown reception. This was the type of game plan we’ve been waiting to see from Rick Dennison, one that actually highlights Taylor’s skill-set. The more he’s moving, and the more he rolls out, the more comfortable he seems and the easier it is for him to see more of the field. This was a great step in the right direction, and that drive was all the Bills needed (along with some defensive stops down the stretch) to take the lead for good.

3) Defense shows off once again
- Heading into the season, the pieces were there for the Bills to have a bounce-back season on the defensive side of the ball. Never really a good personnel fit for Rex Ryan’s defensive scheme, the Bills were back at home in Sean McDermott’s scheme, with a completely revamped secondary — and it shows based on the early results. The defensive line isn’t worried about assignments, and just getting after the quarterback and controlling the line of scrimmage — to which they brought down Trevor Siemian three times on Sunday. Against the run, the linebackers are solid and the defensive line help fill the gaps. However, the biggest reason for the Bills to only have allowed two touchdowns in the first three games is due to how well the secondary has played. The whole defense flows together, and a perfect example of that was when Eddie Yarbrough read the play action rollout in the fourth quarter perfectly, breathed fire down Siemian’s neck, and forced an attempt at throwing the ball out of bounds which landed safely in the arms of Tre’Davious White. They’ll have a much bigger test against the likes of Atlanta’s high-powered offense and quarterback Matt Ryan, but this defense is proving that even without every player they need to have an outright dominant defense, that by working together it’s been a tremendous start to the season. Will those talent gaps eventually pave the way for some better days for offenses? That remains to be seen, but it’s hard to hate on everything that unit has done there games into the season.

4) Running game stymied… again
- You could just sense the frustration in LeSean McCoy’s voice. After the win, the Bills top offensive player was asked about the lack of a rushing attack for the second week in a row and McCoy said he just wants to have an impact on the game — but concluded that even if it’s as a decoy, he’ll take the win over everything. That’s all well and good, but it’s a major concern that for two straight weeks — with a defense keying on McCoy, that they’ve taken him completely out of the game in what is supposed to be the identity of the offense. With the wide receivers still struggling to become a consistent threat in the Bills offense, the Bills have had to depend on their running backs and the tight ends in the passing game to move the ball down the field. Now, the Bills have gone up against two extremely talented front-seven defenses in the past two weeks — but his ability and their outright reliance on him should get him started on the ground. It’s been a poor blocking effort for the offensive line for much of the season, which likely leads to the frustration. At least the Bills were able to get him involved in the passing attack against Denver, which is something they didn’t do as well against Carolina. McCoy is too dynamic of a player to be an afterthought, and especially when the Bills are up against some better offensive teams, they will need him to be able to provide answers when the team has to put up more points than they’ve had in the last two weeks.

5) Tre’Davious White impresses yet again
- Now, I don’t know if this was the best game of Tre’Davious White’s young career — but it certainly is the one that we’ve learned the most about him. White was lined up against the best wide receivers he’s seen in the NFL to date: Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Predictably, Sanders was getting the best of the rookie early on in the game as one of the best route runners in the game. One of two things could have happened from that point forward: White could have continued to struggle, or, he learnt from his mistakes and responds with better play. And boy, did he ever respond. White was in on multiple pass breakups and then secured the gift interception at the end of the game. His ability to bounce back after a rough start helped us glean what type of mental toughness he has on the field — and the early results are good for the rookie cornerback. They’re putting a lot on his plate for someone at his position, and he’s handled it really well to this point. Next week against Julio Jones and the Falcons will be the next biggest test of his career, but so far so good for Tre’Davious White.

6) The Bills’ kryptonite on defense?
- Through the first two weeks, we saw both the New York Jets and the Carolina Panthers attempt — and succeed — in taking advantage of the middle of the field through the passing game. No matter if it’s Preston Brown, Ramon Humber, or Lorenzo Alexander, teams have been taking advantage of the Bills in that area of the field. It started that way in the early going with the Broncos utilizing their slant game over the middle — to which the Bills wised up to as the game wore on. However, the collective lack of athleticism and instincts in coverage from that trio of linebackers will continue to be where opponents will try to pick apart — especially with how well both the defensive line and the secondary have played through the first three games. Finding a speedy middle linebacker and a more instinctive weakside linebacker should be one of the team’s top priorities in the 2018 offseason, considering how important they are to Sean McDermott’s defensive scheme.

7) Clock management issues with Sean McDermott
- Earlier on in this column, I wrote that the early returns on McDermott as the head coach of the team have been good because of how well the Bills have been able to close out games — which is true. However, there is a pretty distinct area to pick him apart through three weeks: clock management. At the end of the first half, the Bills had the ball with 42 seconds left and two timeouts. They needed to go 75 yards for a touchdown in this situation. It started off well when the Bills picked up a chunk of 15 yards — but it was to the middle of the field and looked like a perfect time to use one of those two timeouts. Instead, the Bills let 15 seconds tick off the clock until the Bills once again found McCoy over the middle of the field — to which they mercifully used the first of their two timeouts. Now, the point of contention here is twofold. The first is obvious: just call a timeout after the completion over the middle of the field and save all of that time. The second, if you’re not going to use the timeout in that situation, why continue to hammer it over the middle of the field? The Bills eventually drove it down and snuck a Stephen Hauschka 55-yard field goal through the uprights to tie the game at the half, but it’s hard to not think of what could have been had they used timeouts and the field correctly. Then later in the game, as the Bills were trying to close out the game, they settled on a designed Tyrod Taylor stretch run on a 3rd-and-long, rather than to try and pick up the first down and kill more clock and score a touchdown rather than just a field goal. Hauschka bailed them out once more with a 53-yard field goal, but in those situations, you’d like to see them attack and try to secure the game and not give the opponents a chance. That field goal only put them up by 7 points with ample time to go in the fourth quarter. Again, there is a lot to like with Sean McDermott, but like Tre’Davious White, Zay Jones, and Dion Dawkins, McDermott is a rookie and has to iron out his mistakes with reps on the field — clock/game management is no different.

Bills MVP: CB Tre’Davious White
- Battling through a rough start to come back and have a huge impact on the game is as impressive as you’ll see from a rookie cornerback — at a position that easily could have let the rest of the game in his head and get away from him.

Bills LVP: RG John Miller
- A few penalties, and of course, the running game never got going which wasn’t totally his fault, but he played a role. The offensive line really struggled on Sunday from the first watch.

Up Next: Week Four at the Atlanta Falcons (3-0) on Sunday, October 1 at 1:00 pm.

Final Thoughts:
- The Bills showed quite a bit of mettle in this victory over the Denver Broncos. They were challenged on offense and rose up against it. The defense seemed to be giving up some yardage throughout the game, and they put a stop to it when it really counted. And most importantly, they didn’t beat themselves. While it’s too early to really say if this team can contend for a playoff spot in 2017, it is completely fair to say that based on the way the defense has played and how disciplined they’ve been in three games, that they are a bit ahead of schedule to what everyone expected. This was a great win by the Bills against a really, really good team in the Denver Broncos. All of a sudden, it feels like there is some life in Orchard Park. It’s best to not get ahead of yourselves, but, it will be intriguing to see what this team does next against Atlanta. Stay tuned.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

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