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Buscaglia: 7 observations from Bills - Eagles

Buscaglia: 7 observations from Bills - Eagles
Posted at 9:26 PM, Dec 13, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-13 21:26:02-05

The Buffalo Bills certainly had their chances to keep up in the race for the playoffs. In fact, despite all of the Bills’ self-inflicted problems, the Philadelphia Eagles appeared as though they were ready and willing to give the Bills the victory.

Instead, the Bills are all but officially assured that they’ll miss the postseason for the sixteenth straight season, continuing the longest playoff drought in the National Football League.

Seven observations from the Bills' 23-20 loss to the Eagles:

1) Penalty problem rears its ugly head at worst possible time
- It may not have been the personal foul problem that got in the way early on into the season, but the Bills never could get themselves going in the second half against the Philadelphia Eagles — and a large portion of that had to do with taking penalty after penalty, leaving them in many unfavorable positions in crucial portions of the game. The Bills took a total of 15 penalties in the game, which set them back 101 yards on the day. Nine of the penalties taken occurred before the snap, and seven of them were on offensive linemen. Rex Ryan kept alluding to the fact that they were their own worst enemies — which is true. But, ultimately, what we saw on Sunday is not only a microcosm of what will likely be yet another failed season for the Buffalo Bills, but of a reflection of their head coach. The Bills had a very, very long time to get the penalty problems from early in the season in order, and over the past month, it seemed like they did. But when it mattered most, the Bills lacked the poise for the big moment, and instead will likely spend yet another year on the outside looking in. His players aren’t the only ones that need to do some soul searching when the regular season is complete — Rex Ryan is in need of it too, because the rash of penalties is one of the biggest contributing factors to the Bills demise in 2015.

 

 

2) Shady Day, with McCoy bolting into the night
- The hubbub surrounding Bills running back LeSean McCoy and his triumphant return to Philadelphia for the first time since being traded to Buffalo was real and hard to ignore. Eagles head coach Chip Kelly expressed interest in burying the hatchet to a certain degree throughout the week, while McCoy wanted no part of that at all. McCoy got off to a good start in the first half, and then the Eagles shut him down almost completely in the second. The Bills only managed to get 11 yards on eight attempts from McCoy in the second half, after a 63 yards first half on 12 attempts. After the game, McCoy was not a happy camper:

 

 

 

 

McCoy left that scrum around his locker and made a direct line toward the bus, but he can’t hide for long. He and the Bills both need to face the music, and deal with the realization that another year will likely have gone by without a trip to the playoffs.

3) How Fletcher Cox destroyed the Bills playoff hopes
- He was only one player, but Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Fletcher Cox torpedoed the Bills thoughts of making a comeback and getting back to the plus side of a .500 record. In the second half, Cox blew up multiple running plays, he was forcing penalties by the offensive line, and never allowed the Bills to get comfortable on defense. He certainly drew the praise of the Bills after the game, in which he had 8 total tackles, two tackles for loss, and one sack of Taylor. The same week that left guard Richie Incognito started to garner some support, and openly talked about the idea of making it back to the Pro Bowl, he easily had his worst game of the season against Fletcher Cox. After the game, Incognito said that he was “man enough to admit” that he was getting beaten by the defender. It’s only one player, and only one game, but the Bills sure could have used someone like that on their roster to steal the game that probably should have been theirs in the first place.

4) Tyrod, offense down the stretch
- It was the same story two weeks ago in Kansas City: in a game that was totally in their grasp, the Buffalo Bills ended up losing the game, in part, because of the overall inability of the offense to put together drives in the second half. Against the Eagles, it was the fourth quarter that ultimately led to another frustrating halt to a playoff push. In four fourth quarter possessions, the Bills gained a total of 60 yards, were penalized a total of 27 yards, bringing their net yardage tally to 33 yards in the fourth quarter. They gained only two first downs, punted the ball three times, and finished off their offensive day with an interception into double coverage. The vanishing act of the second half that has become commonplace in key moments — it’s happened three of the last four weeks — is a point that breeds concern when discussing the merits of Tyrod Taylor as a longterm option at quarterback.

5) Eagles picked on McKelvin
- If there was a week to be without top cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the matchup on paper would indicate that the Eagles would be the one. Slot receiver Jordan Matthews is their top option, and the boundary receivers hadn’t done much in the games leading up to the one with the Bills. Even still, the Eagles went right after backup Leodis McKelvin and had a large degree of success. To his credit, McKelvin came away with what could have been a game changing play, except, it wasn’t. The Bills squandered that chance by punting it away just three-and-a-half minutes later. Gilmore’s absence was sorely missed, and it’s hard to argue that his presence would not have made a positive impact in the game for Buffalo.

6) Sammy Effect
- On the positive side, Sammy Watkins had the type of game that proves he can be the type of receiver that dictates things in a game. He did drop two passes, but, Watkins accounted for a third of the Bills total passing attempts, he roped in five receptions for 81 yards, and he had the touchdown to open up the offensive day for Buffalo. Not only that, his presence helped open things up for Robert Woods, who had his best game of the season with five catches for 106 yards — his first 100-yard game since November 24, 2014. Having him on the field changes how a defense approaches  the Bills offense, and it’s been happening for the past several weeks now. In his last three games, Watkins has 14 receptions for 348 yards and four touchdowns. While the volume isn’t all the way there from a reception standpoint, there is no doubting his big play ability.

7) Playoffs are all but dead
- Another year for the Buffalo Bills, and another season that looks destined to go down the tubes without a playoff game. If it makes Bills fans feel any better about the loss, they had a difficult journey to get to the postseason even with a 10-6 record with the way things shook out on Sunday. Now, with their best possible outcome being 9-7, the Bills need a lot of things to go their way. They need Indianapolis to take home the AFC South, and for Houston to get down to seven wins. They also need Oakland to lose once more. In addition to that, the Bills need two of the following three things to happen, in addition to winning all of their games: the New York Jets must lose one of their next two games, the Pittsburgh Steelers have to lose two of their final three games, or, Kansas City must lose all three of their remaining games. Considering all the odds, variables, and teams ahead of the Bills, it’s looking highly unlikely, but still remain technically available.

Bills MVP: WR Robert Woods
- His first 100-yard game in over a calendar year helped, but it wasn’t enough for the Bills.

Bills LVP: LG Richie Incognito/WR Marcus Thigpen
- Dual honors, because Incognito was dominated by Fletcher Cox for a majority of the game, and Thigpen’s muffed punt return and lost fumble led to the Eagles second touchdown.

Up Next: Sunday, December 20 at Washington (6-7), FedEx Field

Final Thoughts:
- While it’s not an outright certainty at this point, the Buffalo Bills appear destined for a sixteenth consecutive season without a playoff berth due to a factor that has plagued the franchise for years on end: an overall inconsistent effort from one week to the next, resulting in tough-to-swallow losses on a yearly basis. Last year, it was the Oakland loss. This year, Jacksonville, and now this Philadelphia game comes to mind. The Bills have a much more talented roster than they have, perhaps at any point of the current playoff drought. However, they couldn’t do much of anything with it, except for producing the same results that we’ve grown accustomed to. Rex Ryan and his staff will need to do quite a bit of soul searching in the offseason to find out why games like the one against the Eagles continues to happen, despite a higher talent level across the roster. Is it coaching? Is it execution? Is it the scheme? Is it a disconnect between the front office and the coaching staff on what type of roster they’re looking to build? Whatever the case may be, things haven’t gotten better — from a wins perspective — in and around One Bills Drive since Rex Ryan took over the team. And while a slight hope still remains for this season, it’s hard to not look at the ghosts of 2015’s past opponents and wonder ‘what if,’ based on what the Bills put together on paper this season.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

 

 

 
 

 

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