The Buffalo Bills went from being well in control of their 12th games of the season — on the road — over a team that had a superior record, to now being on the brink of their 17th straight season without a trip to the NFL playoffs.
“It all happened so fast,” a shell-shocked LeSean McCoy said after the game.
That’s the way Bills fans felt about the undoing of their team in the second half in Oakland, spoiling a 24-9 lead in the third quarter and then losing 38-24 to the Raiders.
How did it all happen? Seven observations from the game that will likely define the Bills season:
1) Tyrod’s disappearing act is inexcusable
- The Buffalo Bills had everything going their way. They shook off a slow end to the first half and came out of the gates in the second half flying. The Bills, thanks to their running game in the second half, had the Raiders on the ropes at 24-9. Let’s get something straight, though. In the first quarter of the game, Tyrod Taylor had an incredibly impressive first 15 minutes — in fact, it might have been his best quarter played all season long. From there on out, the wheels fell almost completely off for Taylor. Over the rest of the game, Taylor completed only 10-of-26 passes for 89 yards and turned the ball over twice. That’s right: 45 minutes of work, 89 passing yards, two turnovers. Everything the Bills had boasted about in the week leading up to the game: not turning the ball over, passing efficiency… it all went out the window. And when the Bills needed him the most as the Raiders were going on their run, with the defense gasping for air the same way as their playoff hopes were when the Raiders stormed back to take the lead, Taylor and the Bills managed to churn out three straight three-and-outs. The defense was playing terribly, but the fact that they had virtually no time to rest hurt them even more. Taylor’s inability to help bring a level of calmness to the team is where he failed as the man playing the most important position in the game. Down the stretch of the game, he was inaccurate, he was missing players that were open, he held on to the ball for too long — basically, he did nothing to help them get out of the hole even when the game was still within reach. It’s now almost been two full seasons of Tyrod Taylor as the quarterback, and he has two fourth quarter comebacks to his name: Tennessee in 2015, and Jacksonville in 2016. Taylor has a month to prove why he should be worthy of that $27 million extension, because the last three weeks have created more questions than he has given answers.
2) Defense eventually gives out to weaknesses
- The Bills held on for quite a while defensively. They were limiting what the top two receiving targets were able to do in the first half, having only given up two catches for 13 yards to Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree in the first 30 minutes — although they were fortunate for one drop and one penalty that negated a huge play early on from Cooper. Against the run, the Bills were doing quite well in limiting the Raiders really through the first two-and-a-half quarters. Finally, the Bills couldn’t overcome the weaknesses they had coming into the game, which all came to a head during the Raiders big run. Once again, the secondary let the Bills down because of a lack of talent and experience. This time around, it was the young Kevon Seymour, making his first career start at outside cornerback in place of Ronald Darby, was ripped for two touchdowns — once by Crabtree, and the other by Cooper, which ultimately led to their demise. Seymour had his share of struggles in the second half, as the Raiders’ receiving duo brought in seven receptions for 120 yards and those two touchdowns in the second half. Filling in at safety during the game in spots, Corey White was once again taken advantage of by the opponent. White displayed hesitance, and on a big third down play, showed off his nasty habit of not raising his arms when the tight end Clive Walford went to catch the ball. That duo cost the Bills dearly, and it all added to the outcome of the game.
3) Bills forgot about Mack
- On the offensive side of the ball, even with the game still in shouting distance, the Bills forgot about the one man they vowed to keep from taking over the game. All day, the Bills either double-teamed Raiders edge rusher Khalil Mack, or they rolled Tyrod Taylor away from his side. That is, until the Bills forgot about one of the best pass rushers in the game when they were trying to come back on the Raiders. Down six points with the ball at their own four-yard line, the Bills allowed Mack to truck through the overmatched Jordan Mills, slow down Taylor’s arm, and the ball turned into a pop fly for safety Nate Allen. Later on, Mack delivered the final blow by screaming through the Bills’ blocking efforts to bring down Taylor for a strip-sack, and then recovered the ball. That was all she wrote, as Mack took over the game much like he did the week before against Carolina.
4) McCoy deserved a better outcome
- There are many reasons why the Buffalo Bills lost that game to the Oakland Raiders, but LeSean McCoy was not among them. Once again, McCoy was the offense for the Bills — as the team unfairly depended on him to lead them out of the doldrums of a horrid passing attack, and all he did was put together a game with 130 rushing yards and 61 receiving yards. McCoy’s talents, despite helping them to a big lead at the beginning of the third quarter, were wasted because the Bills don’t have a complementary passing attack to lead them out of a hole when they’re there. McCoy was constantly making people miss, finding yardage that most running backs don’t even think of trying to go for because they either don’t have the vision, or they don’t have the quickness to take advantage of it. McCoy needs some help in the form of a competent and consistent passing attack, and that isn’t coming anytime soon if Sunday was any indication.
5) Preston Brown getting covered up way too easily
- While the Bills were getting burned through the air, the Bills were also getting gashed on the ground by the Raiders rushing attack in the second half. A culprit of this, as it has been all season long — and even for the past two seasons — is none other than inside linebacker Preston Brown. In 2015, Brown showed a lack of ability in shedding blockers which led to a poor sophomore campaign for him. That’s a habit that hasn’t gone away in 2016, and was on display when those big runs kept on coming through for the Raiders. Now in his third season, this may just be who Preston Brown is at this point in time, although his average play won’t call for immediate replacement in the offseason. If things continue, or worsen, the Bills could think about Reggie Ragland at Brown’s spot — a player that is much better at shedding blockers at the inside linebacker position.
6) Shaq Lawson shows improvement
- Last week against Jacksonville, I thought rookie first-round pick Shaq Lawson really struggled in an extended amount of time on the field. This week, Lawson turned that performance on its head and really stood out on more than a few occasions against a really good Oakland offensive line. On one play, Lawson threw down left tackle Donald Penn en route to making a big play. On another play, Lawson showed off his speed by thwarting an Amari Cooper reverse by forcing him out wide — a play that the Bills stopped for no yards. Lawson’s development in this game is a welcomed sight, seeing as how he’ll likely take over a full-time role for the soon-to-be free agent Lorenzo Alexander as the edge rusher off the right side. Even if they choose to bring back Alexander in 2017, Lawson’s role will still increase because of the Bills’ big plans for him. This was the best game he’s played for the Bills since returning from his injury.
7) A Schmidt problem?
- When the Bills needed to flip the field the most and gain a little bit of extra breathing room as the Raiders mounted their attack, the normally solid punter Colton Schmidt really let the Bills down on Sunday. Schmidt, in the midst of the Raiders third quarter splurge, managed to only punt the ball 35 and 39 yards consecutively, which started Oakland at their own 45 and 41-yard line on consecutive drives. It was merely a contributing factor to the game, but it was notable how poor he was all game long in trying to help the Bills secure a victory. Schmidt managed a poor average of 39.8 yards per kick on five attempts, two-and-a-half yards below his average for the season.
Bills MVP: RB LeSean McCoy
- It’s hard to find any fault with McCoy’s game. He deserves none of the blame for the Bills’ implosion.
Bills LVP: QB Tyrod Taylor
- Flat out, Taylor disappeared on the Bills in a time of need and had one of the worst games he’s had as a member of the team.
Bills Playoff Standings Update: The Bills (6-6) now 10th in the AFC, two games down from the final Wild Card spot (Denver), with Miami (7-5), Pittsburgh (7-5), and Tennessee (6-6) all ahead of them.
Bills Draft Order Update: The Bills currently have the 15th overall selection in the first round. If the Indianapolis Colts beat the New York Jets on Monday Night Football, the Bills will then move into 14th through 12 games.
Up Next: The Bills take on the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) at New Era Field on Sunday, December 11 at 1:00 p.m.
GIF of the Game
— Joe Buscaglia (@JoeBuscaglia) December 4, 2016
- The Bills entered the game as the underdogs, but quickly in the third quarter with a 15-point lead, it become abundantly clear that the meaning of the game changed. It went from a game that would have been nice to have, to one that they needed to have based on how close they were for a victory. And then thanks to Tyrod Taylor’s no show performance in the second half, along with the defense just getting run over by the Raiders in between consecutive three-and-outs by the offense, the Bills suffered one of their most humiliating defeats of the season. When fans go back and think about the season, they’ll point to two games: the loss in Miami in which the Bills had a lead in the fourth quarter, and now this one. This might also be the game that the overwhelming support for quarterback Tyrod Taylor has now fizzled, with fans left trying to figure out why the passing attack is basically non-existent when push comes to shove in the clutch moments of a game. Now, with the Bills losing their sixth game of the season and falling two games back of the playoffs, a 17th straight season without the playoffs is painfully coming into focus. They’ll need four straight wins and some help to go along with it, but after the way they flopped in the second half in Oakland, the belief level of most in their ability to do so has faded. This once certainly has the same feel as the countless games in prior years where the air was let out of the balloon, and now the Bills are likely approaching another meaningless final quarter of the season. It’s not quite over yet, but one more slip up, and the Bills will be on the outside looking in for the 17th straight year — and even worse, a budding problem with the quarterback’s overall inability to guide them back on course.