Monday Bills Musings: Ten Seconds, 14 Points

The Buffalo Bills came out flat on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. The team was booed off the field at halftime, trailing 3-0. Ten seconds in the third quarter changed everything and put the Bills in playoff contention.

10 Second Turnaround

The Buffalo Bills were booed when they headed into the locker room at halftime. The team trailed the Cleveland Browns 3-0 and had an interception in the end zone and a blocked field goal. The offense was sloppy and struggled to move the ball. It had all the makings of a Bills letdown. In the third quarter, 10 seconds changed everything.

Buffalo faced a first and goal after a terrific Robert Woods catch of 34 yards. Kyle Orton rolled to his right and found Chris Hogan for a short touchdown. It put Buffalo on the board and brought the crowd back into the game. One kickoff and touchback later, the Browns had a 1st and 10 from their 20. Terrance West was given the ball and defensive end Jerry Hughes chased him down, forced a fumble, recovered the fumble and ran it back 18 yards for a touchdown. In a span of 10 seconds, the Bills took a 14-3 lead. The momentum was clearly in Buffalo’s favor and those 10 seconds essentially won the game for the Bills.

Contributions from New Additions

The Buffalo Bills were award TE MarQueis Gray on waivers on November 30th. He was inactive in Week 12, but a Chris Gragg knee injury put him in today’s lineup. The athletic tight end made the most of his opportunity. Gray was targeted twice on Sunday and he caught both passes for 71 yards. His first reception was a 41 yard scamper that came on 3rd and 1. Buffalo faked a run and Gray found himself wide open. Orton dropped off a short pass to Gray and the tight end took the ball 41 yards. His second reception went for 30 yards. The tight end made a great first impression on Sunday.

Marcus Thigpen was claimed on waivers by the Bills four days ago. The Bills signed Thigpen to handle return duties. On Sunday, there weren’t any opportunities for Thigpen to return kickoffs, but he had four punt returns and averaged 11.8 yards per return. His longest punt return went for 19 yards. It was a bit of life in a stagnant return game. Fred Jackson was given one punt return opportunity on Sunday and he proceeded to fumble the ball. Jackson recovered his fumble, but I’m fine with Thigpen taking all kick and punt returns from this point forward.

Random Musings

-Jerry Hughes had the defensive play of the game with the forced fumble, fumble recovery and touchdown on Sunday. As impressive as the play was, this wasn’t what impressed me the most on Sunday. Hughes was lined up with Joe Thomas, a top-notch left tackle, and it was a one-sided affair all game long. Hughes’ speed was too much for Thomas to handle. He continually held Hughes throughout the game and had one of his worst outings of the season. Buffalo has big money invested in Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus will get a huge contract after the 2015 season, but I don’t see how the Bills can let Hughes walk away at the end of the season. He’s a playmaker and on Sunday he was the best player on Buffalo’s defensive line.

-Leading up to the season, many people expected Duke Williams to surpass Da’Norris Searcy at strong safety. Searcy may have put that discussion to bed once and for all on Sunday. Searcy intercepted Brian Hoyer twice on Sunday, and had a third interception just fall out of his grasp. He’s improved significantly in pass coverage, his biggest weakness and is still strong in run support. Searcy is a free agent at the end of the season, and he may be giving the Bills a reason to offer him a contract.

-The Bills have a history of collapsing against teams late in the season. The Browns were a pretty even matchup on paper and to Buffalo’s credit, they thoroughly outplayed the Browns in the second half of Sunday’s game. It was encouraging to see Buffalo put the Browns away.

-Buffalo’s final four games is brutal on paper: @Denver, Green Bay, @Oakland, @New England. Okay, three of the games look brutal. The Bills currently sit at 7-5, but it’ll take an entire team effort for Buffalo to finish the season with a winning record. If the Bills want to show that they’re a true playoff contender, Buffalo needs to win one of their next two games.

-Sammy Watkins has been a non-factor as of late. It was announced that he’s battling a hip injury, so that’s something to keep an eye on. Robert Woods has really stepped up over the last few weeks, so Watkins’ struggles have gone under the radar a bit. Watkins will need to play at a high level alongside Woods if Buffalo hopes to keep up with the Broncos, Packers and Patriots.

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