Every Monday, Buffalo Football Report will give out report card grades to each positional unit on the team. Following a 40-32 loss to the New England Patriots, here’s a look at how each group graded out for the Buffalo Bills.
There were some plays where Tyrod Taylor held the ball too long and took some unnecessary sacks. You could argue that he was responsible for one to all three of his interceptions (two hit receivers on the hands). He also was a bit careless with the ball at times as well. You’ll get that with an inexperienced starting quarterback. However, there was also quite a bit to like about Taylor’s performance.
First, he didn’t give up when it appeared the game was well out of reach. He connected with Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins on touchdown passes and ran in a touchdown of his own. He turned plays that looked like they were going nowhere into good gains and he helped the Bills put up 32 points on the day.
It was far from a perfect game for Taylor but you have to expect some inconsistencies from the quarterback. There were enough positives late in the game to come out feeling encouraged about Taylor. He’ll face another tough defensive squad in Week 3, so it’ll be interesting to see what he learned from Sunday’s game.
Running backs: B
LeSean McCoy showed some really positive signs on Sunday. He looked fast on the field and showed a wide variety of jukes and athletic moves that freed him up for additional yards. He finished the game with 89 yards on 15 attempts. The 5.9 YPC average was encouraging, as was his 27 yards receiving, and if the Bills didn’t get so far behind the Patriots, there’s no doubt that McCoy would have gone over 100 yards rushing on the day.
Karlos Williams also received six carries on the day. He ran for 21 yards and a touchdown in his limited rushing role. The duo has a lot of potential on paper and it should be fun to watch as the year progresses.
Next week’s matchup against the Dolphins will be a very good test for McCoy and Williams.
Wide receivers: B+
Buffalo’s top three receivers finished with 13 receptions, 167 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday. Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods both had 60 yards receiving and a touchdown. Percy Harvin had 47 yards receiving and also drew a pass interference penalty that put Buffalo in scoring range for their second touchdown. All three did well when targeted, but Taylor didn’t have much time to get the ball to his receivers on Sunday. Overall, it was an encouraging performance for the unit, but there is still room to improve going forward.
Tight ends: C-
Charles Clay scored a touchdown on Sunday and finished with 19 yards on three receptions. Matthew Mulligan also chipped in with one reception for two yards. MarQueis Gray, the team’s No. 2 tight end, was nowhere to be found against the Patriots. The overall performance of the unit was lackluster, especially after we’ve been told that tight ends are such a vital part to the offense. Next week, Greg Roman may look to utilize Clay against his former team, but or now, this group hasn’t done much.
Offensive line: D
Buffalo’s offensive line has improved from 2014, but they still have a LONG way to go as a unit. The group was pushed around quite often on Sunday and they struggled to open running lanes for McCoy and Williams. Taylor felt pressure throughout Sunday’s game because of the poor overall play of the line. Next week, the line will go against a strong Dolphins defensive line and the unit better come up with some answers fast. If they don’t, the offense could be in big trouble.
Usually, I’ll break down each defensive unit (DL, LB, CB, S) but let’s make this simple. The entire defense earned an ‘F’ on Sunday. For most of the game, Tom Brady looked like he was in the backyard playing catch with his buddies. Brady found open receiver after open receiver. If there was mismatch, Brady found it. Worst of all, defensive pressure was almost non-existent on Sunday.
Brady passed for 466 yards and three touchdowns on 38 completions and New England had four players finish with 87 receiving yards or more. It was an awful effort from a unit that’s supposed to be one of the best in the NFL.
Jordan Gay saved this grade from being much worse for the Bills. The kickoff specialist did his job on Sunday and New England didn’t have any returns on the day. Dan Carpenter, who handles all other kicking responsibilities, wasn’t as impressive as Gay though. Carpenter didn’t have any field goal attempts, but he only made two of three extra point attempts. Missing extra points won’t help Carpenter get back into Rex Ryan’s good graces.
Last week, Colton Schmidt was booming punts for the Bills. This week, he didn’t look nearly as good. He finished the game with six punts that went for 249 yards and an average of 41.5 yards. Schmidt wasn’t able to help the Bills flip the field on Sunday. It probably wouldn’t mattered based upon how easily the Patriots were moving the ball on Sunday.
The offense was inconsistent, but the fact that the Bills put up 32 points saved the team from receiving an F. That said, it was a disappointing effort from Rex Ryan, Greg Roman and Dennis Thurman on Sunday.
Defensively, Thurman couldn’t stop the Patriots. Nothing he threw at New England worked with success. Luckily for Thurman, there’s only one Tom Brady in the NFL. That said, it’ll be interesting going forward to see how other offenses game plan against Thurman and the Bills defense. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins go with a pass heavy offense in Week 3 against the Bills. Through two weeks, it’s unknown what to expect from this defense. They were strong against the Colts but awful against the Patriots.
Offensively, Greg Roman put together a fantastic series of plays for Buffalo’s first drive. However, then the offense sputtered out for a good amount of time. The unit struggled to move the ball and even pick up a first down. Roman’s play calling was simply ineffective for too long in the first half. By the end of the game, the coordinator made some strong calls that led to some fast points for Buffalo. Going forward, Roman needs to show more consistency with his play calling. Those calls will have to mask some of Buffalo’s offensive weaknesses, namely the play of the offensive line.
Last, Rex Ryan didn’t have Buffalo ready for Sunday. It was disappointing to see the Bills deliver a dud after hearing Ryan talk such a big game. This week, he not only needs to devise a better overall game plan, but he also needs to talk to the team about not taking foolish penalties. On Sunday, the Bills were called for 14 penalties that resulted in 140 yards. You won’t beat many teams by being so undisciplined. Ryan and the Bills coaching staff will need a better game plan in Week 3 on the road against the Miami Dolphins.