I know it's been 15 years since the Bills made the playoffs. Well, get ready man. We're going. We are going. –Rex Ryan
The Buffalo Bills will need to go on quite the run and get some help from other teams in the last five weeks of the season to make the playoffs. Without that happening, the only way Ryan takes the Bills to the playoffs is by purchasing quite a few tickets to the game.
Buffalo fell to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday by the score of 30-22. While the loss itself put Buffalo in a tough spot in regards to making the playoffs, there were some bright spots. Here’s a look at how each position fared against the Chiefs.
Sunday’s game was a close contest throughout but the Bills had Tyrod Taylor throw the ball 38 times against the Chiefs. That doesn’t fall on Taylor but his accuracy was down against Kansas City after completing just 55 percent of his passes.
That said, Taylor made some really impressive throws on Sunday against the Chiefs. In the first half, Bills fans saw what could be the start of some terrific chemistry between Taylor and Sammy Watkins. It’s disappointing that Taylor only looked at Watkins once in the second half, but it’s important to keep in mind that Sunday was just Taylor’s ninth career start.
In addition to his passing, Taylor also had success on the ground. He added 46 yards on five carries on Sunday. Bills fans need to show patience as Taylor continues to develop.
Running backs: B-
LeSean McCoy went over 100 total yards on Sunday and continued to show his burst and elusiveness. McCoy didn’t break a big run on Sunday but his 70 yards rushing and 31 yards receiving and a touchdown was encouraging against such a strong defense. He’ll be tested again this week against the Texans.
Losing Karlos Williams certainly hurt Buffalo on Sunday. His power running style would have helped Buffalo against the Chiefs. In his place, Boobie Dixon rushed for eight yards on two carries. It was a very limited showing but he looked healthy for the first time all season with the ball in his hands. That said, Williams to Dixon is a colossal step down.
Wide receivers: B
Sammy Watkins gets an A+ as he was absolutely dominant on Sunday. It didn’t matter if the receiver faced double coverage in the first half, no one could contain Watkins. Unfortunately, Watkins only saw one target in the second half. Chemistry is starting to develop between Taylor and Watkins. Hopefully it continues for all four quarters of each of Buffalo’s final five games.
Chris Hogan was Buffalo’s second leading receiver with 34 yards on three receptions. Technically, Hogan should have had a fourth reception that resulted in a first down but the referees called the play incomplete and the Bills didn’t challenge the call. He’s stepped up as Buffalo’s No. 2 receiver.
Robert Woods has taken on a blocking role in the offense but he saw nine targets on Sunday. Woods was only able to catch three passes for 25 yards in the targets. He had at least two targets that should have gone for completions. Woods needs to step up as a receiver when targeted.
Tight ends: C
Charles Clay finished Sunday’s game with five receptions for 31 yards but he isn’t being utilized enough on intermediate routes in the middle of the field. That’s one area where Taylor needs to improve as a passer. Even if this season ends up being lost, the Bills need to work on getting Clay more involved over the final five weeks of the season.
No other Bills tight end recorded a reception but Matthew Mulligan had a terrific game in regards to blocking. That was supposed to be his specialty but Sunday was one of the first games where Mulligan really looked strong in his blocking role.
Offensive line: A
Buffalo’s offensive line was terrific on Sunday. The Chiefs struggled to after Taylor for the majority of the game and it was due to some strong blocking up front. Richie Incognito continued his outstanding play and was strong in pass and run blocking. Incognito deserves a Pro Bowl and All-Pro nod due to his strong play this season. Buffalo needs to do everything possible to make sure his final contract is with the Bills.
Surprisingly, Kraig Urbik received the team’s second highest grade from Pro Football Focus (+3.7). The analytics site showed that the right guard fared well in run and pass blocking. He didn’t allow any quarterback sacks, hits or hurries on Sunday.
Eric Wood had one of his better games on Sunday. He’s received pretty good grades from PFF throughout the season but his overall play this season has left a lot to be desired. PFF said Cordy Glenn was responsible for four quarterback hurries against Kansas City but he was strong in run blocking.
Seantrel Henderson was the weak link among the group. His play is concerning at right tackle and if Glenn leaves as a free agent, it’s possible that Henderson starts at left tackle in 2015. That’s an even scarier thought.
Defensive line: C-
Buffalo’s defensive line struggled without Mario Williams on Sunday. Jerry Hughes made some plays early but then faced double teams. By the end of the game, Hughes lost his cool and took an unnecessary shot at Alex Smith. Hughes is one of Buffalo’s most talented players but he really needs to keep his emotions in check.
Marcell Dareus was excellent on Sunday. He was great in run defense and was responsible for two quarterback hurries. His stats may not be gaudy this season but he’s still one of the best defensive tackles in football.
Unfortunately, that was the only strong play along the line. Alex Carrington registered one pressure on Alex Smith but then suffered a serious injury that has ended his season. IK Enemkpali, Corbin Bryant and Stefan Charles didn’t do much on the field on Sunday. The trio will have to step up over the final five weeks.
Buffalo could promote Cedric Reed from their practice squad to take Carrington’s place.
Sunday was another game where Manny Lawson was Buffalo’s best linebacker. Many people expected Lawson to get phased out this season but he’s been terrific in Rex Ryan’s defense. Unfortunately, he’s been Buffalo’s only reliable linebacker.
Preston Brown had a strong game against the Patriots last week and showed some positive signs against the Chiefs. Hopefully Brown’s rough start this season was due to transitioning to Rex Ryan’s defense.
Nigel Bradham has had a poor season for the Bills but the team’s overall play suffered once he exited with an injury. The now released A.J. Tarpley was a liability on the field in his place.
This is one area that needs a major overhaul in the offseason.
Let’s just chalk this up as a bad day at the office. Ronald Darby gave up his first two touchdowns of the season. Darby didn’t look like himself on the field and both touchdowns came after Darby was checked for a concussion. In Darby’s place, Mario Butler struggled. Even Stephon Gilmore, Buffalo’s top CB, had a rough outing. It was a letdown game for Buffalo’s most consistent defensive unit.
The cornerback position struggled on Sunday but the safeties played extremely well. Corey Graham continued his outstanding season and Bacarri Rambo had a strong outing as well. Rambo has grown quite a bit thanks to the playing time he’s received due to Aaron Williams’ injury.
Special teams: D
Marcus Thigpen played well in his return, averaging 23.4 yards per kick return but that’s the only positive from the special teams unit.
Jordan Gay’s kicks gave the Chiefs return opportunities and Knile Davis averaged 26.5 yards per return on Sunday. Colton Schmidt, generally a consistent performer for Buffalo, struggled on punts as well. He averaged 39.7 yards per punt on Sunday. Last, Dan Carpenter missed his third extra point of the season. It’s getting very frustrating to see Carpenter miss on extra point opportunities. He needs competition in the offseason.
Overall, it was a poor outing from the special teams unit.