The Buffalo Bills aren’t going down without a fight this season. After defeating the Houston Texans on Sunday, the Bills find themselves as the eighth seed in the AFC Wild Card race. Buffalo won Sunday’s game thanks to strong offensive play and a stellar defensive performance. Here’s how each positional unit graded out on Sunday.
When Tyrod Taylor isn’t asked to pass the ball over 30 times, good things happen. On Sunday, Taylor only threw 21 passes but he made the most of those throws. Eleven passes were completed for 211 yards and three of his 11 completions went for touchdowns. His stat line could have been even more impressive if Charles Clay didn’t drop a pass across the middle and if Robert Woods could have stayed on his feet on a pass to the end zone.
In the running game, Taylor added 28 yards and a touchdown on seven carries. He could have added more yards on the ground on his attempted touchdown pass to Woods. On 3rd and 4, Taylor opted to pass but it appeared that he could have run for the first down. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be seen as a passer, Taylor should take the yards when they’re available to him.
Running backs: A+
LeSean McCoy is in the zone. The back went over 100 yards rushing against another terrific defense on Sunday. Buffalo’s running back has either scored a touchdown or gained 100 total yards in nine of his 10 games this season. Week 1 is the only time McCoy wasn’t able to go over 100 yards.
The back is showing great burst and elusiveness now that he’s healthy. He adds a dimension to the Bills offense that fans haven’t seen in years and trading for the back looks like a great move by the team.
In addition to McCoy, Mike Gillislee was a pleasant surprise on Sunday. The former Florida Gators back rushed for 41 yards on seven carries. Yes, 30 yards came on one run but his performance was much better than most people expected. In all, Buffalo rushed for 187 yards on 36 carries.
Wide receivers: B
There were only 11 completions for the Bills all game but the receivers came up big for Buffalo. Sammy Watkins only needed three receptions to over 100 yards receiving on the day and he added a touchdown. Robert Woods also had a score for the Bills, but his slip in the end zone cost him the chance to register another score. Chris Hogan also registered one catch.
Buffalo’s receivers made the most of their opportunities on Sunday.
Tight ends: A
Charles Clay had a big touchdown reception late on a play where he was wide open. The play almost makes up for his drop across the middle of the field earlier in the game when he heard footsteps. Clay isn’t as involved as many fans would like, but his addition to the team has been noticeable in terms of the talent that he brings to the roster.
Matthew Mulligan also deserves some praise for some quality blocking throughout the game. Oddly enough, on Clay’s touchdown Mulligan took two defenders with him, opening the middle of the field for Clay.
Offensive line: A+
Buffalo was missing two starters on their offensive line on Sunday. The backups, Kraig Urbik and Jordan Mills, had the task of facing J.J. Watt throughout the game. While the duo received plenty of additional help, they kept Watt in check. The quarterback didn’t get to Taylor all game and only recorded one quarterback pressure. The entire line did a good job of keeping Taylor upright for most of the game.
The left side of Buffalo’s line was great on Sunday, especially in run blocking. The entire line played a large role in Buffalo running for 187 yards on the ground. Finding a way to re-sign Cordy Glenn and Richie Incognito should be high on Buffalo’s priority list this offseason.
Defensive line: B
Mario Williams may not have done much on Sunday stat wise, but it’s amazing how much better the line looks with him on the field. Williams was credited with two quarterback hurries and one QB hit on Sunday. In addition to getting pressure, just having Williams on the field makes life easier for Jerry Hughes.
Hughes was great on Sunday for Buffalo. He finished the game with four quarterback hurries and a sack. Since Week 9, no 4-3 defensive end has more QB hurries than Hughes’ 22 per Pro Football Focus.
At defensive tackle, Marcell Dareus was strong in run defense, as usual, and Corbin Bryant had a solid game recording six total tackles.
I wrote off Manny Lawson before the season, but he’s been Buffalo’s best linebacker. He’s on the downside of his career, but he’s been solid in run defense for Buffalo. This continued on Sunday.
There isn’t much to say about Buffalo’s other linebackers. Preston Brown had another poor game and Tony Steward didn’t see many snaps before exiting with a back injury. Kevin Reddick was adequate in his place.
As I’ve stated many times, this position needs a major overhaul in the offseason.
Ronald Darby was credited with allowing two touchdowns for the second consecutive week. Houston targeted the rookie 10 times and he allowed seven receptions on Sunday. DeAndre Hopkins has plenty of success against the rookie but that is why he’s one of the best receivers in the league. That said, the touchdown Darby allowed to Hopkins shouldn’t have counted as the receiver pushed-off of Darby.
If the Bills hope to go on a late season run, they need Stephon Gilmore to return to the lineup quickly. He was outstanding against Hopkins on Sunday before having his shoulder pop out.
Leodis McKelvin did a good job replacing Gilmore on Sunday. He only allowed one reception for four yards on four targets. It’s good that Buffalo has a cornerback like McKelvin on their roster, but he’s not at Gilmore’s level.
In addition to losing Gilmore, Buffalo also saw Ron Brooks exit the game after going for a big hit, rather than wrapping up the Texans player. Hopefully both Gilmore and Brooks return soon. If not, cornerback depth could be a concern.
Bills fans know how good Corey Graham has been this season. The story of Sunday’s game was how well Bacarri Rambo played. The safety had a huge pass breakup on a third down play when the game was tied at 21, a sack and three passes defensed. Rambo will go back to a reserve role once Aaron Williams returns but he’s shown that he’s quality depth in Ryan’s defense.
Special teams: B
Dan Carpenter’s missed field goal and extra point are one of the biggest reasons why the unit didn’t earn an ‘A’ grade. He was the only real weak spot for the Bills.
Kickoff specialist Jordan Gay was solid on Sunday and the Texans only had one kickoff return.
In the return game, Marcus Thigpen did a fine job. Just from a comfort standpoint, he looks more natural in the return game than Leodis McKelvin did in the weeks before his return.
Last, Colton Schmidt did a great job for the Bills on Sunday. His 45.3 yard punt average is misleading as he did a good job of flipping the field for Buffalo. In addition to flipping the field, Schmidt didn’t give the Texans an opportunity to return any punts and two of his six kicks landed inside the 20 yard line.