CAPACCIO: Bills-Broncos: Arrow Up/Arrow Down

September 25, 2017
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Well, well, well. A funny thing happened on the way to the tank. The Bills showed up and beat a team most did not expect they would, or could.  A 26–16 win over the Denver Broncos puts them back on the right side of .500 and once again atop the early AFC East race. Let's get into it and start with the good, of course.


ARROW UP


QB Tyrod Taylor

Taylor had one of his best games in a Buffalo uniform. And even though he only threw for 213 total yards, he was decisive, confident, and accurate. He made good decisions all game and, as no one would have expected, the passing game carried the offense throughout the day. Taylor also had what I'd say was his best overall drive as Bills QB. After Denver had gone ahead 16–13 in the third quarter, Taylor and the offense took four plays to march 69 yards to put it in. Three of those plays were Tyrod passes - one to TE Nick O'Leary, one to WR Jordan Matthews, and the final toss a touchdown to TE Charles Clay.  And all were excellent decisions and throws.


CB EJ Gaines

The player the Bills got from LA in return for Sammy Watkins continues to get better every week in Sean McDermott's defense. Gaines had an outstanding all-around game, highlighted by a big interception in the third quarter. He finished with three passes defensed, seven total tackles, and the pick.


CB Tre’Davious White’s 2nd half

Gaines’ partner on the other side of the field had a bit of a rough go of it in the first half (see below), but rebounded exceptionally well over the next 30 minutes.  White was picked on constantly throughout the day, and finally made the Broncos pay with what would be a game-sealing pick of Trevor Siemian in the fourth quarter. He finished with a team-high four passes defensed, the interception, and seven total tackles.


OL on Von Miller

One of the premier defensive players in the league was supposed to have a field day against rookie LT Dion Dawkins and RT Jordan Mills. It didn't quite turn out that way. Miller still had his moments, finishing with that sack plus a couple tackles for loss and QB hurries.  But, he never wrecked the Bills gameplan or made Dawkins or Mills look out of place.  


Pass protection

A look at the stat sheet may have you asking why this would be in the Arrow Up column after seeing four sacks given up.  But the reality is, one of the reasons Tyrod was able to have the day he did was because the offensive line, for the most part, gave him good protection throughout the day. There were a few times he had to scramble, and he was dropped for those sacks. But, overall, he had cleaner pockets than he had the first two weeks and therefore better looks downfield to find open targets.  


K Stephen Hauschka 

A great game for the new Bills kicker. He connected on two field goals of 27, 49, 53, and 55 yards, plus a pair of extra points and put five of seven kickoffs in the end zone.  Three of those went for touchbacks. Hauschka had a great day.


Last drive of first half

Like (I'm sure) most watching on TV or in the stadium, I thought Sean McDermott was simply going to order Rick Denison to sit on the ball two end the half when the Bills got it with :42 remaining down by three. After all, they were in a tight game, starting at their 25 yard line, and receiving the second half kickoff. But, too much surprise, they went aggressive and it paid off. Taylor hit LeSean McCoy for two big gains to start the drive. Then they used their timeouts and the clock effectively for two more pays to set Hauschka up for his 55 yard FG to tie it up at the end of the half.  That drive may go a long way for the offense and the team overall.  The coaches showing the confidence they did in the players and the players executing it perfectly could allow for even more trust and therefore more of those aggressive chances to be taken.


Fake punt stop (LB Deon Lacey)

:33 left in the third quarter.  Bills lead 20-16.  Fourth and two for the Broncos at their own 31 yard line.  Bills players were barking back and forth to each other, using hand signals.  They knew it was prime fake punt territory and situation.  Then the Broncos had a direct snap to RB De'Angelo Henderson who was almost immediately tackled by backup linebacker Deon Lacey for a one yard gain.  Lacey played it perfectly.  He lined up on the end of the offensive formation and stayed tight to the edge after the ball was snapped.  Lacey stayed under control, shuffling his feet watching the ball carrier as he set the edge.  As son as he realized Henderson wasn’t coming at him, he pounced on the running back in the backfield as the rest of the line stood him up.  It was a tremendous play.


ARROW DOWN


Penalties

The first half especially was tough in this department. What had been a strong point last week turned negative again with eight penalties for 69 yards overall and five for 44 in the first half alone. There were too many at critical times. Penalties on offense that stopped drives and nullified big plays, and penalties on defense that allow drives to keep going when they should have ended. 


Officials

This is not just an indictment on bad calls against the Bills. There were a few.  But really, just an overall bad day of officiating. For both teams. It was extremely inconsistent, which is the worst thing an official can be from a player's or coach's standpoint.
 

The running game

It's amazing this appears on this side of the ledger and the Bills were still able to win the game. But after a 75-yard performance, that's the case. Normally, if the running game is shut down, things don't go well at all, overall. But that wasn't the case Sunday since the passing game bailed the Bills out on offense. The running game has now gone two straight weeks of underperforming. It's something they have to get worked out - and in a hurry - because they won't be able to rely on the passing game to carry them every week, or even most weeks.


CB Tre'Davious White's 1st half

The rookie had looked exactly like one for the first time throughout the first half Sunday. He was targeted again and again and wasn't able to make plays. He had balls caught on him and also had miscommunication with the safeties on two different plays that resulted in long passes to open receivers. Luckily, White actually punched the ball out on one of them after he caught up, causing an incomplete pass. 


Squandering good field position

Boy, were the Bills ever set up a few times in this game. But, they didn't cash in as they should have in those situations. Even though they scored 26 points, they should’ve been in the 30s, easily, given the field position the defense handed the offense on a silver platter. They started drives at their own 42, Broncos 32, Broncos 32 again, and Broncos 31, yet came away with only 6 points after having to kick two field goals and punting the other two times.

 

THE BIG PICTURE


Raise your hand if you had the bills winning this one. And I'll put it down because you're most likely not telling the truth. If you are, good for you. But, the fact is, not many gave this team a chance in this game. They did it again starting with the fence. It's legitimately a good unit, folks. On that side of the ball come out there well coached, disciplined in their assignments, and extremely unselfish. That's a great recipe. On offense, could this game have been a huge indicator that the passing game is growing? It wasn't for a ton of yards, but the mid range ball was there and Tyrod was good and accurate. But, there still going to have to run the ball better. The last two weeks haven't been good and it won't be good enough as the season rolls on.

So how good is this team, or can they be?  We still don’t know, really. It’s still early and next week it gets real, fast.  They travel defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons in only their second game in their new home.  Matt Ryan certainly isn’t Josh McCown, a rusty Cam Newton, or Trevor Siemian.  It’ll be a tough game, and most won’t give the Bills a chance (the opening line in Vegas was Atlanta -9.5).  But I know this - the Bills will believe they can win, and they’ll prepare all week to do that.  And while they are, it will be a fun week talking about it.  


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