CAPACCIO: Bills-Seahawks: Arrow Up/Arrow Down

November 8, 2016
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By Sal Capaccio

Twitter @Salports





A heartbreaking, gut-wrenching loss by and for the Bills in Seattle.  There’s a lot that happened and to sort through.  But for the third straight week, I start with my Arrows Down:

 

Arrow Down

Secondary - 1st half

This Arrow goes for everyone, because if I wanted to, I could certainly write about each of them individually for how poorly they played in the first half.  Stephon Gilmore was beaten one-on-one and saw Jimmy Graham jump over him as he stood in a crouched position.  Ronald Darby gave up the longest play of the night (50 yards) and was called for a 24-yard penalty.  He was even benched with Rex Ryan saying he was sick and that impacted his play in a negative way.  Nickell Robey-Coleman got beat so cleanly he intentionally reached out and grabbed the WR for a penalty.  None of the safeties seemed to help out in the middle of the field when needed most.  It was a disastrous first half for a group that’s already had it’s share of struggles this season.  Overall first half passing numbers for Seattle and Russell Wilson: 14/17 for 219 yards and 2 TDs.  They also gained 11 first downs via the pass.   They scored four offensive TDs with only 10:17 of possession time in the first half because they were carving up the Bills so easily through the air.

Kickoff and punt coverage

The opening kickoff was a touchback.  But after that the Bills allowed the Seahawks far too generous of field position because of poor kick and punt coverage and then having to adjust to shorter kicks to not let that happen.  Tyler Lockett had a 43 yard kick return and a 20 yard punt return that luckily was challenged by Rex Ryan after he was credited for about 20 yards more.  Here are the drive starts for the Seahawks after the opening kickoff following kicks and punts in the first half: own 42, own 35, own 27, Bills 40, own 32.  That’s an average start of just shy of their own 40-yard line.  

OT Jordan Mills

Tyrod Taylor was sacked five times in the game.  At least two of them were either directly due to Mills being beaten or partly caused by it.  The biggest was the next-to-final play when Cliff Avril ran right around Mills to get to Taylor and force a 4th and goal from the 15 for the final play.

Penalties

The Bills continued to have to overcome their own mistakes by committing 11 penalties for 115 yards.  Some were obviously either wrong (delay of game on field goal team before halftime) or debatable (taunting on Robert Woods).  But in the end, they cost themselves and gave the Seahawks more than a full field of field position in penalties.

Walt Anderson’s crew

It wasn’t a good night, to say the least, for the guys in stripes.  The debacle at the end of the first half was downright embarrassing for them and the entire league.  Even the NFL’s Senior Vice President of Officiating, Dean Blandino, took time during the game (as opposed to afterward when this usually occurs) to let the country know how badly the crew messed up the sequence:
 



Being down on the field I can tell you it felt like a riot was about to occur.  Anderson and his crew lost total control over the game at that moment.  Then came the last play of the game in which Bills WR Walter Powell was jacked up by CB Richard Sherman about 35 yards away from the play while he wasn’t looking.  I understand there is no foul for illegal contact once the QB leaves the pocket, as Taylor did.  But these are the kinds of hits to a defenseless player (again, not looking and far away from the play) the league has been trying to get rid of and has been calling.  It should have been called unnecessary roughness.  It wasn’t, but they of course made sure to call Robert Woods for a 15-yard penalty for sticking the ball out for a first down sign.


Arrow Up

QB Tyrod Taylor

This was the kind of game we’ve been hoping to see from Taylor and hope to see on a consistent basis.  Sure, he still didn’t throw for 300 yards.  And no, he still didn’t win a game in which the Bills trailed by 4 or more points at any point in the game.  But he played a terrific game both physically and mentally.  He made decisive, accurate throws and good decisions.  He and the offense continued to respond when their team was trading scores.  Taylor finished the game 27-for-38 (71%) for 289 yards and a touchdown.  He added another 43 yards and a score on the ground.  The Bills also had 16 first downs via the passing game.  They kept the chains moving and controlled the clock thanks, in large part, to Taylor’s effectiveness through the air.  This is the type of stat line - and overall performance - Bills fans need to see from him going forward to feel comfortable about his pending contract extension.  The win wasn’t there Monday night, but they will come if that’s the case. 

WR Robert Woods

Absolutely the best game of Woods' career, catching 10 passes from 162 yards.  And he did it while still playing through a foot injury.  While Sammy Watkins is out, Woods has had to play the role of #1 wideout.  He looked exactly like one Monday night.  Several of his catches were tough and then he also gained valuable yards after the catch all night long with good open field moves and breaking tackles.  Woods’ previous high for catches and yards was 9 for 118, both in the same game, against the Jets in the Snowvember game in Detroit in 2014.  

Running game

The Bills once again ran for over 160 yards, the fifth time this season they’ve done that, but this time did it against what was the 7th-best run defense in the NFL.  The Seahawks were averaging giving up only 89 yards per game on the ground and had given up over four yards per carry only once this season.  This Bills ran for 4.3 yards per run.

2nd half passing defense

After getting shredded in the first half through the air, the Bills coaching staff did a nice job to make some adjustments and allowed the Seahawks only 63 yards passing in the second half.  They were better at covering and keeping receivers in front of them for shorter gains.  They especially did a much better job on TE Jimmy Graham, who destroyed them in the first half with 6 catches for 94 yards and 2 TDs.  In the second half Graham had just 2 catches for 9 yards.  Unfortunately, by then, there was already too much damage done and the team couldn’t overcome the 28 points the Seahawks scored in the first thirty minutes.

Run defense

Even without Marcell Dareus and Corbin Bryant the run defense was terrific for the Bills.  They allowed a meager 33 yards on 12 carries for only 2.8 yards per rush.  Wide receiver Tyler Lockett was the Seahawks leading rusher with only 13 yards - and it all came on one jet sweep in which he broke a tackle behind the line of scrimmage.

3rd down offense

12-for-17 (71%).  The Seahawks had given up over 50% on third downs only one other time this season.  

OLBs Jerry Hughes and Lorenzo Alexander

Both edge players filled up the stat sheet for the Bills.  Alexander continued his league-leading sack performance with his tenth, while Hughes collected one for his fifth.  Both players had three total tackles, including one for a loss, while Alexander also led the team with three QB hurries and Hughes blocked a Seahawks punt after their first drive which led to a Bills touchdown on their first offensive snap.


The Big Picture

There are plenty of ways to be upset about this one for the Bills.  From poor officiating to a horrible first half of defense to getting just-so-close at the end and not coming up with the one play needed.  Another Monday Night game that ends in late-game heartbreak for fans (See: Dallas, Cleveland, New England).  

There were a lot of really good things that came out of this one.  Like the play of Tyrod Taylor, against a top defense on the road. Maybe finally showing signs that he truly can be the franchise QB the Bills are about to invest in.  Like the way the team battled all evening long in one of the toughest places in the league to play, especially in a night game on national TV.  Like the signs of finally getting healthy at the skill positions (LeSean McCoy, Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin) and how much of a difference that truly makes for the offense.

But there are still plenty of concerns.  Center Eric Wood broke his leg and is now out for the rest of the season.  He’s an extremely important part of an offensive line that has played well all season and has had terrific continuity.  The struggles of the secondary in the first half were real and terrifying, and there’s no doubt other teams on their schedule have taken note.  

It’s the first time in three seasons the Bills have lost three straight games.  After starting 0-2 then turning it around and winning four in a row, we’re right back to where many dreaded heading into the bye: 4-5 and probably having to win 6 of the final 7 games to break the organization’s 16-year playoff drought.  The only bit of optimism from that is their remaining schedule is all AFC opponents, which gives them a direct chance to climb the ladder in the standings while giving those teams they are fighting with for a wild card spot losses.  But it’s a tall order any way you look at it.  Stacking wins like that is tough in the NFL no matter who you are or the schedule you face.  

The team talked a lot about Monday night being a “must win.”  The reality was, of all the games they had remaining, it was probably the least of the “must” games to get because it was the only one against an NFC opponent.  But make no mistake.  Starting in two weeks, they are all “must win” games.

I write “in two weeks” because it’s time for the Bills bye.  And it comes at a good time with this team needing a rest and to get players healthy and now having to work in a new center for the rest of the season (probably Patrick Lewis).  The next opponent, Cincinnati, will be coming off of a Monday night road game when the Bills play them.  They’ll have a short week.  The Bills will have two weeks.  It’s a rare instance in which the Buffalo football team gets a big break by the schedule makers.  So now they have to take advantage of it.  If they don’t, the rest of 2016 will basically become about 2017 for most fans. 

There’s no way around it.  It’s not about saying it anymore because it’s what you say.  It’s simply the truth: the “must wins” start now.

 

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