CAPACCIO: Bills-Raiders: Arrow Up/Arrow Down

October 29, 2017
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Two weeks ago, I wrote how this upcoming four-game stretch for the Bills was a terrific opportunity for them to win some games and begin to separate themselves from others in the AFC. Two games into that stretch, they’ve taken care of business in both of them. This time a very convincing 34-14 victory over the Oakland Raiders.  So let’s start with the arrows up, of course.


ARROW UP
 

QB Tyrod Taylor

Taylor was his usual efficient-self, connecting on 20 of 27 passes (74%) for 165 yards and one touchdown. He didn’t turn the ball over, either, which is a Taylor staple. The Bills QB extended plays all afternoon, giving his receivers chances to get open or him to run. Several of the more important completions came after he scrambled and looked downfield. He also wasn’t sacked at all.
 

RB LeSean McCoy

About midway through the third quarter I told a couple photographers on the field that McCoy was very, very close to busting a long one. You could just see it. And sure enough, he had an 18 yard run shortly after. Then, the big one to seal the deal - a 48 yard TD scamper. McCoy finished the game with a league-high 151 yards rushing for the week and also added another 22 yards on six catches for a 173-total-yard day.


Offensive line + job on Khalil Mack

The OL was solid throughout the afternoon, especially on big plays when needed. They gave Taylor time and continually grinded on the Raiders front-seven to allow the run game to get better and better as the game wore on. They also did a great job on Khalil Mack. He finished the game with two total tackles and one QB hurry.
 

WR Andre Holmes

What a great way for Holmes to beat his former team. He came up with three big catches, one for a terrific touchdown as he toe-tapped at the sideline. Another for a huge 36-yard gain on third down, again tapping his feet inbounds as he fell out. That grab set up a Bills’ TD.
 

WR Zay Jones

It was nice to see Jones finally grab some footballs and look confident. His three early catches helped to get the offense moving, but more importantly, may have done even more for him going forward.  He finished with career-highs in both catches (3) and yards (32).
 

WR Brandon Tate’s huge run after catch

Last week it was Taiwan Jones. This week it was Tate who, rarely used on offense, came up with a monster run through traffic, dodging tacklers and gaining a first down. This one (on a 2nd and 20!) occurred only three players before the deep ball to Holmes and kept the clock moving deep into the third quarter.  It allowed the Bills to avoid a third and long and stay on the field.  Then after his play the Bills' sideline went crazy in celebration with their teammate, showering him with high-fives, helmet-taps, and plenty of love.  Exactly what Sean McDermott is all about when it comes to building this team.
 

LB Matt Milano

The rookie from Boston College is making a huge impression in the time he’s getting to start for Ramon Humber. He finished with three tackles, but also had a forced fumble the Bills defense recovered that ultimately led to a field goal. And he of course had one of the plays of the game - a huge TD on a fumble recovery with only 22 seconds left in the half that gave the Bills the lead they would never give back.
 

S Trae Elston

Just as he was in the preseason, Elston was making big hits in this game as he started in place of the injured Jordan Poyer. He finished the game with a team-high 11 total tackles, eight of them solo. He also had one pass breakup and picked off Raiders' QB Derek Carr late in the fourth quarter.
 

CBs Tre’Davious White, Shareece Wright, and Leonard Johnson on WRs Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper

Both wideouts Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper had five grabs. Crabtree even went for 83 yards, a nice afternoon. But, overall, the Bills' corner trio did a very good job on the two big play-makers. In fact, they were both targeted 10 times for a total of only 10 catches on 20 targets. And neither got in the end zone.  Wright was credited with two pass breakups and White with one.  Johnson caused the fumble that Milano took to the house with a huge hit on RB DeAndre Washington.


Run defense

As they have all year, the Bills’ run defense was stifling. They allowed the Raiders only 54 total yards on 14 carries. Neither of their two main backs, DeAndre Washington or Jalen Richard, went for more than 26 yards. Carr threw the ball 49 times.  Partly because Oakland was down for most of the second-half.  But also partly because it became pointless to try and run against the Bills' defense.
 

3rd down defense

Oakland was 3-for-10 (30%) on third downs. After the first drive they went 1-for-8 the rest of the game!


ARROW DOWN


Penalties

Of course there were some that were questionable, and Ed Hochuli’s crew never met a flag they didn’t want to throw, but the Bills simply had too many penalties in this one. And some came at critical times that thwarted good plays and/or drives. Overall, they were flagged 11 times for 95 yards.


Not getting TDs after turnovers

The final interception came at end of the game and one fumble was returned for a touchdown. But of the other two takeaways the Bills had, they only came away with six points. Once again, not capitalizing on touchdowns in those situations. Luckily it did not hurt them this game. It’s been an issue this season, not getting six points after turnovers, even when having really good field position. That was the case again. They started at the Oakland 14 and 41 after a fumble and interception, respectively.  But only a field goal to end each drive.


THE BIG PICTURE


I want to start the Big Picture by writing something about coaching.  The best coaches, those who really get it, those who get the most out of their entire team, are often the ones who coach the entire roster the same.  What I mean is, everybody matters.  From the top guy to the 53rd man, they all get coached-up the same way, the right way, every week.  Believe it or not, some coaches aren’t like that. They mainly focus on their best players, trying to get the best out of them to maximize their top-end talent edge. Then the rest are guys who they hope can do a good enough job when called upon.  Sean McDermott and his staff don’t take one player on the roster for granted, no matter who they are, how they were acquired, or when they arrived.  They all matter.  They all get coached and are expected to do their job - because they’ll be prepared to do it.  It’s a big reason they’re 5-2.

Yep, 5-2.  As far away from the tank of a season that so many predicted and said they were aiming for.  Going back to the opening of this column, two more games remain in that four-game stretch of opportunity. We are not even halfway through the season, so it’s understandable if fans are still too cautious about buying in. After all, we’ve been here before, even twice during the playoff drought, in 2008 and 2011.  They were even 4-2 to start last year.  But this feels different than any of those seasons. This team is well-coached, prepared, together, and confident, yet measured.  They seem to understand that where they are doesn’t mean nearly as much as where they want to go and what it will still take to get there.

Now it’s time for a short turnaround to face the Jets on the road on Thursday night on national TV.  New York is playing much better than many expected, as well, but the Bills are still a better team and already beat them once. They have a great opportunity in front of them to win six games at the halfway point. That’s good for any team regardless of expectations.  For this team, this organization, it would be pretty remarkable.

But now I’m doing it.  I’m getting ahead of myself.  I’m doing what none of us should do.  But, man, it’s so hard not to right now.  So many times we’ve started looking forward to the draft already at this point.

But I just want Thursday night to get here.  


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