Bills win with workmanlike performance

December 17, 2017
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What a day at New Era Field. A game you could actually see, a critical win for the Buffalo Bills thanks to an impressive first half from the offense and a game where you really didn’t have to sweat it out thanks to Jay Cutler.  

First off, the Bills did what they needed to do by beating the Miami Dolphins. The home schedule ends with Buffalo going 6-2, its best record on their turf since 1999. In case you forgot, that is the last time the Bills made the playoffs. With the victory, the Bills are also 8-6 for just the third time in the drought.

Let's start with the offense, which got the ball on the opening possession and went right down the field for a touchdown. Tyrod Taylor made a vintage Tyrod Taylor play on a 3rd-and-5 when he got out of a sack attempt by Cameron Wake and used a stutter step move to get by Charles Harris. Taylor completed a first down throw to LeSean McCoy.

Credit should also go to offensive coordinator Rick Dennison for the design of a play that turned out to be a 25-yard pass to Nick O’Leary. The Bills ran a play fake for McCoy to the left and a number of Dolphins defenders bit on the fake. Taylor ends up running a bootleg to the right and finds a wide open O’Leary who got down to the Miami four-yard line. McCoy ran it in from there and the Bills had an 81-yard touchdown drive, their longest scoring drive of the season. The Bills had yet to get into the end zone on 31 drives that had begun inside their own 20-yard line this season.

On the second Bills touchdown drive, Taylor had perfect touch on a 16-yard toss to McCoy for the score. The Bills flawlessly executed a rub route with Charles Clay creating some legal interference against a linebacker who was assigned to cover McCoy in the slot.  

Taylor gets the lion's share of credit on the third touchdown of the first half. He opened the drive with a perfect deep throw for Clay who proved to be a difficult matchup for the Dolphins throughout the game. The touchdown was a run by Taylor and featured a great decision by him. A quarterback draw up the middle out of an empty set was going to go nowhere so Taylor bounced it outside and used his speed to outrun defenders. He extended the ball inside the pylon before going out of bounds. Apparently his knee was fine because Taylor was moving well in that first half.  

Taylor continued his trend of having big games against Miami. He totaled 165 yards passing and 16 rushing to go with two touchdowns in what turned out to be a decisive first half.

Don’t ask about the second half though because the offense vanished. The Bills tried to put the game away by running the ball but they couldn’t. After getting 46 yards on eight runs in the first half, McCoy had just four yards on 12 carries in the second half. Taylor passed for just 59 yards, but the first half production was enough thanks to the defense and Cutler.

The Bills defense should be applauded for figuring out how to stop Miami running back Kenyan Drake. He had 53 yards in the first quarter and it looked like he was going to pick up where former Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi left off last season, by rushing for 200 yards against the Bills. But the defense stiffened and limited Drake to just 25 yards on eleven carries the rest of the game.

That put the onus on Cutler and he just wasn’t up to the task. Cutler, who outplayed Tom Brady in a stunning win over the New England Patriots six days earlier, looked more like the Jay Cutler who has produced a .500 record in his not so illustrious NFL career. He flat out missed guys on a handful of throws including overthrows on deep balls where his target was open. One of those overthrown deep balls ended up in the hands of Jordan Poyer, one of three interceptions for the Bills defense.

Miami did actually make it a one score game and recovered an onside kick with 28-seconds left because, for some reason, Preston Brown was on the hands team. He botched the kick and Miami recovered. But on the very first play Cutler was picked off by Tre’Davious White.

Congratulations are also in order for McCoy who went over the 10,000 rushing yards mark in his career. He passed 10k on a run where he was shaken up, causing Bills fans to hold their breath. It was just a 7-3 game at that point so there was just cause to be alarmed. McCoy missed just one play and came back on the field to loud applause.

Congratulations are also in order for Kyle Williams, in case this turns out to be his final home game as a Bill. Sean McDermott said Williams gave a speech to the team on Saturday night about how much it means to play in front of Bills fans at New Era Field.

I was really nervous going into this game but all in all it was a pretty stress free game. Sadly, I might be able to say the same thing about the next game on the Bills schedule, but for all the wrong reasons. In the meantime, we get to spend another week playing with all the playoff machines so lets enjoy!