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CAPACCIO: Bills-Patriots: Arrow Up/Arrow Down

December 25, 2017
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The Bills went into the weekend with several different scenarios and results they were hoping to have happen in order to put themselves in the best possible position for a playoff berth headed into week 17. None of it happened. Everything went the wrong way, including of course, their own result. But they still have a shot. More on that later. First, let’s get into this one.
 

ARROW DOWN
 

2nd half run defense

After holding the Patriots to 64 yards rushing on fourteen first half runs (still a healthy 4.6 per rush average), the Bills gave up 129 yards on the ground on 28 carries in the second half. That’s 5.4 yards per run for the half and 5.1 overall for the game.
 

Field goal attempt early in the 4th quarter

Head coach Sean McDermott elected to try for a 50-yard field goal on fourth and one from the Patriots' 32, down a touchdown, in the fourth quarter. Kicker Stephen Hauschka missed it, giving New England the ball at their own 40 yard line. They essentially put the game away with a touchdown seven plays later. But McDermott’s decision made it easier for that to happen. He had been aggressive and went for it on fourth down earlier in the game when it was tied. Even though it was still early in the fourth quarter, the offense had yet to score a touchdown and it was clear they were going to need one at some point. They needed one yard to gain. A field goal from 50 yards out in cold weather is tough for any kicker. And even if Hauschka had made it they would still be down four, and still needing a TD at some point. 
 

Two critical pass interferences

The first pass interference was against safety Micah Hyde in the second quarter and resulted in a 44-yard Patriots’ gain. Hyde cane over late because of what appeared to be a blown coverage. The second interference also involved Hyde. But only because he was on the bench. He was hurt on a first down play when the game was tied 16-16 in the third quarter. Trae Elston replaced him and Tom Brady attacked him right away, throwing a pass to Rob Gronkowski in the end zone. Elston was beaten and hit Gronk early. The Pats got a first down at the Bills' one yard line and scored the go-ahead touchdown soon after. 
 

S Trae Elston

It wasn’t a good series for Elston. See above for the pass interference. But on the very next play the Bills were flagged for “too many men on the field.” Simply judging by what I saw on the sidelines, it appeared Elston was the player who didn’t realize he was supposed to come off the field during the personnel substitution.
 

TE Charles Clay’s drop in the endzone

We can talk about the reversal of the Kelvin Benjamin touchdown all we want (and we will more) but it never should have even come into question had Clay held onto his second down pass the play right before it. He had it in his hands, was in the end zone, but dropped it when he went to the ground.
 

The Kelvin Benjamin TD reversal

I rarely, if ever, put any officiating calls in this column. I just believe there are too many calls in a game that determine the outcome. And frankly, this one was no different. There were many plays that determined the result. The Bills didn’t lose because of this reversal. But I still want to acknowledge how awful of a call it was as an Arrow Down because it did matter at the time, and probably impacted the rest of the game in some way. The league has become too technical. There was no reason to overturn that call. None. It’s as if they were just looking for something to do that just to prove they have and aren’t afraid to use replay. 
 

Use of Mike Tolbert

Having Tolbert run to the edge has been a frustrating thing to watch all season.  But that was once again the play call a couple times.  And to add to that, he was also sent out wide as a receiver in a couple empty sets.  He did have one catch for eleven yards, but also finished with three carries for negative-3 yards.  Tolbert should be used as a short-yardage back, running between the tackles, if he’s used at all.
 

No offensive touchdowns….again

Two games against the New England Patriots and no offensive touchdowns for the Bills.  Their only TD in this one was safety Jordan Poyer’s pick-6.  Nine drives in this game.  Three field goals.  Ten drives and one field goal three weeks ago when these two teams payed.  Quick math - that’s nineteen drives resulting in four field goals and no TDs for the Bills in 2017 against the Patriots.
 

Red zone offense

Once again finishing drives was a problem.  The Bills went 0-for-4 in the red zone.  They had their chances to score TDs and couldn’t.

 

ARROW UP
 

RB LeSean McCoy

Shady was up to his usual self against the Patriots, running for 71 yards and catching another 76 yards in passes for a combined 147 yards from scrimmage.  
 

WR Kelvin Benjamin

The Bills finally got Benjamin involved enough to have an impact on the offense, and he rewarded them with some fabulous catches and big plays.  He was able to go up and snatch a couple balls out of the air that very few receivers would be able to, finishing with five catches for 70 yards, and that doesn’t include the TD that should have counted.  
 

WR Deonte Thompson

Thompson once again proved to be the only true deep threat in the Bills’ receiving corps, catching four passes for 91 yards (a 22.8 average), including a 46-yarder on the Bills’ first play of their second drive.
 

Defending Rob Gronkowski

Yes, Gronk had a touchdown and a few other big catches, but the fact is the Bills held him to five catches and 67 yards, eighteen yards below his per game average this season.  Gronkowski’s longest catch Sunday was for 18 yards.  Compare that to three weeks ago when he had four catches for at least eighteen yards each.
 

S Jordan Poyer

Poyer scored the Bills’ only touchdown on a 19-yard pick-6.  He also was tied for third on the team with six tackles and added one pass defensed.
 

Third down offense

The Bills did a good job on third down in this game, converting 8-of-17 opportunities (47%), including going 7-for-11 (64%) in the first half.

 

THE BIG PICTURE
 

This it is.  We now know what the Bills need now to end their seventeen-year postseason drought.  It starts with beating the Dolphins next week in Miami.  Then they need help.  Here are the scenarios, along with their own win, that get them into the playoffs:

Ravens LOSE

OR

Jaguars WIN 
AND 
Chargers LOSE


MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!


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