– Matt Haring
Monday Night Football brings a feeling of excitement and relevance to any fan base, especially in Buffalo. Add the Patriots to the equation, and an already rabid fan base was ready to lose its collective mind in anticipation of the late Monday kickoff. A long line of demoralizing losses in Foxboro, Massachusetts have traditionally left fans rethinking the season, and shattering expectations. On Monday, the Bills did what they needed to in order to win, but ultimately fell victim to the same mishaps that have kept them in the cellar of the AFC standings for 16 years. A game that the Bills could have, arguably even should have, won will leave a bitter taste in the mouths of Bills fans once again on Monday Night Football.
1) Tyrod Regression:
From the beginning of the game it was evident that Tyrod Taylor was off. Taylor underthrew two deep balls to Sammy Watkins badly, and missed Chris Hogan for a deep touchdown in the second quarter against New England. He could not seem to effectively find a way to get the ball in the hands of his receivers consistently. Despite the inaccuracy and inability to create outside of the pocket, Taylor and the offense moved the ball extremely well but could not capitalize on key plays, and it cost them the game.
Through the Belichick era, the New England Patriots have had astounding success facing quarterbacks for the second time in a season. I cannot locate the stat I saw a few days ago, but they hold opposing QB’s to a woefully low QBR the second time around. Giving credit where credit is due, this may be a large portion of why Taylor struggled as mightily has he did. However, watching the game it seemed like Taylor’s reads were predetermined, one read throws. Is this instruction from Greg Roman, or is this Taylor struggling to read the field? I’m not sure anyone is truly at liberty to decide that question one way or another. But watching the game live, Taylor looked at his first option and rarely threw the ball elsewhere. Taylor has been relatively limited in this fashion during the course of the year, but has been able to escape the pocket and create plays in that regard. As seen Monday night, when Taylor is confined to the pocket while only reading a small portion of the field, it does not equate to much success. Obviously, Taylor needs to improve in this regard or he will quickly become another QB that defensive coordinators can defend easily.
2) Defense Does Their Part
Had you told me prior to kickoff that the Bills would have consistently and relentlessly knocked Tom Brady over, nearly eliminated LeGarrette Blount, and given up 20 points in New England I would be asking you what kind of antics we should be expecting from Rex Ryan in a celebratory press conference. How nice it would have been had the offense taken advantage of the first half domination the defense served up. Provided the Patriots were throwing to practice squad receivers by the end of the game, the Bills found a way to play as they possibly could against the greatest QB of all time. Early in the game Brady and the offense were stonewalled for majority of the first half, and the defense continued to carry their weight throughout the second half. Despite losing Mario Williams for the second half, and Marcell Dareus and Bacarri Rambo for large chunks of snaps, the Bills defense came together and played as well as Rex Ryan could have expected. The only breaches in the armor came during situations where the Bills brought 6+ after Brady, and he was able to get the ball out before the pressure arrived.
3) 14 Point Swing
With two minutes to go in the first half, Tyrod Taylor had the Bills at the New England 40 yard line looking to break the 3-3 tie before the half. In a good spot to gain an advantage at the half, a multitude of questionable plays would lead to an empty possession on offense. The first two went largely unnoticed but ultimately ended up having a significant impact on the game in regards to time on the clock. On consecutive plays, Chris Hogan and Lesean McCoy made concerted efforts to get out of bounds. This may not seem like a big deal, however with 3 timeouts and the ball at the 40 yard line, it is not necessary at all to force yourself to get out of bounds. The time this left on the clock would end up hurting the Bills mightily. More importantly, however, Tyrod Taylor dropped a beautiful pass into the endzone that McCoy had, but was broken up on a great play by Devin McCourty. On the next play, Dan Carpenter would miss a field goal to put the Bills up 3.
Instead of a halftime lead, the Patriots took over with one minute and a short field. How many times have we seen the classic Patriots double-up? Get a touchdown before halftime, and get the ball back after the break. Thankfully, they didn’t double-up after halftime. But they did score a touchdown on a breached coverage with 13 seconds to go. It was a very unfortunate way for the Bills to end a half in which they dominated in, going down 7 on the road. The game never had the same feeling of intensity from this point on. If you believe in momentum, this was without doubt the moment of the game
4) The Refs
I don’t really want to discuss this, so I won’t. Disgraceful.
Ah, the Kansas City Chiefs. A familiar foe that is consistently average, consistently deserve to lose, and have recently found some lucky ways to win against the Bills. It’s not that I hate the Chiefs, it’s that I…okay yeah I hate the Chiefs. But unfortunately my personal vendetta against the Chiefs means nothing, and the Bills will be in for a tough road test with the season on the line. A win puts them at a 79% chance at a playoff spot, a loss moves them down to 17%. It’s really that simple. This is a must win game, do-or-die, win or go home. All the clichés. The Chiefs have a scary good defense, the best the Bills have faced to date. Tyrod appears as though he will be able to start, which is the first step in the right direction. However, if they cannot improve the offense from what it was against the Patriots, it could be tough sledding. On the other side of the ball, if the Bills can sustain their level of play it should, also, be a rough go for Alex Smith. The keyword in this game is…defense.
– Matt Haring