The Bills Survive and Advance in Cincinnati

The Bills celebrate sneaking out of Cincinnati with a win. (Getty Images)

The Bills celebrate sneaking out of Cincinnati with a win. (Getty Images)

– Evan Sally

Sunday was a uncomfortable viewing experience. After the Bills marched down the field on their first drive for a touchdown, picking up big chunks of yardage on the way, it seemed like the table was set for them to put their foot on the neck of the Bengals early. Combine that with AJ Green’s early exit and a weak turnout from Bengals fans and I was giddy. I thought the Bills were in for a romp.

Not so fast.

The Bills defense immediately allowed the Bengals back in the game and from then on Bills/Bengals turned into two drunk heavyweight (maybe featherweight is more accurate) fighters throwing wild punches and barely grazing each other for 3 quarters. For entertainment value this game was everything I hate: two wildly inconsistent quarterbacks, injuries to key offensive playmakers on both sides and ALOT of punts. From a Bills fan perspective this game was everything I hate as well. It was incredibly nerve wracking to watch the Bills defense force punt after punt from Andy Dalton and get chance after chance to put Cincinnati away, only for the Bengals to still have a chance to win it at the end from the Bills 27 yard line.

But after all of that, after Bills fans across Western New York experienced collective heartburn and ran out of nails to bite, they managed to win. The defense came together and shut out Cincinnati in the 2nd half and the running game had another special day. I never felt good about what I was watching Sunday until the clock ran out, but at the end you realize that is all that matters. The Bills are playing their own version of March Madness; for 7 weeks it’s just about surviving and advancing. The odds to make the playoffs remain long but as Kansas City’s loss at home to Tampa proved, if the Bills handle their own business, opportunities will arise that you may not see coming.

A few more observations from Sunday’s slogfest:

Tyrod the Tease

Tyrod Taylor is maddeningly inconsistent. (Getty Images)

Tyrod Taylor is maddeningly inconsistent. (Getty Images)

He did it to us again. Yet again Tyrod tantalized us with a great, unexpected performance in Seattle, probably playing one of the best games of his career, only to come crashing back to Earth the next time he stepped on a football field. There are some excuses to be made for Tyrod with some level of validity, and those excuses were the injuries to LeSean McCoy and Robert Woods. Those two players accounted for 282 of the Bills 425 yards they managed to rack up in Seattle, so a dip was to be expected. But as you watch the game, you notice that Mike Gillislee once again doing an admirable Shady impression and with 182 yards rushing the Bills running game was alive and well. And how many replays did the broadcast show with Bills receivers open that Tyrod either missed or couldn’t pull the trigger to throw them the ball? Even though losing Woods and Shady hurt, their collective loss isn’t as valid an excuse as it seemed out of context. Tyrod was just bad.

His accuracy is very hit or miss on a game to game basis, which I find odd. If Tyrod doesn’t have it early, he ain’t going to find it late. If I could try to put my finger on why that is, I think it’s a confidence thing with him. Against Seattle, Tyrod got comfortable with his reads early and played that way the whole game. On Sunday he never seemed comfortable. He was either holding the ball too long, not pulling the ball down to run fast enough or hitting a static receiver 6 yards or less down the field with zero chance of getting YAC, typically Charles Clay. I hoped the Seattle game represented the fabled turning point for Tyrod but yet again it proved to just be another pit stop on the Tyrod Taylor roller coaster. This is just who he is at this point. Good Tyrod is great. Bad Tyrod makes you cover your eyes and pray for the best. In these final 6 games you just have to hope that the Bills can survive the Bad.

A quick aside on Charles Clay: After McCoy and Woods go down, Clay becomes the best receiving option for the Bills by a considerable margin and yet Tyrod treats him like anything but. He’s a really good player who was consistently running free through the Bengals secondary and yet Tyrod can only find him on curl routes of 5 or less yards. Tight ends around the league are used as primary targets, Gronk, Kelce, Olsen. Hell Lions tight end Eric Ebron scored Sunday on a tight end reverse. These teams manage to find a way to get their guys the ball. We’re more than halfway through Clay’s second year here and the Bills still can’t do it. Incredibly frustrating.

Defensive Musings

  • It’s great to have the Bash Brothers together again on the defensive line. Of course I’m talking about Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus. It’s been so long since they both have been playing well together (going back to Kyle’s injury last season it seems), and yet again they proved how well they play off of each other and make each other better. Dareus is so dominant on the inside that Kyle Williams can live in the opposing backfield. They couldn’t have picked a better time to get back and in the groove either; forcing interior pressure will be vital against Derek Carr and Oakland’s stellar offensive line in two weeks.

    Stephon Gilmore bounced back nicely Sunday. (Getty Images)

    Stephon Gilmore bounced back nicely Sunday. (Getty Images)

  • How great is it to watch a Bills game and not spend the entire time yelling at Stephon Gilmore? Even better, how great is it watch the guy make plays? Gilmore has become a bit of a whipping boy around Buffalo in recent weeks and while he’s an easy target (I’m not sure I’ll ever get over this play.), the Bills still desperately need him to play well. The reports over the bye week were that Rex Ryan challenged his secondary, and Gilmore heeded the call. 2 interceptions, one directly preventing points for the Bengals and 5 tackles, good for the second most on the team. Add in the improved play of Ronald Darby and Kevon Seymour making some nice plays, and the Bills secondary may be moving in the right direction. The next two weeks will provide more tests however, Allen Robinson,  Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree loom, and they probably won’t get hurt the first play of the game like AJ Green did.

Looking Ahead

Blake Bortles is coming to Buffalo this week. I repeat Blake Bortles is coming to New Era Field. The King of Garbage Time is a having a typically bad season and the terrible Jacksonville offensive line isn’t helping. The Bills should demolish the Jaguars and set up a massive showdown in Oakland the following week. However as all Bills fans know a loss to Jacksonville in this spot would be the most Bills thing they could do. I hope the Bills aren’t looking ahead to Oakland like I am. Just survive and advance Buffalo, there’s 6 weeks to go.

evan sally– Evan Sally (Twitter)


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