Photo: Mark Konezny - USA TODAY Sports

Bills go from bad to worse

They laid a crate full of eggs against the Saints at New Era Field

Howard Simon
November 12, 2017 - 7:34 pm
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And you thought the Thursday Night Football game against the New York Jets was bad. That was a keeper compared to the Buffalo Bills' performance against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at New Era Field.

It would be hard for a team to play any worse than the Bills did while suffering their first home loss of the season, and putting horrible thoughts of a possible five-game losing streak in their fans' heads. Let's not forget the Bills also had 10 days to prepare for a game that turned out to be Buffalo’s worst home loss since Tom Brady and the Patriots crushed them 56-10 in 2007.

I’m going to tell you the same thing I did after the Jets put a whooping on the Bills - as bad as this game was, the Bills are still in a playoff spot. That's right, the Bills will be holding down the second wild card spot in the AFC going into Week 11 as opposed to their usual “in the hunt” residence this time of the year. That might not make you feel any better because it's hard to think about this being the year the Bills end the drought after these last two debacles.

The offense was absolutely putrid. I don’t know how they managed to pull this one off, but they got Charles Clay back, added Kelvin Benjamin and got worse! Tyrod Taylor was flat out awful. He played like a quarterback who lived in fear of turning the ball over. It didn’t start out badly thought. The Bills actually moved the ball on their very first drive, going 57-yards in nine plays before settling for a field goal. Who knew that would be the high-point of the afternoon. 

Taylor targeted the recently acquired Benjamin three times on that initial possession, but that was the last time Taylor would throw to Benjamin in the game. Hard to believe, but Taylor didn’t target the 6’ 5” wide receiver for the rest of his time in the game. Benjamin’s next target came when Nathan Peterman took over for garbage time in the fourth quarter.

Back to that first drive, perhaps that was an omen of things to come for the Bills' starting quarterback. One of his targets to Benjamin was a pass to the end zone where he had a little separation on the smaller defensive back in coverage, but Taylor threw it over Benjamin’s outstretched arm and never gave the tallest wide out on the roster a chance to make a play. On 3rd down, Benjamin was open for a pass on the outside that would have resulted in at least a 1st and goal inside the Saints' 10-yard line, but Taylor’s pass was too far inside and Benjamin couldn’t make the catch.

It was all downhill after that as Tyrod completed just 9 of 18 passes for an unfathomable 56 yards passing. He completed one pass to a wide receiver, and it came on that first drive to Benjamin. Taylor’s longest completion in the game was nine yards. By the way, those horrendous passing numbers were being produced as LeSean McCoy managed 51 yards rushing on just seven carries in the first half. 

There was a drive in the third quarter that epitomized Taylor’s day and, for his detractors, was an example of why they’re hoping the Bills go with a different quarterback in 2018. The game is, for all intents and purposes, over at that point. New Orleans has scored a touchdown on each of its first two possessions in the quarter, and the Bills are down 30-3 with 8:24 left when they get the ball at their own 25. Here is what transpired:

  • 1st and 10 - Pass short right to Clay that loses two yards. (The Bills get a holding penalty on the play.)
  • 1st and 20 - A pass intended for Jordan Matthews a whopping six yards up field is batted down at the line
  • 2nd and 20 - Taylor scrambles for seven yards
  • 3rd and 13 - Taylor passes over the middle to Mike Tolbert who has no prayer of running after the catch for a first down. Bills punt.

That was the only time all day that I yelled at the TV. You’re down 27 points and you can’t throw the ball to a target beyond the first down line? And you throw to Mike Tolbert? Tolbert isn’t exactly known for his escapability as a pass catching target. For that matter, why is he even on the field at that point? Just take a chance and throw the ball where a catch gives you a first down, but Taylor is not a risk taker. He is hesitant when it comes to his release, and he plays too much like a player who’s been told he will be released the next time he throws an interception.

While the offense was firing blanks, the defense followed up its worst performance of the season with another disaster. They couldn’t stop the Saints, literally. The Bills never forced a punt. The only drive that ended without points (when New Orleans wasn’t kneeling down) was in the first quarter thanks to a fumble. The Saints scored six touchdowns and added two field goals while rolling up 482 yards and 32 first downs.

The Bills' run defense, which was a strength in the first seven games, was pathetic for the second straight week. The inability to get off blocks led to some huge holes, many times right up the middle. Throw in another display of terrible tackling and it added up to 298 yards rushing. The defense looked like a unit whose spirit was broken. Up 30-3 in the third quarter and backed up to their own six, you knew the Saints were just going to run the ball and take as much time off the clock as possible. Run they did. All 10 plays on that 94-yard drive were runs, five of which went for 10 yards or more. Buffalo has now given up 492 yards on the ground in back-to-back losses.

The pass rush was once again invisible. The Bills had no sacks, which might not be surprising since Drew Brees is the least sacked quarterback in the league, but they never got a sniff of the future hall of famer. There were times where he didn’t fire the ball out right away, but the four-man rush couldn’t get anywhere near the man.

Sean McDermott is facing his first major challenge as head coach of the Bills. His team has gone from 5-2 to 5-4, and their cushion in the wild card race is almost all gone. He’s got to find a way to get his team up off the floor for what feels like a must-win game on the road against the 3-6 Los Angeles Chargers. Nine wins could get the Bills into the playoffs, but with games looming at Kansas City, and at home against New England after the Chargers contest, the season feels like it is quickly slipping out of the Bills' grasp.

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