If anyone didn’t think the NFL truly is a week to week league you haven’t been watching the Buffalo Bills lately. After appearing like a team on the verge of finally making the playoffs in getting off to a 5-2 start, the Bills crashed back to earth with three consecutive blowout losses in which they couldn’t look more dismal if they tried.
Two of those three lopsided defeats came against opposition currently with a losing record, so when Buffalo rolled into Kansas City Sunday, a place they’ve historically played some of their worst football, most expected the downward spiral to continue.
The Bills shocked the reeling Chiefs, 16-10 and in doing so put the stink of the past three weeks behind them.
Here’s some random thoughts…
♦ We all saw what Tyrod Taylor could (or couldn’t) do over two and a half years as the starting quarterback. Then last week Sean McDermott made a switch to Nathan Peterman, a complete disaster that lasted all of one half. Sunday we saw the return of Taylor. We can see Taylor one more time or for the next 100 years and I think one thing’s crystal clear—- Taylor’s not good enough to be anything better than an average NFL quarterback but he’s head and shoulders better than Peterman right now. Other than a diminutive minority, everyone else knows that feel the Bills need to find an upgrade this winter. But for now Taylor gives Buffalo their best chance to win and it was evident Sunday. Taylor made some poor throws, especially an inexcusably low one to a wide open Nick O’Leary that likely cost the Bills points in the fourth quarter that could’ve proven critical, but overall completed 19-of-29 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown while most importantly not turning over the ball once. For me that was the big difference in the game, as the Kansas City offense stunk so badly it desperately needed gift points from Buffalo – points that never came. The Bills probably should and almost certainly will move on from Taylor sometime during the offseason, but as he’s done on five other occasions in 2017, played well enough to win today.
♦ Sean McDermott deserves a lot of credit. He made an awful decision last week to bench Taylor in favor of Peterman and he knows it. The easy thing to do would’ve been betting double-or-nothing on Peterman again this week but he didn’t. I’m sure he knew going back to Taylor after just one week would lead to criticism from the media and fans wondering out loud if the rookie coach has a clue what he’s doing, but he made the switch anyway. I admire him never backing down from his decision or reasoning to start Peterman against San Diego with his comments this past week. I don’t agree with his decision to bench Taylor last week or moving away from Peterman so quickly after doing so, but there’s no denying McDermott’s leadership with this team.
♦ He also deserves credit for having the Bills at 6-5 right now. Say what you will about this team but this roster doesn’t have the makeup of a winning team nearly three quarters through the regular season. Yet that’s where we are.
We’re just getting into December and Buffalo has six wins with dudes like Vlad Ducasse, Leonard Johnson, Ramon Humber, Cedric Thornton and Eddie Yarbrough playing key roles.
♦ Like any rookie defensive back, Tre’Davious White has had ups and downs this season but man, this is Buffalo’s second win in 2017 that has White’s fingerprints all over it. Just like his forced fumble and recovery against Tampa that led to the winning points, White potentially won the game for Buffalo with a last minute interception off Alex Smith. He hasn’t been perfect but I don’t recall Stephon Gilmore or Ronald Darby making game-winning plays in a Bills uniform. Not only has White adequately replaced his predecessors, he’s actually an upgrade over either. Some (quite possibly me) will always criticize the Bills for trading down and not taking a quarterback tenth overall this past April, but White’s been an absolute bargain early in his career.
♦ This looked like the Bills defense that had fans thinking playoffs over the first seven games. After allowing a mind-blowing 45 points per game over three lopsided losses the unit finally hunkered down at Arrowhead, stymieing the Chiefs and holding them to just 10 points. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier seemed a step ahead of the Chiefs in dialing up calls against an offense that frankly looked spectacularly predictable.
♦ Dear McDermott and Frazier: let’s see a lot more of Matt Milano.. A LOT more. Please and thank you.
♦ Sticking with the defense, it was Kyle Williams’ best game of the season. It’s ironic to type considering he only had one tackle, but he was a beast in the trenches and opened up opportunities for others to make plays, which they often did. It was a solid game for the defensive line overall, minus a few maddening encroachment penalties.
♦ Props to WGR’s Sal Capaccio for so accurately pointing out Bills punter Colton Schmidt as an unsung hero this afternoon. Schdmidt averaged 41.4 yards per punt on seven attempts, pinning two inside the 20 and rendering dangerous punt returning Tyrek Hill a non-factor with brilliant angle kicks. Couple that with Steven Hauschka’s three clutch field goals; including one from 56 yards and the Bills kicking game proved to be a huge asset.
♦ The Bills second half rushing attack was pathetic. How pathetic? They managed all of seven yards in the second half. While it would be nice to be able to rely on the defense to be this effective each week, the reality is Buffalo needs to find a way to run the ball with the lead or in a close game. LeSean McCoy was held to just 49 yards on 22 carries, and 14 of them came on one run. That’s not going to get it done.
♦ Maybe the NFL should consider permitting officials to review personal foul calls, much like NBA officials do with flagrant fouls. The flag on Bills cornerback E.J. Gaines during Kansas City’s final drive was literally one of the worst calls I’ve ever seen. The Chiefs were gifted 15 yards and the clock stopped because of unadulterated incompetence. If an official makes a call that erroneous there needs to be a way to correct it. Just imagine the outrage had Buffalo went on to lose this game.
♦ I like the way Zay Jones has looked over the past few weeks. Let it be a lesson to us all that maybe tagging a rookie a bust because he’s not good for the first half-season of his career is ludicrous. This kid can play and he’s only going to get better. You can see Taylor developing trust in him.
♦ Speaking of trust, I trust Brandon Beane and McDermott will be firing offensive coordinator Rick Dennison within hours of the season ending. If you’ve watched the Bills offensive play calling this season I need not bother explaining.
Dennison is the worst and bringing him back in 2018 would be settling more than the way his offense settles for field goal attempts.
♦ As fun as it would be, I can’t give too much credit to Buffalo for this victory. The Chiefs are a complete tire fire right now. If you think there’s heat on Taylor in Western New York I can’t imagine the temperature in Kansas City Monday morning with Alex Smith. He was horrific on Sunday and contributed as much to the Bills ending a three-game losing streak as anything Buffalo did defensively. I don’t care that his stat line looked adequate on paper (23-of-36 for 199 yards) and he went 58+ minutes without a turnover, his indecisiveness and inaccuracy are the primary reasons the Chiefs walked off the field losers for the fifth time in six games. At least in Buffalo Taylor only has Peterman to concern himself with, and we’ve already seen Peterman’s not ready for this stage. Smith has the tenth overall pick they traded up for looking over his shoulder in Patrick Mahomes. Translation: Smith’s days are totally numbered.
♦ Let’s hope the Chiefs free fall continues. Remember, Buffalo owns their first-rounder in the 2018 draft.
SUMMARY: After the Bills got their asses handed to them at home against the Saints, collectively we assumed their playoff chances were on the line last week against the Chargers. They failed that test miserably and with a road tilt at Kansas City and a two still to play against New England, it felt like the Bills would be lucky to finish 8-8. It’s only one game but beating the Chiefs changes everything, as a win few saw coming suddenly puts Buffalo dead smack back in the playoff conversation. The Bills are 6-5 with it being extremely conceivable that 9-7 in the AFC this season could end Buffalo’s 17-year playoff drought.
It’s wishful thinking to count on the Bills beating the Patriots in either of their meetings but even so the same formula is back on the table as was there before getting killed by the Chargers — beat Miami twice and Indianapolis at home, all tremendously winnable and the Bills finish get to the finish line with nine wins.
McDermott can talk about building for the future until he’s blue in the face, but we’re in the present and the Bills getting to 9-7 is realistically back in play. If nothing else, they’re home wins against the Colts and Dolphins away from the Week 17 finale at Miami being very meaningful. Whether it ends up a win and in scenario or needing to beat Miami and get help to make the playoffs, it’s almost a guarantee that 8-7 going into that New Year’s eve finale comes with playoff implications.
Yes, beating the Chiefs changes the complexion of the season that much. It has us thinking playoffs again for at least two weeks, and further if they can beat the Colts at home on December 10.
This season became fun again today.