If the Buffalo Bills are tanking in the hopes of landing a potential franchise quarterback in 2018, they certainly didn’t show it on Sunday.
The Bills handed the Denver Broncos their first loss of 2017 with a 26-16 upset victory at New Era Field. It moves Buffalo to 2-1 and into a tie with the New England Patriots atop the AFC East standings three weeks into the season. Though it’s still early, there are promising signs that this Bills team will be a forced to be reckoned with week in and week out.
Week Three Buffalo Bills Takeaways
Bills Win Duel of Defenses
Heading into Sunday’s game, the overwhelming narrative surrounded how dominant the Broncos defense looked through two weeks. This isn’t too surprising after last week’s performance in a 42-17 demolition of the Dallas Cowboys. Denver completely shut down a run game that included 2016 rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott, limiting him to a mere eight yards on nine carries.
But the Bills came into the game with their fair share of confidence on the defensive side of the football. In week one, they held the New York Jets to 38 yards on the ground. A week later against the Carolina Panthers, they made 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton‘s life a living hell, sacking him six times. In a losing effort, they gave up a mere nine points and kept the opponent’s receivers out of the end zone for the second straight game.
That trend continued in week three. Not only did the Bills pass defense keep another team out of the end zone. They handed Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian his worst performance of the year. The third-year quarterback out of Northwestern entered Sunday’s tussle with a league-leading six touchdown tosses. He left without having added to that total while also throwing two interceptions and finishing with a 58.2 quarterback rating.
Head coach Sean McDermott made a name for himself coordinating an elite defense in Carolina. He appears to have brought that pedigree to Buffalo with the Bills defense firing on all cylinders through three games. Though the national media elicited a majority of the fixation on the Broncos defense ahead of this matchup, it was the Bills’ unit that truly shined, spearheading Sunday’s winning effort.
Tyrod Taylor Rebounds
You couldn’t fault Bills fans for feeling a tad on the apprehensive side regarding expectations for Tyrod Taylor in this game. The Bills starting quarterback had a fairly forgettable week two, throwing for just 125 yards and no touchdowns in the 9-3 defeat. Though he made some good throws on the final drive as Buffalo attempted to mount a comeback, his overall performance left significant questions.
That wasn’t the case against the Broncos. Taylor completed 76.9 percent of his passes while also throwing touchdown passes to Andre Holmes and Charles Clay. He involved a multitude of players in the pass game, completing passes to six players while targeting eight. A week removed from managing just a single pass over 15 yards, he completed five such throws on Sunday. And despite persistent pressure from the Broncos which resulted in four sacks, he still proved highly effective.
Blitz or no blitz, Tyrod Taylor still got it done pic.twitter.com/EqZi8PbFae
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) September 24, 2017
Sunday’s success provided a blueprint for how the Bills can realize success in 2017. Dominate defensively and at the same time play consistent and mistake-free on the other side of the ball. Though the term “game manager” conveys its fair share of negative connotations, that’s exactly what Taylor needs to be moving forward. Combine that with the return of the ground game (which has been MIA over the past two games) and Buffalo can contend for a playoff berth in 2017.
Tre’Davious White Looks Legit
The selection of Tre’Davious White in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft signaled a reboot of the Bills secondary. The loss of Stephon Gilmore via free agency and Ronald Darby via trade for future draft picks made that notion more evident. Early on into 2017 and the rookie out of LSU appears to be repaying that faith from the Bills front office.
Through two games, Pro Football Focus gave White the highest performance grade among rookie cornerbacks. And on Sunday, he provided ample momentum to the velocity of his hype train. White led the Bills with four pass breakups and had a key interception of Siemian in the fourth quarter which helped seal the win.
— Chris (@______CK_______) September 24, 2017
Having said all that, there are going to be growing pains. There were quite a few examples over the course of this game. Demaryius Thomas beat him in man coverage on a 21-yard pass play in the first half that resulted in a Broncos third down conversion. And he bit on a Siemian play fake that would’ve resulted in a long completion to Emmanuel Sanders had the latter not dropped a catchable pass.
But overall, Bills fans have plenty to be excited about when it comes to their young defensive back. His teammates raved about him during OTAs and he showed flashes of his potential during the preseason. And he has a head coach in McDermott as well as a defensive coordinator in Leslie Frazier who have previous experience coaching the secondary. It all speaks to White developing into a great pro down the line.