That’s the unfortunate yet inviolable reality after a performance to forget at New Era Field on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. The Bills fell in embarrassing 47-10 fashion, its worst loss at home since November 18, 2007.
It was complete and utter capitulation on both sides of the football. The Saints owned a nearly 22 minute edge in time of possession, outgained the Bills by 284 yards and finished with a 32-10 advantage in first downs. If concern abounded after last week’s loss to the New York Jets, it’s been multiplied tenfold in the wake of what transpired on Sunday.
Despite the fact that the Bills remain above .500, suddenly this does not feel like a team that can mount an effective challenge for the playoffs. With seven games remaining this year, the onus is on them to prove otherwise. Because after the previous two games, optimism is slowly but surely fading.
Week 10 Buffalo Bills Takeaways
Tackling Woes Continue
One of the keys to victory for the Bills this week centered around their ability to put last week’s dismal tackling effort behind them. In total, they missed 20 tackles which greatly contributed to the 194 yards on the ground they gave up to the Jets. On Sunday, they faced a much more dynamic rushing attack with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara combining for 852 yards and seven touchdowns heading into this game. And suffice it to say they utterly failed with regard to improvement in their tackling.
The Saints absolutely gashed Buffalo for 298 yards on the ground. That’s the most the Bills have given up since surrendering 311 in a 45-3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on October 7, 2012. Ingram ingratiated himself to fantasy owners who started him today with 131 yards and a career high three rushing touchdowns. Kamara, who’s emerging as one of the league’s top rookie running backs, added 106 yards and found the end zone once. Much of it came via a comedy of errors from the Bills defense.
It got so bad that Saints head coach Sean Payton decided to go old school with his play-calling in the second half. Starting with 11:43 left in the third quarter and ending at the 7:29 mark of the fourth, the Saints called 24 consecutive running plays during their four possessions in that span. They gained 172 yards and put up 23 points, something that simply doesn’t happen if your defense is effectively wrapping players up. The defensive prowess that defined this team’s 5-2 start seems like a distant memory at this point.
Tyrod Taylor Takes a Huge Step Back
It’s not hyperbole to state that Tyrod Taylor had his worst game as an NFL starting quarterback Sunday. The seventh year man out of Virginia Tech completed just half his passes and managed a pedestrian 56 yards passing, the lowest total of his career. His third pass of the second half resulted in a Sheldon Rankins interception that spelled the beginning of the end for Buffalo. And he finished with a 33.6 passer rating, the fourth worst mark for a quarterback who threw at least 18 passes in a game this season.
McDermott pulled Taylor in the fourth quarter for rookie Nathan Peterman. Though it clearly came in garbage time, the Pittsburgh product made quite a few decisive throws down the field. Four of his passes resulted in completions of over ten yards, and he added a seven-yard touchdown toss to tight end Nick O’Leary on the Bills final drive. All in all, Peterman finished with a 70 percent completion rate, 79 yards passing and a 126.7 quarterback rating during his two drives in relief of Taylor.
For now, there’s no quarterback controversy according to McDermott. The first-year Bills coach was adamant in post-game comments to the media that Taylor remains the starter moving forward. He’s certainly shown flashes of brilliance this season. Heading into this game, Pro Football Focus gave Taylor the ninth highest player grade among quarterbacks. But he’s certainly slated to take a tumble in the wake of Sunday’s horrific outing. And if things don’t improve, fans will begin clamoring for change.
Playoffs? Don’t Talk About Playoffs
Mentioning the Bills and the word “playoffs” in the same sentence is certainly in punchline territory at this point. It’s a concomitant result of not having qualified for the NFL postseason in 18 years. Seven games into their 2017 campaign and Buffalo had the look of a team ready to erase that frustrating drought. But the narrative has taken a turn for the worst in just two short weeks after opposing teams outscored the Bills 81-31. Suddenly hope is giving way to dread that playoff football might prove elusive once more.
That sentiment becomes more pronounced considering the Bills remaining schedule. Their next two come away from home, including a west coast road game against the Los Angeles Chargers in week 11 followed by a matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs a week later. They also face the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins twice in addition to the Indianapolis Colts at home. In total, just three of their final seven come at New Era Field, two of which are divisional games against teams with a combined five road wins this year.
In a relatively top-heavy AFC, nine wins appears to be the threshold necessary to make the playoffs this year. That obviously entails the Bills winning four more at the minimum. For that to become feasible, they need to rectify glaring issues after getting exposed on both sides of the ball two weeks running. LeSean McCoy must improve after averaging 37 yards over the last two games. Taylor needs to play like a quarterback who has the array of pass-catching weapons at his disposal. And the defense has to rediscover its mojo.
If not, the same old story about the Bills this millennium is going to get another tragic chapter.