Photo: USA Today Sports

CAPACCIO: Bills-Raiders: Arrow Up/Arrow Down

December 04, 2016 - 7:02 pm

By Sal Capaccio

Twitter @Salports

Over Des Moines, Iowa (I think) - A game that started out so well ended terribly for the Bills.  They were in firm control all the way into the late third quarter then completely fell apart on both sides of the ball.  They had no answers for the Raiders offense once they finally got into the end zone the first time, and couldn’t stay on the field on offense themselves. A win would have really made a statement about who this team can be.  But with a loss and their playoff chances are now on life support.  For most of the game I could have been preparing to start with the Arrows Up.  But Derek Carr, Khalil Mack, and the Raiders turned things around in the game - and for me - quickly:

Arrow Down

Tyrod Taylor’s 2nd half

What made Taylor so effective early in the game (see Arrow Up) completely disappeared later.  He held on to the ball too long, missed seeing some receivers downfield, and missed throws to some he did see, including what looked like could have been a TD to Sammy Watkins with just under five minutes left in the fourth quarter.  Taylor started the game 8-for-9 for 107 yards.  After that he went 10-for-26 for 84 yards.  All of this contributed to a second half collapse of the offense that included four 3-and-outs (three straight), a one-play drive that ended with a quick interception, and two turnovers overall - the other a Taylor fumble on a sack.

2nd half defense

Fell apart.  Imploded.  Use whatever term you want.  After the first drive of the second half, that’s what happened to the Bills defense.  In the first half, the Raiders had only 161 total yards, went 2-for-6 on 3rd downs, and scored only three field goals.  Derek Carr went 9-for-17 for 112 yards.  But in the second thirty minutes they had their way with the Bills defense, collecting 231 total yards.  Carr carved them up for 148 yards and 2 touchdowns and the running game got in gear going for 83 yards.  Oakland started running a no-huddle attack and the Bills could not keep up.  Players were clearly tired, resulting in not getting lined up properly and missing tackles.  And with the offense going three-and-out so often, the defense never got a chance to recover and catch their breath.  After trailing 24-9 the Raiders took the lead by scoring 21 points in only five minutes.

End of 1st half coaching

The Bills played not to lose at the end of the first half.  They got the ball up by four with 2:50 remaining at their own 24 yard line.  They still had two timeouts.  They had a golden opportunity to go up by seven or even eleven points into the locker room.  But they seemed to have no sense of urgency whatsoever and took their time getting in and out of the huddle and running plays.  The time wouldn’t even be a factor if they had continued to attack the way they had for much of the first half.  But their play sequence was run, pass, run, run, run and by the time they faced a third down at their own 41 there was only :41 remaining.  That’s only six plays in 2:09.  Rex Ryan said after the game they were going to start using their two remaining timeouts if they got a first down after they had moved the ball close to midfield.  But they didn’t get that first down and gave the ball back to Oakland with :30 left.  And even only at their own 15 yard line to start, the Raiders promptly did what the Bills should have done and attacked downfield, going 57 yards in four plays.  Their four plays only took :25 off the clock.  The final result? A 47-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski and what night have been either a six or even ten point swing had the Bills played it more aggressively.

Red zone and goalline defense

Once again the Bills had trouble in both areas, something that has plagued then for several weeks now.  The Raiders went 3-for-4 in the red zone and were 3-for-3 in goal-to-go situations.

P Colton Schmidt

It was just a bad day striking the football for Schmidt.  He was trying to angle some punts away from return man Jalen Richard, but wound up hitting them out of bounds far too early in the process.  And ones he did hit down the field either were too low or short.  Schmidt punted five times but averaged only 39.8 gross yards per punt.  Not a good number.  Some of the Raiders drive starts off of punts were their own 39, own 41, and Buffalo 38.



Two passes early in the game looked like this was going to be a combination the Bills were going to take a lot of advantage of against the Raiders secondary.  But as the game went on it never materialized.  Watkins caught two passes on the first drive totaling 32 yards.  After that, for the entire rest of the game, he caught one ball for six yards.  Sammy was targeted nine times, which was the most on the team and is close enough to the right number for the Bills to try and be successful throwing the ball.  But he had only three catches on those nine targets.  A couple were catchable, although not in perfect spots.  But several times, the QB and WR were not on he same page as each other and that’s what caused some mis-connections.


Arrow Up

Bills offense for 39:43

The offensive gameplan went exactly according to script for almost 40-minutes of action.  LeSean McCoy was off and running to the tune of 121 yards already. Tyrod Taylor was 12/18 and in complete control of almost everything he wanted to do.  The Bills had the Raiders on their heels almost every drive.  The six drives leading up to that point were incredibly efficient and resulted in three touchdowns and a field goal.

Bills defense for 35:59

The Bills defense played terrific through one half, keeping one of the league’s best offenses out of the end zone and holding them to just three field goals.  Even into the third quarter they had things rolling.  The Raiders drives through the first drive of the third quarter went punt, field goal, punt, field goal, field goal, punt.  Derek Carr, who could very well be the NFL MVP this season, went only 9-for-19 for 112 yards up through that point. 

Tyrod Taylor’s 1st quarter

The first fifteen minutes was some of the best football Taylor’s played in his career.  He was decisive, confident, and accurate.  Through the first quarter, the Bills signal-caller was 8-for-9 passing for 107 yards and distributing the ball to almost anyone who was eligible to catch it.

Bills running game

The top unit in the league just did what they do for most of the game, finishing with 212 yards on the ground on 30 rushes.  That’s 7.1 yards per run, a pretty incredible number for that many carries.  Three different players - Taylor, LeSean McCoy, and Mike Gillislee - all went for 30 yards or more on the ground and all averaged 6.1 yards or more per carry.  As a team, the Bills also scored three times on the ground.

RB LeSean McCoy

One of the best offensive players in the NFL was at his best in this one.  Shady finished with 130 yards on only 17 carries (7.6 yards/run) and added 61 yards on 7 catches in the passing game for a total of 191 yards from scrimmage.

TE Nick O’Leary

O’Leary got the nod to start when Charles Clay stayed back in Buffalo to be with his wife for the birth of their son.  He played all three downs, did everything he was asked to do, and contributed well in the running game as a blocker.  

The Big Picture

Mathematically.  That’s the word now when it comes to the Bills playoff hopes being alive.  And once that word crops into the equation, the reality is it’s all but over.  This team had a great opportunity to show their own fans and, really, the rest of the league and country that they are better than many believe and can play with the best teams in the league.  And for almost 40-minutes they did just that.  But in the end, they just weren’t good enough and can’t make that claim.  What was a great opportunity really turned into “just another season” as they now sit back at .500 (6-6) in early December.  We’ve seen this before.  Many times.  Too many times.  Sixteen years of no playoffs is about to be seventeen in a few short weeks.  It could officially be a lot sooner than that, too.  

Going into the season, conventional wisdom was, “get to ten wins and see what happens.”  That’s often good enough to get into the postseason.  Well, here we sit, four games left, and now needing them all to get to that double-digit win total this organization hasn’t seen since 1999.  And with the way the AFC looks right now, there’s a solid possibility ten wins won’t even be enough to get the job done and put them in.

I’m not quite ready to turn my attention to free agency, the draft, and offseason contract situations, if only because there’s going to be plenty of time for that soon it appears.  Months of it.  But that talk is probably coming soon.  I’m sure it will come even sooner with calls on the radio and social media chatter.  And then the offseason will feel like any other offseason has over the last sixteen years.  That's why I'll wait, not because of any playoff possibilities still remaining.

The next game on the schedule is the Pittsburgh Steelers, the start of three straight at home.  The Steelers are another team fighting to get into the postseason but, right now, on the outside looking in.  Considering how the Raiders offense exploded on the Bills in the second half Sunday, it’s going to be a pretty tough task holding down Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and company.  With a win, the Bills will pass them in the wild card standings due to beating them head-to-head.  Then the yearly December tradition of watching the scoreboard and hoping some team pulls an upset over an AFC opponent the Bills are chasing will be in full-swing.

Hey, they’re only two games back with four to play.  You know, mathematically alive.  

Follow me on Twitter @SalSports

Comments ()