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Vic Carucci’s Take Five: Low-grade effort defines Bills’ performance

LANDOVER, Md. – Here are how my five takes before the Buffalo Bills’ 35-25 loss against the Washington Redskins on Sunday worked out:

1. Play as if it still matters, even if this is extremely close to being a meaningless game. Not even close. Disregard the final score. This game wasn’t even remotely as competitive as the 10-point deficit might indicate. The Bills came out flat and spent most of the first half looking as if they had something better to do than play football. Their playoff chances were already hanging by a thread, but Rex Ryan had stressed on Wednesday that as long as the team was showing a pulse for a wild-card spot, it would “go for it.” The only thing the Bills looked like they were going for was the proverbial bus back to the airport.

The defense put up virtually no resistance as Kirk Cousins threw for 319 yards and four touchdown passes, and ran for a 13-yard score. The Redskins also had a solid day of rushing as they put together a successful mix of outside throws with inside runs. The Bills’ pass coverage and tackling were beyond pathetic. The offense showed some life in the second half, but mostly piled up garbage yards. It failed to deliver when it had to – such as when it couldn’t punch it in on five shots (counting a penalty) from the 1-yard line late in the first half.

2. Let’s see something on defense that shows that Rex Ryan really does know what he’s doing. Huge miss here! If anything, the questions surrounding Ryan, his scheme, and the ability of the head coach and the defensive assistants to get the players to run it effectively have only grown larger. The Bills seemed thoroughly unprepared to deal with what the Redskins’ offense was doing. They failed to generate any sort of pressure on Cousins, who was sacked only once and hit only twice. They looked constantly confused and disjointed in the secondary, leaving gaping holes for Cousins to exploit.

It has long been established that whatever system Ryan had set out to implement this season never connected with his players. But on Sunday, that gap appeared to be wider than ever. The bottom line is that the players, especially those on the most expensive defensive line in NFL history, have flat-out rejected it. They simply don’t look as if they want to try to learn it. And if Mario Williams’ claims that there are people (“insurgents” was the word he used) at One Bills Drive leaking information that he wasn’t truly sick when he didn’t show up for work on Wednesday is any indication, the divide has reached epic proportions.

3. The offensive line stands up to another huge defensive line. Nope. Again, let’s throw out the garbage-time production of the second half that helped Tyrod Taylor pad his passing numbers and Sammy Watkins pad his receiving stats and even Mike Gillislee to rip off a 60-yard touchdown run. The Redskins firmly controlled this game from the start and the occasional letdowns that allowed the Bills to make a few big plays in the second half were to be expected.

Overall, however, the Redskins’ D-line got the better of the Bills’ blockers. Taylor was sacked five times, hit six times, and generally uncomfortable for most of the game. The tight coverage the Redskins played as a result of the maximum coverage they usually employed behind a four-man rush helped, of course. But generally this was a case of the Redskins’ defense physically dominating the line of scrimmage. No one on Buffalo’s offense should be proud of that showing.

4. Get over it, LeSean. McCoy seemed to show decent effort that indicated he might have been able to put his crushing disappointment over last week’s loss to his former team, the Eagles, behind him. However, he was never able to make any real dynamic plays before leaving the game early in the third quarter with a knee injury. McCoy finished with only 29 yards on 10 carries, with a long run of 10 yards. Gillislee and Karlos Williams, who had 41 yards on four attempts, were more impressive in the second half, but that was at least in part a function of the Redskins getting a bit fat and happy with their comfortable lead. McCoy never was able to do anything to help the Bills get back into the game in the first half, never able to give the Redskins even a second thought about stopping the run.

5. Tyrod Taylor continues to enhance his standing as the Bills’ long-term answer. Not really. Taylor’s final passing numbers were respectable (16 for 27 for 235 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Watkins), but Cousins, whose contract is due to expire after the season, was the only quarterback on the field who looked like he locked up his long-term starting status in the NFL. Count on the Redskins to sign him to a new contract.

Whether the Bills do anything with Taylor’s deal, which runs through 2016, is not nearly as definite. On Sunday, Taylor struggled mightily to find open receivers in the first half. On multiple occasions, he seemed a bit too eager to run when he should have been throwing and too eager to throw when he should have been running. For Taylor, all of the remaining games are factoring heavily into how large a financial commitment the Bills will make in him.