Grading the Bills
RUNNING GAME: A
LeSean McCoy is a heck of a player. After carrying eight times for just 5 yards in the first half, McCoy took the first carry of the third quarter 75 yards to the house. Just like that, the running game was back on track. Credit Jonathan Williams for converting a fourth and 1 in the second quarter to help set up a touchdown. That’s a big spot for a rookie, and he came through.
PASSING GAME: C
For the second straight game, Tyrod Taylor threw for 166 yards. It’s clear at this point the Bills are in “game manager” mode with him. They’re asking him not to turn the ball over, which he accomplished Sunday, and make one or two big plays with his arm. He did that, too, with a 62-yard completion to Sammy Watkins and a 16-yard touchdown pass to Justin Hunter in the fourth quarter. The Bills have to hope Watkins came through the game healthy, because another receiver (Walt Powell) went down with an injury.
RUN DEFENSE: D
The final numbers are ugly: 183 yards against on 37 carries – an average of 4.9 yards per rush. A big part of the problem was the failure to contain Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles. The pass rush would collapse the pocket, giving Bortles gaping holes to run through. The Bills registered just two tackles for loss that didn’t come on a sack. Missed tackles were a problem, starting on the first play of the game when Kyle Williams failed to wrap up Chris Ivory.
PASS DEFENSE: B
The Bills are having a bear of a time replacing Aaron Williams in the secondary. Robert Blanton, Jonathan Meeks and James Ihedigbo have all gotten chances, but none of them have made the job theirs. Another big problem could be the concussion suffered by Ronald Darby in the first quarter. The Jaguars went after his replacement, Corey White. The good news is Stephon Gilmore played a lock-down game. He finished with two tackles – but that’s a good sign, because teams aren’t throwing at him.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C+
Dan Carpenter’s missed extra point was a big let down after a late touchdown in the second quarter looked like it would tie the game. Luckily for Carpenter, it didn’t come back to haunt him, because the Bills later completed a two-point conversion. It was an odd call to have newly re-signed kickoff specialist Jordan Gay kick it short. Can’t Carpenter do that? Outside of poor coverage on that play, the rest of the afternoon was fine. Brandon Tate’s 43-yard punt return helped set up Buffalo’s first touchdown.
If there was a Wikipedia page devoted to coaches outthinking themselves, Rex Ryan deserves an entry for his decision in the fourth quarter. Ryan brought backup quarterback EJ Manuel into the game to run a hard count on fourth and 1 designed to try and get the Jaguars’ defense to jump offside. When they predictably didn’t do that, the Bills incredibly wasted a timeout instead of just taking the delay of game penalty. Had they figured out a way to lose, I would have written a book on how dumb that was. Instead, it’ll just be a footnote in a forgettable game.
Grading the Jaguars
RUNNING GAME: A-
Ivory was a beast before getting hurt, rushing nine times for 44 yards and a touchdown. When he went out, there was a noticeable drop off. Bortles will never be confused for Taylor as a runner, but he picked up big chunks of yardage on his way to a career single-game high of 81 yards. Second-round draft pick T.J. Yeldon surprisingly played despite not practicing all week with an ankle injury. That’s an easy decision to second-guess – he gained just 17 yards on six carries.
PASSING GAME: C+
For a former third overall pick, Bortles is thoroughly “meh.” To be fair, his receivers didn’t help him much, including when Allen Hurns dropped what could have been a huge gain on a third-down play on Jacksonville’s second possession. Hurns was targeted seven times, but made just one catch. Allen Robinson (two catches, 24 yards) is on pace to finish with less than 1,000 yards one year after recording 1,400.
RUN DEFENSE: D
What a change from one half to the next. The Jaguars were all over the ball in the first half, holding Buffalo to 25 yards on 11 carries. Things disintegrated in the second half, when the Bills piled up 128 yards on 18 carries. McCoy didn’t appear to be touched on his 75-yard run. That’s inexcusable at the NFL level. The Jaguars did make 10 tackles for loss, with old friend Paul Posluszny registering two of them.
PASS DEFENSE: B
First-round draft pick Jalen Ramsey gave up the 62-yard completion to Watkins, but the coverage really wasn’t terrible. It was just a perfect throw and catch. Likewise, safety Jonathan Cyprien didn’t do a bad job against Justin Hunter – it was just another perfectly placed ball. Outside of those two plays, the secondary played well. Cornerback Aaron Colvin in particular played a nice game.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-
Punt returner Rashad Green’s gloves must have been coated in wing sauce – he muffed two catches, but was able to recover both of them. Kicker Jason Myers doinked in an extra point. Punter Brad Nortman averaged just 31.7 net yards on six punts, largely because the coverage break down led to Tate’s 43-yard return.
Give Gus Bradley credit: His 2-8 team didn’t appear to mail it in. Ok, now stop doing that. He punted on a fourth and 1 in the fourth quarter with his team trailing by a touchdown! Perhaps Doug Marrone got on the headset and dialed that one up. Heaven forbid a coach who’s marching toward the guillotine show the least bit of forward thinking and actually go for it in that situation. SMH.