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Vic Carucci's Take Five: Bills can't allow themselves to be 'that' team

Here are my five takes on the Buffalo Bills' game against the Cleveland Browns Sunday at New Era Field:

1. Do not allow yourselves to be "that" team: As much as I want the rest of this piece to be read, this is truly the only take that matters.

For the Bills, there is something much worse than falling to 6-8 and being officially eliminated from the playoffs for a 17th consecutive season and being out of postseason contention with two games to play for the second year in a row.

It is serving up the only victory to an opponent that is 0-13 and hasn't won a game in more than a year.

The Bills just can't go there. They already have enough turmoil with the uncertain futures of coach Rex Ryan and quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Becoming the focus of an embarrassing national conversation would push them into the abyss.

Put it this way. The video of this game would make all of those clips of fans doing idiotic stunts in the parking lot seem like Oscar material.

2. Don't give the Browns an ounce of hope. The Bills have to make it clear to the Browns at the outset that they're on their way to loss No. 14.

The pass rush, which was non-existent last week against Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers, had better come to life against a team that has allowed an NFL-leading 48 sacks for minus-321 yards. The Bills have got to eliminate even the smallest possibility that Robert Griffin III, who seemingly has no business being a starter given how poorly he has played, is going to be able to make plays with his passing arm.

It might not feel like the most robust of home crowds, given the Bills' fairly hopeless state and the sorry opponent and the likelihood of unpleasant weather.

But the Bills still had better come out with a higher energy level than they displayed last week. The Browns might have long had good cause to check out on the season, but they would love nothing better than to share the shame of their laughing-stock status with someone else. Especially on the road.

3. Try actually tackling the guy with the ball. Le'Veon Bell is a tremendously talented running back, but no one should be able to rush for 236 yards in a game as he did last Sunday.

The only way such a performance happens is because defenders are either halfhearted in their efforts to tackle or are missing the target altogether.

The Browns have rushed for 1,250 yards and nine touchdowns. They're averaging 4.7 yards per attempt, which is slightly better than their opponents.

The Bills can't assume that, as I heard one old-time college football coach say many years ago, there will be "self-tacklization." Cleveland's running backs must be brought to the ground; they won't just fall down on their own. At least, I don't think so.

4. Tyrod Taylor has to start making some strong statements. And I'm not talking about him using more words in his news conferences, which have been reduced to him offering gestures as answers.

Taylor is in a tough spot. There were legitimate questions about whether he would be benched this week. Now, he's down to three games to prove he merits the Bills picking up the option on his contract extension.

The 13 games that Taylor has played this season have mostly shown regression, thanks in part to his lack of pocket poise but also to an inability to establish a whole lot of timing and rhythm with a constantly injured receiving corps.

He is feeling immense pressure. And he knows that, after Ryan, a loss to the Browns would weigh heaviest against him.

Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton will come after Taylor with the similar blitz packages that Taylor saw from the Steelers, with whom Horton received the bulk of his defensive education while working for former Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.

5. LeSean McCoy can't disappear again. Where was he against the Steelers?

Pittsburgh's defense was missing some key pieces that the Bills should have been able to exploit on the ground. Instead, McCoy finished with a mere 27 yards on 12 carries. That was a far cry from his superhuman output at Oakland the week before.

The Bills need the real McCoy to show up. If he and the rest of Buffalo's ground game is floundering again, the Bills could be in for some major humiliation.

 

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