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Jerry Sullivan: Bills win, but don't read too deeply into it

Sean McDermott had just won his opening game as an NFL head coach. The Bills had defeated the hapless Jets on Sunday, 21-12. The process was off to a rousing beginning, and he made sure to spread the credit around.

"Praise God," McDermott said in his post-game presser. "That was a great team victory. Thank Terry and Kim (Pegula) for giving us the resources that they give us. It was an entire building win."

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I don't think of New Era Field as a "building," but the coach had a good point. McDermott made sure to praise the fans for bringing their typical energy and passion. Maybe season tickets are down this season, but the enthusiasm of the true Buffalo diehards doesn't appear to have diminished.

They had plenty to cheer about in the opener, which elevated the Bills to sole possession of first place in the AFC East for at least a week. The defense, McDermott's specialty, played a strong game, albeit against the worse offense in the NFL. They were resilient after some early stumbles.

But as far as resources go, there's one important item that McDermott could use from ownership: A legitimate deep receiver. Not to rain on anyone's parade, but that natural resource was shipped out the door when the Pegulas signed off on the trade that sent Sammy Watkins to the Rams last month.

You can argue all you want about that deal. I was in favor. But what's beyond debate is that the Bills do not have a wideout who can terrorize defenses deep the way Watkins did in those rare times when he was at full strength and operating on the same frequency as Tyrod Taylor.

That was evident on Sunday. Granted, the Bills didn't need to stretch the field with their wideouts. The Jets were that bad, and Taylor spend much of the afternoon playing catch with tight end Charles Clay (four catches, 53 yards) and star tailback LeSean McCoy (five grabs for 49 yards).

Clay, who was a highly compensated invisible man for much of his first two seasons in Buffalo, was targeted nine times. Taylor threw toward McCoy six times. He targeted his two wideouts, Jordan Matthews and rookie Zay Jones, only seven times, and those two combined for three just catches.

"It was good balance offensively," McDermott said. "We spread the ball around."

McDermott said the Bills took advantage of what the defense gave them. He said stats don't necessarily reflect balance. Taylor agreed, and said the Bills felt they could exploit the Jets' inexperienced and inferior linebacking crew with throws to Clay and McCoy, and there's some truth to that.

"Those outside targets will definitely come," said Taylor, who was 16 of 28 passing for 224 yards and two TDs. "It's a game of matchups. Each game is different, and we want to be able to take advantage of those matchups."

They'd better, because the Bills aren't going to beat the good teams if they can't get their wideouts more involved down the field. It wasn't all balance on Sunday. On several occasions, Taylor had to scramble or dump off because Jones, Mathews and Andre Holmes were being blanketed one-on-one down the field.

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It was a nice win, but it was hard to draw any hard conclusions. The Bills were a nine-point favorite and won by nine. The Jets were supposed to be the worst team in the league and played like it. It's hard to believe Colin Kaepernick can't find a job in the league, while there are two Jets quarterbacks even worse than Josh McCown.

Actually, it resembled a lot of Bills wins from the recent past. They ran for 190 yards and averaged 4.5 yards a carry. McCoy was sensational with 159 yards from scrimmage and nearly broke a couple of long ones. The defense dominated a weak opponent. They did that several times last year, then teams with real weapons came along.

Remember the Rex Ryan model? Sunday was a reasonable facsimile. Run the ball, play strong defense and special teams and ask Taylor to play a conservative, mistake-free game and run from trouble when he has to.

They ran 60 percent of the time (42 of 70 plays). Taylor, who is 1-10 in his career when he throws 30 or more times, didn't have to touch that threshold again.

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Sunday's win did nothing to convince me that Taylor will be the starter in Buffalo next year. Yes, he made some good, short throws over the middle. He made some plays with his legs, as usual. But he gave up on some plays and had a couple of passes batted down at the line, which is becoming more of an issue.

Taylor also made a couple of high throws when he seemed to be concerned about getting his passes batted back in his face. In his third year as a starter, opposing coordinators have a book in Tyrod. It'll be even easier to prepare for him this season, knowing his receivers are limited down the field.

So cue the "Shout" song and enjoy it while you can. The Bills honored the members of the 1992 Houston comeback game at halftime, reminding optimistic fans that miracles can occur in the NFL. Who says this can't be the season when they end the 17-year playoff drought, the longest in major pro sports?

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Uh, I do. It looks like the same old Bills, without Watkins and with a new secondary. They look like a team that could lead the NFL in rushing and finish with a losing record. We've seen that show before. It was a great model in the 1970s, but it's not how you win in an era when 70 percent of the yards come through the air.

McDermott conceded that it was only one win and that the Bills have a lot of room for improvement. He said it was important to keep things in perspective. That starts with acknowledging that the Jets are in the tank.

"Oh, man. I've got a long list," McDermott said. "I was making a list during the game. Fundamentally, we've got a lot to do. I'll know a lot tomorrow after I look at the film in the morning."

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The film won't lie. It'll tell him his wide receivers aren't getting much separation and stretching the field. In time, it'll become clear that he needs a speed receiver and a true franchise quarterback.

That's why the Bills have collected six picks in the first three rounds of next year's draft. The most vital resources are yet to come.

Watch: Our Team's Takeaway following the Bills' opening win

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