Be honest, Bills fans. How many of you had an "L" written down on the schedule for Sunday's game against the Broncos? Feel free to raise your hand. You're reading this by yourself, so it's not as if other fans are awaiting your response.
The Bills showed up to play Sunday, as they have in all three games under first-year coach Sean McDermott. If their win over the Jets came was dismissed based on the opponent, and their loss to the Panthers signified trouble for the offense, their 26-16 win over the Broncos confirmed they can play with anybody.
Denver was expected to be one of the better teams in the AFC, and Buffalo figured to be one of the worst. But parity in the NFL has a way of closing the gap, especially when the underdog is playing at home. The Bills didn't just show it could compete against Denver. They proved they could beat the Broncos.
And that's what they did.
The Bills improved to 2-1 with the Falcons coming up next week in Atlanta. The next step is showing they can win on the road. If they play the way they did Sunday, they could be 3-1 heading into a trip to the lowly Bengals, followed by the bye week, with home games against Tampa Bay and Oakland when they come back.
Wait just one minute. We're talking about Buffalo. People shouldn't get too far ahead of themselves. The Bills have teased their fan base numerous times over the years before coming up short of the playoffs. Buffalo still has a tough schedule. But for the first time in a long time, there were reasons for optimism.
The Bills still don’t view Tyrod Taylor as a franchise quarterback, but there's no denying his ability when he's at his best. The key for him has been giving him the time and space to maximize his ability. It means moving the pocket around and getting his legs moving before using his arm.
Taylor numbers were familiar Sunday: 20 of 26 passing for 213 yards and two touchdowns. On a day in which the Bills' had little success on the ground, he led them on two touchdown drives and four others that resulted in field goals. Stephen Hauschka made two from 50-plus yards.
Taylor gave the Bills a 20-16 lead in the third quarter with a series of plays that the Bills should use as an examples for their game plan. He rolled left and made a great throw to Nick O'Leary for a 31-yard gain. He hit a crossing Jordan Matthews for 25 and scrambled before finding Charles Clay in the end zone.
If the Bills could figure out a way to work to Taylor's strength while understanding his weakness, he could be effective. Too often during his time in Buffalo, he has been mostly mediocre while trying to avoid mistakes. It's as if his talent has been bottled up either by him or his team.
Taylor found a little rhythm, and a little fortune, on the Bills' first touchdown drive in two weeks. He was drilled to the turf on a pass that was up for grabs before falling into Kaelin Clay's hands for a 28-yard gain. Taylor's touchdown toss to Holmes was intended for Zay Jones before going through the rookie's hands.
The Bills' defense was solid for a third straight game and is shaping into the strength of their team. They were sound against the run before C.J. Anderson popped a 32-yard run, with 15 yards added when Micah Hyde was called for a personal foul. Jerry Hughes tapped into his antics last season and was called for roughing the passer.
Buffalo's D was still collecting itself when Jamaal Charles scored from the 12 to give the Broncos a 10-7 lead. The Bills never backed down. They played solid defense and gave Taylor and the offense a chance to make enough good plays.