Ten Plays that Shaped the Game: First-down passes kept Denver honest - The Buffalo News

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Ten Plays that Shaped the Game: First-down passes kept Denver honest

The Buffalo Bills used play-action passes effectively on first down to keep Denver's great pass rush from dominating the game.

Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor was 10 of 10 on first-down passes for 92 yards and a touchdown. Overall, the Bills called 13 passes and 12 runs on first down (not counting an end-of-game kneel-down).

Eight of those passes were play-action run fakes, and two were big plays. Here were 10 plays that shaped the Bills' 26-16 win over the Broncos.

1. Go-ahead TD. Taylor used a bootleg to the right to find tight end Charles Clay for a 6-yard scoring strike that put Buffalo ahead for good, 20-16.

Both Clay and tight end Nick O'Leary lined up to the right of the formation and blocked down to the left as LeSean McCoy faked a run to the left.

The first option was Jordan Matthews running behind the line and across the formation to the right pylon. Taylor showed patience waiting for Clay to shove Von Miller inside then break wide open in the middle of the end zone.

"We were trying to hide Jordan Matthews and get him to come out the back side," Taylor said. "The corner slow-played it and took it away, and Charles is the last option. Actually my option to run comes before Charles. But he was able to close the end down and as I was approaching the line of scrimmage he popped up."

2. Catch of the day. The go-ahead scoring drive started with a 31-yard pass to O'Leary. It was a bootleg to the left, and Taylor threw a dart on a dead run with Miller chasing him. O'Leary beat safety Will Marks across the field and got his toes inbounds while making a diving catch.

"For a tight end going about 30 yards down the field and keeping his feet in on a diving play was definitely a great catch," Taylor said.

3. Fake punt stop. Credit Bills special teamer Joe Webb with recognizing the Broncos were going to run a fake punt on a fourth-and-2 play from the Denver 31 late in the third quarter. De'Angelo Henderson, the Broncos' up-back punt protector, was stuffed for a 1-yard gain by Bills linebacker Deon Lacey.

"I knew 33 was a running back playing PP going into the game," Webb said. "Once I saw the offensive linemen run out on the field, I said the linemen are not about to run down the field to cover the kick. That was the key indicator. It was fourth and short, so that's a big indicator for a fake. So I'm hollering, 'Fake alert.' "

The Bills turned the change of possession into a field goal that stretched their lead to 23-16.

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4. Three-point play. Tre'Davious White made a fine recovery in coverage to force an incompletion on what would have been a 44-yard pass from Trevor Siemian to Emmanuel Sanders in the second quarter.

The Bills got mixed up in coverage against a cluster of three Denver receivers to the right. Bills safety Micah Hyde took the blame for not following Sanders deep but White left Demaryius Thomas in the underneath flat, chased down Sanders and knocked the ball out from behind. It was ruled an incompletion upon replay review.

"I take total responsibility for that, but Tre did an awesome job of not giving up and coming up and punching at that ball," Hyde said.

"Coach McDermott says it's all about how you finish," White said. "I'm always going for the ball. We practice punching the ball out."

The play would have given Denver a first down at the Buffalo 45. Instead, Denver punted from its own 6 and the Bills got a field goal on the ensuing drive.

5. Tip drill. The Bills got lucky on Andre Holmes' 2-yard TD catch in the back of the end zone in the second quarter. Taylor's underneath pass for in-cutting Zay Jones was high and went off the rookie's fingertips.

"I'm a viable option and that's kind of why I was able to get my head around and see the ball," Holmes said. "Because the way 29 was playing me, it's possible I could get a back-shoulder throw. It just so happened the ball skipped off and fell into my hands."

6. Hurry-INT. Defensive end Eddie Yarbrough rushed unblocked on a bootleg into Siemian's face to force a bad throw that White intercepted in the fourth quarter.

"They tried to do a play action," Yarbrough said. "I read it early and said I'm going to go get it. We had great coverage so either he was going to take a 15-yard sack or give his wide receiver a chance and throw it up for a 50-50 ball."

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7. Late over the middle. Those are four dirty words for a quarterback. Nobody was open for Siemian late in the down on a second-and-23 play in the third quarter. He threw it up anyway, and E.J. Gaines intercepted at the Denver 33.

8. 55-yard FG. Stephen Hauschka tied the game, 13-13, to end the first half.

9. 53-yard FG. Hauschka's kick from 53 in the fourth quarter made it 23-16. Throw in his 49-yarder, and he's the first Bills kicker to hit three FGs from 49 or more in a game.

10. See you later. Miller's fake-handshake taunting penalty on Taylor led to the Bills' final field goal.

Vic Carucci's Points After: Bills 26, Broncos 16

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