Grading the Bills
RUNNING GAME: A
The final numbers for LeSean McCoy look great – 27 carries for 151 yards and a touchdown. Although it didn’t feel like it, the 27 attempts were his most as a member of the Bills. Credit offensive coordinator Rick Dennison for sticking with the run after the Bills managed just 42 yards on 11 carries in the first half. Backup Mike Tolbert had just four attempts, gaining 14 yards, while quarterback Tyrod Taylor gained just 1 yard on six attempts.
PASSING GAME: B
Efficient is the best way to put it. Taylor completed 20 of 27 passes for 165 yards. That’ll work when the team runs for 166. McCoy was the leading receiver with six catches – three more than anyone else had. Zay Jones was involved early and made three catches for 32 yards. That’s not overwhelming, but it was at least a step in the right direction for the rookie. Andre Holmes showed good footwork both on his 6-yard touchdown catch and 36-yard grab down the right sideline.
RUN DEFENSE: A-
Did you miss Marcell Dareus? Neither did the Bills. Adolphus Washington started in Dareus’ place next to Kyle Williams and finished with three tackles, while Cedric Thornton chipped in two. Jerel Worthy was held off the stat sheet, but he rotated in, as well. Defensive end Jerry Hughes had the team’s only tackle for a loss. He’s been underrated against the run this year.
PASS DEFENSE: B
The Bills put a shaky opening drive behind them quickly. Safety Trae Elston, who started in place of Jordan Poyer, iced the win with an interception and led the team with 11 tackles. Safety Micah Hyde’s NFL-leading fifth interception was part of a four-takeaway day. Rookie cornerback Tre'Davious White had another pass defended. He spent much of the day shadowing, and shutting down, Amari Cooper. Shareece Wright, who started in place of E.J. Gaines, also had two passes defended.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-
Rookie Matt Milano forced a fumble by Raiders punt returner Jalen Richard that was recovered by Mike Tolbert and set up a field goal. Kicker Stephen Hauschka even forced a fumble, but the Bills couldn’t jump on that one. Punter Colton Schmidt dropped a beauty out at the 1-yard line, netting 43 yards on five punts. The only slip-up was on kick coverage, which allowed a 43-yard return.
Loved the call to go for the touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter while leading, 20-7. A field goal there and it’s still a two-possession game, so trusting the offensive line and Taylor to get the 1 yard into the end zone was a good call by Sean McDermott that paid off. Special teams coordinator Danny Crossman was clearly worried about the Raiders’ kick-return ability, which is why he ordered squib kicks from Hauschka. The only thing I didn’t like was McDermott’s challenge after a fourth-down run by the Raiders in the first quarter. It was hard to see how the spot of the ball was overturned.
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Grading the Raiders
RUNNING GAME: F
Where are you, Marshawn Lynch? Without the former Bills first-round draft pick — out because of a one-game suspension — the Raiders had nothing doing in the backfield. Washington and Richard each averaged more than 4.0 yards per carry, but neither got more than six attempts. The Raiders totally abandoned the run in the second half, with just three attempts.
PASSING GAME: C
Derek Carr was surgical on the first drive, which covered 81 yards in 13 plays. The Raiders couldn’t sustain that success, though, on a cold, rainy day. Carr rarely challenged the Bills down the field, saying that “they definitely changed up the way they were covering some things. … You’ve got to aggressively just keep taking what they give you, which at times is frustrating, especially when you’re trailing.” Amari Cooper had five catches for 48 yards a week after topping 200. A lot of Oakland’s yardage came in garbage time.
RUN DEFENSE: D
Oddly enough, the Raiders had eight tackles for loss without recording a sack. That shows it was a boom-or-bust kind of day. Linebacker NaVorro Bowman led the team with 11 tackles, while Cory James had three tackles for loss. Oakland hadn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher the first seven games of the year. Nose tackle Justin Ellis did a nice job in the middle of the line, with six tackles.
PASS DEFENSE: C
Down a pair of starting cornerbacks in David Amerson and Gareon Conley, as well as safety Karl Joseph, the Raiders put together a decent effort in the secondary. Cornerback T.J. Carrie slipped on Holmes’ touchdown catch. Oakland’s pass rush produced four quarterback hits, but couldn’t register a sack. Khalil Mack was a non factor, with just two tackles.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D
A pair of fumbles, one by Cordarrelle Patterson, one by Jalen Richard, were costly. Punter Marquette King was limited during the week because of a groin injury. Perhaps that impacted him, as he had just a 34-yard net average on four punts. Linebacker Shilique Calhoun took a holding penalty on the punt-return unit, costing Oakland decent field position.
I liked the aggressiveness of Jack Del Rio to go for it on fourth-and-2 on the opening drive. The conversion led to a touchdown. Offensive coordinator Todd Downing, already under fire in the first half of the season, is going to be even more under the microscope for calling such a conservative game. The Raiders made wide receiver Seth Roberts active even though he was sick, hoping he could play after getting some fluids. That decision backfired.