Jerry Sullivan: Bills flying high, but did they miss on Deshaun Watson? - The Buffalo News

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Jerry Sullivan: Bills flying high, but did they miss on Deshaun Watson?

Column as I see 'em, Week Nine:

Tyrod Taylor had another efficient, winning performance against Oakland. He completed 74 percent of his passes, made some terrific throws, didn't stray too early from the pocket, and didn't turn the ball over for the fifth time this season.

Taylor is slowly building a case to remain in Buffalo next season. Let's face it, if the Bills make the playoffs, it will be hard for Sean McDermott to justify cutting ties with a quarterback who is popular with his teammates and exemplifies the team's resilient, underdog character.

It's feasible for the Bills to keep Taylor as a bridge QB, even at an $18 million cap hit, and take their next franchise guy high in the draft. The Chiefs are doing it. They have Alex Smith starting at a $17 million cap hit, with Patrick Mahomes, the 10th pick in the draft, waiting his turn.

The Bills are winning, and fans are giddy. But it doesn't change the fact that they still need a genuine franchise quarterback. Some day, the most significant story of this season might be that they didn't use that 10th overall pick of the draft on Deshaun Watson.

Watson has been a revelation in Houston, the runaway frontrunner for top rookie. Sunday at Seattle, he threw for 402 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-38 loss. Watson ran for 67 yards, becoming the first player in NFL history with 400 yards passing, four TD passes and 50 rushing yards in a game.

He also became the first rookie to throw at least three TD passes in four straight games, and broke Kurt Warner's record by throwing 19 touchdown passes in his first seven NFL games, tied with the Eagles' Carson Wentz for the league lead. And he didn't start the opener.

OK, so he threw three interceptions, including one desperation throw in the final seconds. But Watson has carried the Texans, same as his did Clemson when it won the national title a year ago. He has led Houston to 195 points in its last five games (39 ppg), three of them losses.

Watson took on a Seattle defense that has been among the best in the league for six years and didn't blink. He threw a 72-yard TD bomb to DeAndre Hopkins to give the Texans the lead in the fourth, only to see Russell Wilson drive the Seahawks to a winning TD with 26 seconds left.

Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, not one to shower praise on an opponent, embraced Watson for eight seconds after the game and told the rookie it was "the best game any quarterback has ever played against us, and we’ve played all the legends."

"He threw a couple of picks, and nothing changed. He was just totally unafraid,” Sherman said.

That's the mark of the great quarterbacks. They don't play safe to avoid mistakes, they remain defiant and keep attacking. Watson has completed 62 percent of his passes for 1,699 yards. His total QBR rating of 81.8, which factors in running, is the best in the league. Taylor's is 52.2.

Granted, Watson will stumble along the way, as all rookies do. There are no guarantees that he'll sustain his elite level. Other quarterbacks have fizzled after promising starts. Robert Griffin III comes to mind. There's also Colin Kaepernick.

But Watson has the look of a superstar. It's hard to fathom how so many NFL teams, including the Bills, convinced themselves he didn't have greatness in him. It's nice to win with marginal players. But at some point, you need to find stars. Especially at the game's most vial position.

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After the Raiders game, someone asked Kyle Williams if he was at all concerned that the Bills had allowed more than 300 passing yards for the third game in a row. After all, they're not giving up many points.

"I think turnovers and points, right," the veteran defensive tackle said. "Those are what you look at, especially points. If you're limiting points, it's hard to beat you. You can get all the yards you want."

Good point. The Bills slid to 17th in overall defense. They've allowed 360-plus yards in five straight. So what? They're second in the NFL in fewest points allowed with 115, second only to Marcell Dareus' new team, the Jaguars. They lead the league in takeaway-giveaway ratio at plus-14.

Ask the Patriots what's more important. They've finished lower in total defense than scoring defense in 14 of the last 16 seasons. Last season, they were eighth in yards allowed but first in fewest points given up.

"We want to be better in some situations and play a cleaner game," Williams said. "But at the same time, if we can continue to limit points and get the ball back for our defense, I feel good about where we're headed."

* * *

Deshaun Watson shouldn't feel too bad about that game against Seattle. He lost to Russell Wilson, one of the NFL's great clutch quarterbacks and the second highest-rated of all time, behind Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and one spot ahead of Tom Brady.

Wilson's name doesn't always come up in conversations of the top QBs. All he does is win and rise up in the big moment. Wilson was clearly primed against the NFL's hot rookie. He threw for a career-high 453 yards, including 183 yards and two TDs in the game's final nine minutes.

He did it with a poor offensive line and no running game. Seattle's running backs had 16 carries for 5 yards against Houston. Wilson is 61-25-1 as a starter and has lost only six times at home. He's never missed a start and is 8-4 in the playoffs with one Super Bowl win and nearly another. He has a career average per pass attempt of 8.0, tied with Steve Young for the best since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.

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Is He Owned? This week's featured fantasy find is Tyler Lockett, who caught six of Wilson's passes for 121 yards against Houston. Lockett, a third-year pro from Kansas State, has no TDs, but he's third in targets and second in pass routes for Wilson, so he's worth a look.

Lockett has 26 catches for 345 yards. He caught a 54-yard bomb to set up a TD in the fourth quarter, then a 19-yarder with 46 seconds left, one play before Wilson's game-winning throw to Jimmy Graham. Lockett returns punts and kickoffs and runs once a game, so a breakout could be coming.

He's available in both my leagues. Pay attention. Last week's choice, JuJu Smith-Schuster, had seven catches for 193 yards, including a 97-yard touchdown, in the Steelers' next game.

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Stats Incredible: The Bills have 17 takeaways through seven games. They had 17 all last season ... The Niners are 3-25 in their last 28 games. All three wins have come against the Rams ... Miami has been outscored by 60 points this season. They're last in the NFL in scoring and total offense. Somehow, they're 4-3 ... Drew Brees didn't throw a TD pass in the Saints' 20-12 win over Chicago, the first time he didn't throw for a TD in a win since 2009, against Rex Ryan's first Jets team ... Wentz set a team record with 19 TD passes through the first eight games. He has a good chance to break Sonny Jurgensen's Philly team record of 31 in a season. Jurgensen also holds the Redskins' record with 31 ... Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa is the first player in NFL history with 19 sacks in his first 20 NFL games. Bruce Smith had 9.5 ...

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