First quarter: Quick strike
Sammy Watkins’ touchdown drought is a thing of the past.
The Buffalo Bills’ rookie receiver found the end zone Sunday against the Oakland Raiders in the first quarter at O.co Coliseum.
Watkins caught a 42-yard pass from Kyle Orton for a touchdown on the Bills’ first possession, beating cornerback DJ Hayden in one-on-one coverage. Protection on the play was perfect, giving the route time to develop and Orton room to step into the throw.
The play marked Watkins’ first touchdown since Week Eight against the New York Jets, and his longest reception in that span, as well.
Tough start: C.J. Spiller’s return to the Bills’ lineup did not produce the desired results through one quarter. Spiller had three carries for minus-8 yards on the Bills’ first three possessions.
The real deal: Oakland rookie Khalil Mack, the University at Buffalo product, is legit. Mack made three tackles in the first quarter, including one on the Bills’ first play from scrimmage, when he dropped running back Fred Jackson for no gain.
Second quarter: Running in place
Cue up the Benny Hill theme song when the Bills’ offense takes the field. That 7-0 lead against the Raiders disappeared in the second quarter after the Bills managed to go three and out on offense five straight times.
On their first four possessions of the second quarter, the Bills ran 12 plays for 11 total yards of offense.
Continued poor play from quarterback Kyle Orton remains a problem, while the running game is also going nowhere. Buffalo attempted 10 carries, for just 5 yards, in the first half.
The Bills did manage to take some momentum into halftime when Dan Carpenter drilled a 54-yard field goal on the final play of the second quarter.
Big hole: With Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus out of the game with a knee injury, the Raiders began finding some running room in the second quarter. Oakland had 47 rushing yards in the first half, with 42 coming in the second quarter.
Reversed: The Bills caught a break when receiver Robert Woods’ apparent catch and fumble was overturned after a review and ruled incomplete.
Third quarter: Defense digs in
Once again, the Bills’ defense gave the team a fighting shot. The Bills trailed the Raiders, 19-10, after three quarters, but it could have been worse.
Oakland drove into Buffalo territory on each of its first two possessions to start the second half, but both times had to settle for field goals from Sebastian Janikowski, from 38 and 49 yards.
Each of Oakland’s field goals came after the bumbling Buffalo offense was forced to punt.
By a nose: Raiders tight end Mychal Rivera picked up a first down with less than 5 minutes to go in the third quarter by the nose of the football – literally. The Buffalo defense dropped eight men into coverage and Raiders quarterback Derek Carr dumped the ball to Rivera in the flat. His run after the catch gave him 5 yards, exactly the amount needed to move the sticks after a measurement.
Career long: Bills receiver Chris Hogan had a nice run after the catch late in the quarter for a 31-yard gain, establishing a new career-long reception. The play gave the Bills a first down at midfield.
Fourth quarter: Decisions, decisions
Members of the national media find it hard to fathom why there is a segment of Buffalo Bills fans who would like coach Doug Marrone to be replaced after the season.
So, for them, I present the following situation: Fourth and 1, ball at the Buffalo 46-yard line, 8:22 left in the game and the Bills’ playoff hopes on the line.
Marrone elects to punt. Seriously.
Of course, the Raiders drove 80 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown that gave them a 26-17 lead.
The decision played a huge part in why the Bills will miss the playoffs for a 15th straight season.
A rare miss: Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski gave the Bills a flicker of hope when he missed a 48-yard field goal coming out of the two-minute warning.