» Grading the Bills
B- It was boom or bust for LeSean McCoy. Granted, this injury-riddled offensive line is to blame, too – McCoy was met in the backfield immediately at times. But on Sunday, the Bills’ starting back had six runs of zero or negative yardage. He managed to bounce outside into open space just enough to finish with 68 yards on 18 attempts, but this is the player the Bills knew they were getting in the offseason. He’ll break free for 15 when you least expect it, but also get wrapped up for a loss of 3 or 4 that puts you behind the sticks.
D EJ Manuel threw two of the best passes he has in his entire career – a picturesque 16-yarder to Robert Woods on a rope for a score and another 58-yard bomb deep to Marcus Easley for a score. He also fumbled away a Jags touchdown, threw a pick-six, followed by another pick, missed several receivers high and low (Chris Gragg in the corner, then again deep middle), had another pick dropped in the end zone, didn’t see two open receivers in the end zone on a field-goal drive and also fumbled on a third and short. Supporters will point to the Bills’ rally, but the gift-wrapped 20 points and wild inconsistency buried Buffalo this game.
C A goal-line stand by Buffalo on the first drive of the second half prevented this game from speeding into a 34-13 rout. The Bills formed a wall up front and swarmed to Toby Gerhart on four straight runs from the 1-yard line to even give them a shot at coming back in London. But T.J. Yeldon was a problem all game. He ran right past IK Enemkpali – the linebacker’s back turned – for 12 yards one play. And on his 28-yard touchdown, Yeldon seemed to bottled up at the line, but escaped Corey Graham’s grasp, Preston Brown got lost in the muck and Mario Williams was driven into the turf.
B- Pressure led to points. Rex Ryan sending seven rushers at Blake Bortles paid off late in the form of Graham’s pick-six. But pressure also backfired on the Jaguars’ first touchdown. And while Bortles was hurried all game, he was only hit three times and sacked twice. Good call on Ryan’s part to ramp up the four- and five-man rush, but Bortles escaped when it mattered on the game-winning touchdown. Buffalo made him uneasy (74.2 rating) but was always a split-second away from a hit and a big play.
C Dan Carpenter, Jordan Gay and Colton Schmidt were money. Gay booted five touchbacks, Carpenter was good from 31, 38 and 26 yards out and Schmidt netted 49.3 yards per punt. It’s worth keeping so many specialists on the roster. But yet again, penalties backfired for Buffalo’s special teams units. A 32-yard punt return by Denarius Moore was called back on an illegal block by Randell Johnson and Boobie Dixon had a false start on a punt.
C Offensive coordinator Greg Roman didn’t have much to work with. It’d be great to get his unfiltered thoughts on how Buffalo handled the quarterback position upstairs. Given the EJ Manuel card he was dealt and the fact he was without Sammy Watkins, Karlos Williams, Percy Harvin, Seantrel Henderson and John Miller, it’s impressive Roman got 26 first downs and 375 total yards out of this offense. On defense, players spoke up to Rex Ryan during the week and he listened, adjusting his game plan. Admirable. But still, this is a staff that was unable to beat the 1-5 Jacksonville Jaguars, a team perpetually abysmal.
» Grading the Jaguars
B+ T.J. Yeldon pounded away at the Bills’ defense for 5.8 yards per carry after averaging 4.3, 2.8, 3.0, 4.8 and 2.9 yards per carry his first five games. As the Jaguars’ lead back, the rookie out of Alabama rammed through Buffalo’s front for 115 on 20 attempts. He lowers his shoulder and always gets what he can, rarely juking outside of the hole. Toby Gerhart’s four straight failed runs from the goal line were bizarre – why not feed the hot hand? Gerhart has been a slow plodder since inking a three-year, $10.5 million deal in Jacksonville.
B- Quick: Would you trade Buffalo’s quarterback situation for the one in Jacksonville? You at least must pause to think. Blake Bortles was rough in his own right Sunday, skidding passes into the dirt and throwing a horrid pick-six. Yet he didn’t make as many mistakes as Manuel and stepped up when needed, taking a hit on the third-down touchdown to Allen Robinson and scrambling left on the game-winner. The former third overall pick has at least shown glimpses of being a franchise quarterback in his two years. He’s on pace for 4,000-plus yards and 34 touchdowns this season.
B- The Jaguars didn’t let McCoy run wild, holding him to fewer than 4 yards per carry. Manuel slipped free occasionally (38 yards on eight attempts) but wasn’t anything close to the threat Tyrod Taylor poses on the run. Taylor’s 4.5 wheels are needed ASAP in Buffalo’s offense. Against Manuel – as they’ve done vs. the likes of Cam Newton, too – the Jaguars loaded the box to stop the run early on, got the big lead and were able to back off … and barely hang on for the win.
C+ OK, so the Jaguars kindly swiped away Manuel’s gimmes in the first half. Linebacker Telvin Smith also dropped an interception in the end zone, cornerback Dwayne Gratz was burnt by Marcus Easley (who had two career catches into Sunday) for a 58-yard touchdown and both Robert Woods (84 yards) and Chris Hogan (56 yards) found wiggle room underneath for 15 combined catches. Then, Aaron Colvin provided the clinching pass break-up, breaking on a fourth-down ball to an open Woods. Liked the play call, but Manuel’s pass hung just enough in the air to give Colvin time to break.
C The Jaguars’ average starting field position was their own 25-yard line. And a missed extra point in the first half – Jason Myers’ kick sailed wide right – could’ve cost them later in the game. Jacksonville also had a player get a penalty for running out of bounds on a punt and was indecisive on their kick returns, unsure whether to take them out or not.
B Doug Marrone’s offensive line couldn’t impose its will on the Bills at the goal line, but he’ll sleep just fine at night. Marrone was able to beat the team he abandoned on New Year’s Eve. Overall, Yeldon had running room and his line allowed only two sacks. The head man, Gus Bradley, has been under fire – he’s 9-30 as coach – but one report indicated his job his safe through this season and next. The fact that his team nearly squandered a 27-3 lead sure isn’t a good look. .