The Buffalo Bills got a bad break on the decisive play from scrimmage in their 23-20 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. That was the No. 1 play of the game. But the Bills caught a good break to prevent another Eagles’ score and failed to convert critical third-down plays against the NFL’s 26th-ranked defense.
Bottom line: Let’s not hear too much griping about the pick play no-call.
1. Picking and whiffing: Yes, the Eagles got away with an illegal pick on Zach Ertz’ 41-yard catch and run, which set up the winning field goal. Receiver Josh Huff intentionally collided with Corey Graham 3 yards downfield, which sprung Ertz for a first-down catch on a third-and- 3 play. However, Leodis McKelvin could have kept it to an 11-yard gain if he hadn’t missed a tackle at the Buffalo 48. There’s a good chance nobody’s talking about the pick if McKelvin does his job.
2. That was an INT? Credit McKelvin with making a nice play to intercept a pass for tight end Brent Celek at the Bills’ 5 in the third quarter. Was it a catch? Highly questionable. As McKelvin landed, it sure looked like the ball hit the ground, aiding McKelvin’s ability to complete the catch. The officials decided the replay was inconclusive. The Eagles would have had at least a field goal on the drive.
3. Thigpen blunder I. It’s a little tougher to catch kicks from left-footed punters, but that was no excuse for Marcus Thigpen’s muff of a second-quarter boot that gave the Eagles the ball at the Buffalo 37. The kick was straight down the middle of the field. It set up the Eagles’ second TD.
4. Key third down I. Tyrod Taylor threw incomplete for LeSean McCoy deep down the sideline on a third-and-5 play from the Eagles’ 36 late in the second quarter. Yes, McCoy was matched with linebacker Kiko Alonso, but Alonso was playing way off at the snap and protecting deep. The Eagles were playing coverage with a three-man rush. Go somewhere else with the ball.
5. Thigpen blunder II. The Bills had second and 2 from the Eagles’ 21 in the third quarter. McCoy ran 4 yards for the first down. But Thigpen came in motion on a fake reverse and was moving toward the line of scrimmage before the snap. It was a 5-yard penalty and the Bills settled for a field goal.
6. Key third down II. On a third-and-3 play from the Buffalo 26 with 9:37 left, Taylor threw deep down the right sideline on a wheel route for Chris Hogan. The receivers were stacked on both sides to set up a quick-separation throw. Just get the first down. It looked like Robert Woods was open over the middle.
7. Final INT. The Bills’ offense had two chances in the final three minutes to engineer a tying or winning drive but came up empty. On the last gasp, Taylor threw deep for Woods, but safety Ed Reynolds was over the top and made an easy INT. It was a third-and-8 play. There still was plenty of time, with 1:23 left. Keep moving the chains.
8. Watkins TD. Sammy Watkins was too fast for Eagles cornerback Bryan Maxwell on a 47-yard touchdown pass that tied the game, 7-7. It was another great deep ball by Taylor, on target just before Reynolds had room to make a play.
9. About time TD. The Eagles’ second touchdown was just what coach Chip Kelly had in mind when he reshuffled his receiving corps in the offseason. Rookie Nelson Agholor got behind the Bills’ secondary on a deep post and caught a 53-yard scoring pass from Sam Bradford. Kelly drafted Agholor with the 20th overall pick in April because of his 4.42-second speed in the 40-yard dash.
Kelly had let Eagles speed threat Jeremy Maclin leave in free agency because he deemed him too expensive. Maclin signed an $11 million-a-year deal with Kansas City and is having a big year with the Chiefs. Agholor isn’t having a big year. The catch was his 17th of the season and his first for a TD. Agholor ran a deep post. Graham took a bad angle on the play, and Agholor was too fast for him.
10. Gillislee TD. Alonso’s suspect run defense was on display on the 19-yard TD run by Mike Gillislee that tied the game, 20-20. Nice cut by Gillislee to get inside Alonso, who was over-pursuing on the sweep to the left. Good blocks came from Jerome Felton, Eric Wood and Cordy Glenn.