In the first four games last season, the Bills were granted immunity for their .500 record because there were so many fresh faces in the organization. They had a new quarterback, running back and tight end that were playing behind a refurbished offensive line under a new coaching staff.
It was going to take time.
The Bills figured to be in better shape offensively this season with almost everybody coming back and offensive line essentially intact. The biggest question hanging over the unit was about Tyrod Taylor, who signed a six-year contract extension with the idea he would win games with his arm.
Buffalo’s defense, criticized sharply after underachieving last year, showed up and played the game Rex Ryan promised when he became the head coach. The offense failed the Bills against the Ravens, who made fewer mistakes and cranked up their own defense in a 13-7 victory over Buffalo.
Taylor is the offensive leader. He needs to make quicker reads and utilize the middle of the field. He needs to reconnect with Sammy Watkins after they finished strong last season. But the Bills aren’t going anywhere unless the offensive line gets its act together. The Bills’ most stable unit from last season was pushed around all afternoon Sunday.
If it’s not one thing, it another with the Bills. The names and faces change, but the game Sunday looked like many over the past 16 years and counting. The Bills played well in spots but not well enough. There’s no reason to panic, but there’s also no reason to believe the Bills can contend for a playoff spot this season.
Same old, same old with the emphasis on “old.”
The Bills had 160 total yards Sunday. Their lone touchdown came after Taylor, about to be swallowed for a sack, hit the B-button, spun out of danger and found Charles Clay for 33 yards. Taylor was under duress all afternoon while completing 15 of 22 passes for 111 yards. Take away the big pass to Clay on a busted play, and he gained 3.7 yards per attempt in the passing game.
At times, he was running for his life.
LeSean McCoy had little room in the running game and was limited to 58 yards rushing and a 1-yard TD. Take away his longest run (16 yards), and he gained 2.8 yards per attempt. Watkins was a non-factor with 43 yards receiving. It all started behind an O-line that couldn't block an email.
If it continues, it’s going to a very long season.
Of course, when it mattered most, with two minutes remaining and the Bills needing to make a stop, the defense failed. But it was the failure of the Bills’ offense, and four penalties taken by the special teams, that led to their doom. The Bills were fortunate to be trailing only, 10-7, at halftime and were shut out in the second half.
Sometimes, it’s the little plays that make a difference.
Ronald Darby had a sure touchdown but was unable to gather a poorly thrown pass from Joe Flacco that bounced off the cornerback’s hands. Taylor was dropped for a loss on a third-and-2 play in the third quarter after the offense showed signs of life. Clay made a fantastic catch on third-and-long in the fourth but was stopped a yard short.
Ryan talked about how his defense would be improved after hiring his brother and, you know, winning the offseason. The Bills picked up were Rob Ryan left off last season, when he was fired by the Saints after overseeing a bumbling unit finished at the bottom of the league.
Flacco had slow feet before he suffered a season-ending knee injury last season, so you figured the Bills would be putting as much pressure on him as possible. Buffalo had three men rushing the passer when Flacco found Mike Wallace open for a 66-yard TD in the second quarter after he beat Duke Williams.
At that point, the Ravens were outgaining the Bills, 204-7.
Buffalo had 2 yards in the first quarter. The Bills limited the Ravens to only 27 yards in a scoreless third quarter. Buffalo’s defense settled down and played well in the second half while waiting for the offense to gain its feet. The 'D' kept Buffalo in the game in the second half while watching the offensive line get knocked off its feet.
Now, with the Jets coming to town Thursday, they need to get back up.