Take away his No. 21 jersey, and Nickell Robey-Coleman could walk down most streets in Buffalo without being recognized as a cornerback for the Bills. He stands 5-foot-8 and weighs 165 pounds, making the fourth-year NFL veteran smaller on average than men who watched from the stands Sunday.
Robey-Coleman stood in his locker stall after the Bills’ 28-21 victory over the Jaguars and reaffirmed that he was like everybody else on an emotional level, too. The Bills have been so wildly inconsistent that nobody is sure what to expect from one play to the next, let alone one game to the next.
“Just like they spectating, we spectating, too,” Robey-Coleman said. “We just have the best seats in the house. That’s it. We’re front row, and y’all are 10 feet behind us. It’s that exciting feeling. … It’s like a movie. We don’t know what’s going to happen. But it’s exciting. It’s fun.”
For the better part of the game Sunday, considering the gruesome display from both offenses, it looked more like a horror show. It was worse than watching the U.S. presidential election. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were the only two people from major parties who could have possibly lost to the other.
Jacksonville was the only team with an ounce of credibility – thus eliminating Cleveland – that could have lost to Buffalo. The Bills weaved incredible plays into an otherwise incredulous performance, particularly in the first half. They played just well enough to pull away in the fourth quarter.
In a befuddling reenactment, the Bills’ shortcomings were quickly dismissed in victory for the second straight week. No matter how they won, they won. It beat the alternative. They improved to 6-5 and remained in contention for the playoffs. They’re headed to Oakland for another big game next week. That much we know. And that’s about all.
Good luck figuring out this team.
Sunday’s game was a microcosm of the Bills’ season, no more thrilling, maddening or telling than a majority of their games. They started slow, fell behind, rallied, returned to mediocrity and eventually moved ahead. It had the familiar twists and turns of an unpredictable team dancing in step with an unpredictable league.
“They’re on the edge of their seats,” safety Corey Graham said. “Sometimes, we’re the same way on the bench. You don’t know what’s going to happen. It goes like that sometimes. Today was a day when we were able to get the job done. We have to continue to win. We would rather it was a blowout and was simple, but it’s rare.”
Buffalo had 55 total yards in the first two quarters, was booed off the field after three particularly grisly possessions and somehow trailed, 7-6, at halftime. The Bills and Jags traded the lead five times. It reads like a great game, but the two teams weren’t kidding anybody who actually watched the contest unfold.
Man, it was ugly.
Jacksonville had not scored a touchdown on their first possession in 24 consecutive games before marching 75 yards on their opening drive Sunday. The Bills’ offense was putrid in the first half, scored three times in their first four possessions in the second half. Buffalo’s defense was solid in second quarter, participated in the mannequin challenge in the third and reappeared in the fourth.
“It’s been our team the whole year: inconsistency,” Lorenzo Alexander said. “We have to figure out how to play for four straight quarters. Once we’re able to do that, we’ll be tough to beat. It’s the difference between average teams and teams that are 9-2 right now. They play consistent football. We haven’t figured it out quite yet.”
LeSean McCoy gained 5 yards on eight carries before popping a 75-yard touchdown run on the first play of the third quarter. Tyrod Taylor was dreadful for much of the afternoon. He had only 48 yards passing in the third quarter when he found Sammy Watkins for 62 yards with a heave down the sideline.
McCoy had 103 yards rushing and two touchdowns while Taylor completed 12 of 18 passes for 166 yards, one touchdown passing, 38 yards rushing and another TD, and no interceptions. You want familiarity? Taylor threw for the exact same yardage and rushed for one fewer yard last week against the Bengals.
Looks can be deceiving, as they say.
Bortles, a marginal quarterback at best, completed only 13 of 26 passes for 126 yards. He rushed for 81 yards, outgaining Taylor gained on the ground. Do you credit the Bills’ defense for terrible quarterbacking or blame the quarterbacking for making Buffalo’s defense look good? Take your pick. You can’t be wrong.
No matter, the Bills haven’t shown they can be trusted. Watkins was terrific in his return Sunday, but he has been injured eight times over his 32 games in the NFL. Marcell Dareus was a beast. He’ll need to stay on the field and stay out of trouble. Both have been chores for him.
Two years ago, the Bills were 8-6 and still in contention for a playoff spot when they traveled to Oakland. The 2-12 Raiders won, 26-24, and eliminated the Bills from the postseason. There’s no telling what’s going to happen next week. But given the Bills’ history over the past 16 seasons, you get a sense how the season will end.
Robey-Coleman had a message for people who were on the edge of their seats Sunday and others who headed for the exits after the first half. It’s too early to start the music and roll the credits. People should sit back and enjoy the show knowing there’s another episode Sunday.
Said Robey-Coleman: “To be continued.”