It was clear that Rex Ryan wasn’t supremely confident in his defensive secondary’s ability to cover the Oakland Raiders receivers Sunday.
Rex & Co. emphasized the coverage, not the pass rush, in the 38-24 loss to the No. 4-ranked passing team in the NFL.
The Bills spent a lot of the day rushing just three and dropping eight men back. With starting cornerback Ronald Darby out and Stephon Gilmore’s season going pretty good but far from awesome, the Bills were not going to leave their corners out on islands very often.
By quick count, the Bills rushed three and dropped eight on 12 pass plays. But Raiders quarterback Derek Carr still was good enough in the fourth quarter to pick apart the Bills’ zones. Buffalo blitzed five or more on just six plays. In a perfect world, the Ryan brothers would like to attack more than that. Ironically, Carr beat one of those few blitzes for the game’s go-ahead touchdown.
Here were Ten Plays That Shaped the Game:
1. Slant and go. The Bills were clinging to a 24-23 lead and the Raiders faced a second-and-10 situation. Buffalo blitzed Corey Graham and James Ihedigbo off left tackle as part of a five-man rush. That left Amari Cooper one on one against Kevon Seymour on the right side. Uh-oh.
Cooper, the fourth overall pick out of Alabama in 2015, is one of the most explosive receivers in and out of his breaks in the NFL. He faked the rookie Seymour with an inside slant then took off. Carr floated a perfect touch pass over Cooper’s shoulder for a 37-yard TD. The Raiders had a 30-24 lead 52 seconds into the final period.
2. Back shoulder. Usually you see back-shoulder passes to receivers down the sideline. Carr made a sweet, back-shoulder throw to the tight end up the seam two plays before the go-ahead TD. It was a three-man rush. Corey White had good coverage on Mychal Rivera, but the 6-3 tight end reached back and made a fine grab. That was a confident throw by a QB on the same wavelength as his receiver.
3. Back of the end zone. The three-man rush was beaten again on the TD that started the Raiders avalanche, a 3-yard throw from Carr to Michael Crabtree in the back of the end zone. Carr had all day to wait for Crabtree to make his way from the far side of a three-receiver set on the right across the back of the end zone. The two receivers inside of Crabtree ran hook routes, and Crabtree went behind them, with Seymour chasing all the way. It was a hard play for Seymour to stop. It pulled Oakland within 24-16 with 5:17 left in the third quarter.
4. Locomotive 52. Oakland got the insurance points it needed after Khalil Mack caused an interception with 10:45 left. He bull-rushed Bills right tackle Jordan Mills and hit Tyrod Taylor’s arm. The blooper pass was intercepted by safety Nate Allen at the Buffalo 16.
5. Crease for Shady. All LeSean McCoy needs is a crease. He ran 54 yards on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter. Tight end Nick O’Leary pulled around left tackle and blocked linebacker Perry Riley. Guard John Miller got to the second level and sealed off Malcolm Smith. McCoy blew through the alley to the Oakland 12.
6. Read-option TD. Yes, there was one play in which the Bills made Mack look bad. On the next snap after McCoy’s long run, Mack bit hard inside on a fake read-option handoff and Taylor zipped around him for a 12-yard TD.
7. Bloop punt. The momentum was shifting with 4 minutes left in the third quarter. Oakland was within 24-16. The Bills went three and out. Punter Colton Schmidt hit a low, 35-yard punt with no hang time that Jalen Richard returned 17 yards to the Buffalo 38. Bad time for a poor punt.
8. Power running. The Bills’ offensive line played physical in the run game. Mike Gillislee scored a 2-yard TD on a third-down play. Fullback Jerome Felton blew up Smith, and Miller knocked back Jihad Ward.
9. Goal-line save. Corey Graham had perfect timing in breaking up a seam pass at the goal line for Seth Roberts in the second quarter. It ultimately forced the Raiders to settle for a field goal.
10. Gassed. The Bills’ defense was getting tired in the third quarter. One of Oakland’s big plays was a zone run for 21 yards by Richard to set up the second Raider TD. Preston Brown couldn’t scrape over the top of a block fast enough.