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Jay Skurski's Report Card: Running game was great, but Bills will want to run away from other grades

Grading the Bills

RUNNING GAME: A

Mike Gillislee summed things up nicely when he said “we did all we can do in the running game.” Ain’t that the truth. The rushing attack piled up a total of 212 yards on 30 carries – 7.1 yards per rush ­– with LeSean McCoy producing 130 of those yards on 17 carries and Gillislee chipping in 49 on eight attempts. We say it every week, but he can play. Fullback Jerome Felton was an absolute beast as a lead blocker. The league’s No. 1-ranked rushing attack had a favorable matchup and took full advantage.

PASSING GAME: F

It’s a problem when McCoy is the team’s leading receiver, as he was with seven catches for 61 yards. Buffalo’s longest completion was a 22-yarder to Justin Hunter that served as his only catch. Tyrod Taylor has now gone three straight games throwing for less than 200 yards. He and Sammy Watkins clearly weren’t on the same page on at least a couple occasions Sunday. The injuries at wide receiver certainly don’t help, but that excuse is getting old. General Manager Doug Whaley can share some of the blame for mismanaging the position if the players on the field can’t get it done.

RUN DEFENSE: D

It’s probably not the reason they lost, but it certainly wasn’t good. Safety Corey Graham got run over on a 22-yard gain by Latavius Murray in the first half. The goal-line defense didn’t offer much resistance in the second half when Murray scored twice, once from 1 yard out and another time from 3 yards away. A lack of big plays was evident, as the Bills didn’t have a single tackle for a loss. There were some positives, though, like when Shaq Lawson and Preston Brown combined to stop Murray for no gain on a third-and-1 play. Kyle Williams gave his usual solid effort, with nine tackles, including seven solo stops.

PASS DEFENSE: D-

For the first time this season, the Bills didn’t record a sack. In fact, they hit Raiders quarterback Derek Carr just twice. It was only a matter of time, then, before the secondary faltered, which it did in the second half. Rookie cornerback Kevon Seymour was the biggest victim, getting beat on a pair of touchdown passes. He broke up the first pass thrown his way, but was put in a tough spot starting on the outside for the first time in his career against such an explosive offense. Stephon Gilmore got called for a pass interference on third down that extended an Oakland drive and led to a field goal. The team continues its search for a safety opposite Corey Graham, giving converted cornerback Corey White a shot at the position.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D

Colton Schmidt earns this grade all by himself. The Bills’ punter produced plenty of groans in managing to place just one of his five attempts inside the Oakland 20-yard line. Schmidt had a net average of 36.4 yards and generally failed to adequately flip the field position. Brandon Tate averaged just 20.8 yards on four kick returns. The punt-coverage unit gave up a 17-yard return that helped set up an Oakland touchdown.

COACHING: F

For the life of me, I’ll never understand why Sammy Watkins and LeSean McCoy would come off the field for a third-and-goal play. Those are the two players who would actually put some fear into the opponent. Baffling. Even worse was the sequence at the end of the first half. The Bills were clearly trying to run out the clock to get to halftime, until throwing on a third-and-3 play. It was incomplete, saving the Raiders a timeout and leading to a punt. Oakland promptly went 57 yards in five plays for a field goal to trim their deficit to 10-9. It was a classic example of coaching scared. Players openly spoke of not handling adversity well. That’s troubling.

Grading the Raiders

RUNNING GAME: B+

Syracuse native Latavius Murray produced 82 yards on 20 carries, and showed a nose for the end zone by cashing in twice from in close. Oakland went 3 for 3 in goal-to-go situations. Jalen Richard is the Raiders’ version of Gillislee, and had a similarly productive day with 53 yards on nine carries. Both players had a 20-plus yard run. A reverse by Amari Cooper didn’t fool the Bills.

PASSING GAME: B+

Michael Crabtree dropped a touchdown in the first half, one of the most glaring errors in what was a slow start for the Raiders’ high-powered attack. Quarterback Derek Carr didn’t complete a great percentage by going just 19 of 35, but he threw a pair of touchdowns and racked up 260 yards. By his standards, that’s an OK game. By Bills standards, it would call for a parade. Seven different players caught at least one pass. The real star in the passing attack was Oakland’s offensive line.

RUN DEFENSE: F

Linebacker Perry Riley played a nice sideline-to-sideline game, finishing with 10 tackles. That’s about the only positive I can muster here. The Raiders were absolutely gashed on the ground, living down to their 30th-ranked average in yards per rush coming into the game.

PASS DEFENSE: A

Cornerback David Amerson had a terrific pass defensed on a ball intended for Watkins. Allen secured the pop fly that resulted when Khalil Mack knocked into Taylor’s arm in the fourth quarter. Mack and Bruce Irvin are a potent one-two punch as pass rushers, recording two of the Raiders’ four sacks.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A+

The pride of Walbrzych, Poland, 38-year-old Sebastian Janikowski, hits a 47-yard field goal to tie the game, 3-3, in the first quarter, then added two more kicks from 40-plus yards in the first half. Punter Marquette King looks like a Pro Bowler, placing two punts inside the Bills’ 20-yard line and averaging 40.2 net yards on five punts. The Raiders’ coverage teams were excellent, including when they downed a punt at the Buffalo 4-yard line.

COACHING: B-

A 51-yard completion to Amari Cooper on the game’s first possession was wiped out because of an illegal formation penalty. That’s pretty sloppy in Week 13. Crabtree took a taunting penalty after an incomplete pass. Not only is that dumb, it shows a complete lack of discipline. The page of the playbook that calls for Carr to run quarterback keepers should be ripped out and burned. That’s the bad. The good is the Raiders never panicked after falling behind by 15 points. Clearly, this is a confident bunch.

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