Share this article

print logo

Bills didn't accomplish much, but at least they're not 'that' team

The formula was downright Darwinian. Pound away at the pathetic Cleveland Browns with a relentless rushing attack. Waste no time sapping them of whatever will they might have had left as the NFL's lone winless team.

Survival of the fittest -- or at least as fit as the Bills can be on the verge of missing the playoffs for a 17th straight season and seemingly destined to change coaches for the second time in three years.

But they did execute the plan to perfection on the way to Sunday's 33-13 victory at New Era Field.

What the outcome actually meant is debatable. After victories by Miami, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Tennessee and Houston, the lights grew dimmer on the Bills' postseason hopes. Multiple media reports, including one by ESPN's Adam Schefter Sunday morning, say Rex Ryan appears destined to lose his job after the season ends on Jan. 1.

Nevertheless, he can take solace in the fact that the 7-7 Bills didn't become "that" team Sunday afternoon.

"Sometimes you're nervous when you play an opponent like that, because you definitely don't want to be the team that gets beat by them," Ryan said.

The Bills avoided that fate with a complete effort. Their defense never allowed the Browns to feel an ounce of confidence. Quarterback Robert Griffin III did some impressive running, especially on an 18-yard touchdown, that resembled his dynamic rookie season in Washington. But he couldn't find any traction whatsoever through the air.

Primarily, though, this day was all about the Bills' dominance on the ground.

They ran for 280 yards and a season-high three touchdowns. The 0-14 Browns are awful in pretty much every phase, but they're especially bad at stopping the run. The Bills have the best running game in the league.

Offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn was to the point in telling his unit what it needed to do to win: Be physical up front and the rest will take care of itself.

"They had a lot of guys in the box, but you're still running it successfully," center Ryan Groy said. "That's power football, that's hard to keep up with. That's what you want to do. It was awesome."

The Bills often lined up in I-formation, with LeSean McCoy and fullback Jerome Felton in the backfield, and dared the Browns to stop them. The line consistently blew defenders off the ball and Felton spent most of the game serving as a human sledgehammer as McCoy finished with 153 yards - pushing him past 1,000 for the season - and a pair of scores.

"The biggest thing is that you don't want to give them hope," Felton said. "Off the bat, you want to set a tempo to the game, and we were able to do that."

The Bills rushed for 97 yards in the first quarter, 62 by McCoy, in building a 10-3 lead on a three-yard scoring run by Mike Gillislee.

Moving the ball on the ground was so easy for the Bills that receiver Brandon Tate ran for 30 yards even after catching Gillislee's bad pitch from Wildcat formation. It was so easy that it looked like last Sunday's loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers, when Le'Veon Bell trampled the Bills for 236 yards, in reverse.

"They get tired when you're firing off the ball and coming downhill on them," Felton said of the Browns. "And that doubt and the (winless) season probably seeps into their mind, so it was important to get off to a fast start and we talked about that before the game."

Ryan insists he isn't the least bit distracted by constant media discussion about being on borrowed time as the Bills' coach. More than half of the questions he fielded during his postgame news conference dealt with his uncertain future. Ryan was asked repeatedly about whether club owners Terry and Kim Pegula talked with him about his job status.

In every case, Ryan sidestepped the issue. He also did so without showing any sense that he was annoyed.

"I don't know what my future holds," Ryan said. "I just know I'm going to get this team ready to play on Saturday, on Christmas Eve (against Miami), and I'm excited about that."

His players have adopted a similar attitude.

They seem far more focused on the present than the future. Sunday's job was to dispose of the hapless Browns. Check. This Saturday's chore is to beat the Dolphins, who are starting backup quarterback Matt Moore while Ryan Tannehill is sidelined with a knee injury.

Whatever happens after that is in someone else's control.

"Outside looking in, there may have been a lot of things that have been said," said quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who threw for 174 yards and a touchdown, and ran for 49 yards. "But from the inside out, we are together. We're sticking together and kind of continue to keep battling."

The many scenarios needed for the Bills to reach the playoffs, beyond winning their final games against Miami and the New York Jets, aren't foremost on the minds of the players.

Felton, for one, doesn't want to be burdened by all of that. He's just thankful he has an opportunity to be a part of any team in the league -- even one with arguably more turmoil surrounding it than surrounds the Browns, who appear committed to retaining first-year coach Hue Jackson.

"I know we still have a chance, but that's not our focus right now," Felton said. "It's just all about winning the game at hand. Everybody wishes they were in our position to get to play this game. To be able to play in the NFL is an honor. You don't get many opportunities -- not only in a season, but in a career. Each and every one is important, whether people think it is or not, and we went out there and had a good time today."

There are no comments - be the first to comment