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Jay Skurski's Report Card: Wild swings in game, wild swings in grades

Grading the Bills


LeSean McCoy deserves better from his 2016 season. The Bills’ running back piled up another 128 yards on 24 carries, an average of 5.3 yards per rush. The Bills ran for a whopping 272 yards on 49 carries, 5.6 yards per rush. Backup Mike Gillislee ripped off 91 yards on just 11 carries, an average of 8.3 yards per carry. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor chipped in 60 on the ground. The Bills’ No. 1 ranking on the ground is well deserved, but the reverse to Reggie Bush in overtime is one of the worst calls of the season, hurting the overall grade.


Tyrod Taylor’s finest moment as a member of the Bills ultimately came up short. He threw for 300 yards for the first time as a member of the team, finishing 26 of 39 for 329 yards and three touchdowns. He finished 6 seconds short of what would have been an impressive fourth-quarter comeback – just the third of his career. He got Charles Clay involved in the game again – the tight end had eight catches for 85 yards and a pair of scores. Sammy Watkins gutted out another strong performance – making seven catches for 154 yards and a score. But all of it went to waste.


Call it the sequel to the Miami Chain Saw Massacre. The Bills earned their second straight “R” grade against the Dolphins by getting sliced up for 261 yards on the ground – 5 more than in October – 206 of which went to Jay Ajayi. Leger Douzable sliding off Ajayi like he was coated in Vaseline in the first quarter summed up the afternoon pretty nicely. The tackling by the Bills hovered somewhere between abominable and atrocious, depending on the play.


A week after registering five sacks, the Bills’ pass rush wasn’t up to the task Saturday, failing to bring down Matt Moore even once. Buffalo had just two quarterback hits on the afternoon. The poor tackling wasn’t limited to the run defense – cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman couldn’t wrap up DeVante Parker on a 56-yard touchdown. Corey White did have an interception near the end of the first half that kept potential points off the board.


Good grief, Dan Carpenter. What was that? The Bills’ kicker likely kicked his way right out of Buffalo, missing a 45-yard field goal in overtime and a 46-yarder in the first half. Even worse than that was his disappearance before the locker room even opened. Way to stand up and face a few tough questions, Dan. The kickoff coverage allowed too many long returns, too. We’ve said this a lot this season, but Brandon Tate ripped off a nice, 24-yard punt return on his first attempt.


The Bills’ decision to punt in overtime might be the nail in Rex Ryan’s coffin. He should be fired for it, but it wasn’t his only transgression. The team came out throwing to start the game – a classic case of overthinking it by the coaching staff. But, man did it only get worse from there. In the first quarter alone, Ryan blew a challenge on an obvious completion, wasted a timeout when a player was way late coming on the field and called for a field goal on fourth-and-2 against the 30th-ranked rushing defense in the league. The only thing that was missing was a too-many-men-on-the-field penalty. After that abysmal effort, it’s hard to justify why he should stay.

Grading the Dolphins


So much for Jay Ajayi slowing down. The Dolphins’ running back had been held to less than 3.0 yards per carry in three of four games coming in, but looked exactly like the nightmare he was in Week Seven. Ajayi’s cutbacks left the Bills with no answers. Backup Kenyan Drake ripped off a 45-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, but this was the Ajayi Show all day.


Matt Moore showed why he’s considered one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league. He made an impressive throw to the sideline to convert a third-and-11 in the first quarter on the Dolphins’ first touchdown drive. The throw to White was a bad one, but Moore didn’t crumble, finishing the game 16 of 30 for 233 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Parker had 85 yardds, while Jarvis Landry gained just 29, with a lot of that coming after the catch.


This was bad enough for the Dolphins to get beat for most of the day, but came through when it mattered most. Miami got a fourth-and-1 stop for a turnover on downs, and Neville Hewitt made one of the biggest plays of the game when he dropped Reggie Bush for an 8-yard loss in overtime. That pushed the Bills back, and Carpenter missed the longer field goal. Kiko Alonso posing after making a tackle 5 yards downfield was a bad look for Miami.


The Dolphins didn’t have Byron Maxwell in the lineup, and man did it show. The secondary of Michael Thomas, Isa Abdul-Quddus, Xavien Howard and Tony Lippett got lit up time and time again. The low point came when Abdul-Quddus attempted to lay a big hit on Clay at the goal line, but got run over for a touchdown. He had to leave the game because of a neck injury. Cam Wake took advantage when the Bills asked Clay to block him to get a sack, one of two for the Dolphins. Miami hit Taylor six times.


Andrew Franks was 1 of 4 from 40-plus yards on field goals before making a 55-yarder near the end of regulation to tie the game. Given 10 chances at that kick, I’d say he makes it once or twice. Credit to him, though, he did when it counted. The Dolphins averaged 40 yards on two kickoff returns and 12.5 yards on two punt returns. Both are impressive numbers.


Adam Gase is an impressive play caller. Knowing that the Bills were having all sorts of issues tackling, he went to a run-heavy scheme that featured plenty of bubble screens and short passes designed to make the Bills make a play. Ultimately, they weren’t able to do that enough. Miami was penalized just twice for 15 yards total.

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