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Bucky Gleason: Quarterback gets last laugh after Taylor-made victory over Broncos

Bucky Gleason

Tyrod Taylor admitted after the game Sunday that the joke was on him. Shame on him for falling for the oldest trick at the playground, for believing Von Miller had experienced a weak moment with an ounce of civility when he extended his right hand to the quarterback midway through the fourth quarter.

No matter how many times Charlie Brown convinced himself that, yes, this would be the time Lucy would allow him to kick the ball, she stayed committed to tormenting him and pulled it away. In similar fashion, Taylor convinced himself that his old buddy from the 2011 draft would actually help him to his feet.

Taylor extended his hand toward Miller – psyche! – the linebacker pulled it away at the last moment, in a light moment, before a sunbaked crowd at New Era Field. They retreated to their respective sidelines chuckling before an official ruled Miller crossed the line dividing entertainment from ridicule.

Good heavens, man, lighten up.

Even Taylor thought it was funny.

"We were just laughing," Taylor said. "I've known him for a good while now. I stuck out my hand and thought he was going to help me up. It was like an old-school move. Stuff happens in a game. I don't really expect people to help me up. But at the time, he extended his hand. I got played in that situation."

Taylor had the last laugh, of course, after the Bills' 26-16 victory over the Broncos on a beautiful afternoon. Miller's unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the third-down incompletion gave the Bills' offense a first down it desperately needed while trying to hold a 23-16 lead midway through the fourth quarter.

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The penalty also gave Taylor what he craves more than anything while trying to prove he's a franchise quarterback: time and space. The Bills were awarded a critical first down, allowing them to continue their march, burn another 4½ minutes off the clock and set up Stephen Hauschka for a chip shot and the final score.

Really, the joke was on Miller.

"I've closed games 50 million times," Miller said. "I've got to be smarter than that. I'm always on the young guys, be smart. And then I go out and do something like that in a critical situation in the game. It hits you in the stomach."

If their win over the Jets was dismissed based on the opponent, and their loss to the Panthers signified trouble for the offense, their victory over the Broncos suggested the Bills can play with anybody. Denver was expected to be one of the better teams in the AFC, and Buffalo figured to be one of the worst.

Taylor had his share of good fortune Sunday. In the second quarter, he was drilled while releasing a pass that was up for grabs before landing safely in the arms of Kaelin Clay for a 28-yard gain. It set up a touchdown pass that deflected off Zay Jones and found Andre Holmes in the end zone.

But Taylor also delivered a few gut punches of his own. He completed 20 of 26 passes for 213 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He was resourceful in the passing game, made no major mistakes while managing the game and finished with the highest single-game completion percentage of his career.

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The Bills installed an attack tailor-made for their quarterback, enabling him to maximize his ability while minimizing his shortcomings. He moved around the pocket Sunday, and away from Miller, and threw on the run. He found different paths over the middle and connected with Charles Clay six times.

For one week, anyway, he quieted calls for rookie Nathan Peterman.

"Sometimes, you get wrapped up in what you don't have or what you could have instead of focusing on what you do have and using it to the best of his abilities," LeSean McCoy said. "The game plan was all made for him – the play-actions, the roll outs, throwing deep, having that ability to run or throw. That's his game.

"Tyrod responded in a major way today," McCoy said. "If we've got to win like that, I'll bet my last dollar on Tyrod. And I'm a betting man."

Taylor's numbers were strikingly similar to many games from his past. You can expect him to complete a high percentage of his attempts while throwing short, safe passes. He has been both pedestrian and prolific during his time in Buffalo, leaving you conflicted when measuring production against possibility.

You see his quick release. He throws a terrific deep ball. He can hurt teams with his legs. And yet when he's slow to make decisions or lacks confidence when throwing into tight spaces or his passes are late on arrival, he falls short of confirming he's a complete quarterback and the Bills' long-term answer.

The wide range of his ability could be found on one drive in the third quarter Sunday when he led the Bills to their second touchdown. He rolled left and threw a dart against his body to Nick O'Leary for a 31-yard gain. Later, he stood in the pocket and found Jordan Matthews on a crossing pattern for 25 yards.

Along came Taylor the sandlot player, buying time with his feet while going through his reads before finding Charles Clay, his third option, with a pass through the teeth of the Denver defense for a 6-yard TD. Three passing plays, 62 yards, a touchdown and a 20-16 lead the Bills  would never relinquish.

In a game in which the running attack stalled for the second straight week, the quarterback delivered. In the fourth quarter, on a third-and-5 play, he stumbled forward, regained his balance, moved right, juked left and scrambled 7 yards for a first down. Three plays later, Miller took the penalty.

Look who's laughing now.

"It ended up working in our favor," Taylor said. "It extended the drive. We were able to run some time off the clock and make them burn all of their timeouts. Ultimately, it worked out better for us."

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