Hope should not be lost for the Buffalo Bills' passing game, despite the team's unproductive wide receiving corps.
Plays were there to be made in the passing game in the Bills' 20-16 loss at Cincinnati. The Bills easily could have come up with two more field goals against the Bengals if they had executed a little better.
Buffalo faces a Tampa Bay team Sunday that is allowing 70.9 percent completions. That's the third highest rate in the NFL. Bucs starting cornerback Vernon Hargreaves is on the verge of getting benched.
But the Bills must cut down on their own mistakes to exploit the Bucs'.
The Bills are on a historically low pace for wide receiver catches. They have just 24 through five games, which puts them on a pace for 77 for the season.
How bad is that? The worst WR-catch total for any team last season was 135 by the Cleveland Browns. The average wideout catch total for all NFL teams last season was 200.
The Bills do not have an elite burner at wideout nor do they have a big-framed receiver who can give quarterback Tyrod Taylor an easy target for contested catches.
Yet the Bills don't need to be outstanding at wideout if their defense keeps playing well.
Why did the Bills' pass game fall short in the last outing? The blame was spread across the offense, based on The News' all-22 video review.
Sometimes Taylor didn't make a play:
- He hesitated on the first play of the last drive when he took a coverage sack instead of firing for Kaelin Clay on a deep in-cut or Zay Jones on a hitch.
- A quick throw for tight end Logan Thomas in the red zone could have produced a completion. Taylor kept rolling, and Thomas didn't adjust his route the way the QB hoped.
- Taylor threw a tad behind tight end Nick O'Leary on a hook route late in the second quarter. It would have given the Bills a field-goal try.
- He had Andre Holmes open on a back-side, skinny post in the second quarter but didn't come off Jones. Taylor made up for it five plays later with a pretty TD pass.
Sometimes the pass protection broke down:
- O'Leary was open on a corner route in the fourth quarter, but Taylor didn't have time to find him because Dion Dawkins was beaten around the edge for a sack.
- In the third quarter, Holmes was open in a zone over the middle, but center Eric Wood gave up quick pressure and Taylor was sacked.
- On the second drive of the game, Dawkins was beaten, preventing Taylor from pulling the trigger for Clay on a hook route. Jones was open on an in-cut, too.
Sometimes the receivers didn’t help enough:
- Brandon Tate couldn't hang onto a diving catch over the middle on a third-and-20 play in the fourth quarter. It was a good throw by Taylor. The Bills had to punt instead of kicking a field goal.
- Jones dropped a now-route pass in the red zone. The throw was a good decision by Taylor, who recognized soft coverage.
"We had a chance to scout ourselves, and looking back on it, too many negative plays, especially early on," Taylor said. "That’s something that we can be better at, something I can be better at; not taking sacks, getting the running game going, and as well as just being efficient in the passing game."