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Jerry Sullivan: Tyrod Taylor deserves better from Bills coach Sean McDermott

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Come on, did you really expect him to admit he was wrong? Sean McDermott is the king of the castle, the single most empowered figure at One Bills Drive since the bloody reign of Tom Donahoe.

Asked if he felt Sunday's stunning 16-10 upset of the Chiefs proved that he was wrong to pull Tyrod Taylor as his starting quarterback before the Chargers game, the rookie head coach reverted to the usual robotic coach speak.

"I'm focused on the next game," McDermott said. "I thought we came out offensively and did some good things. I told you last week that I did the right thing for this football team, and I believe that."

OK, but can you commit to Tyrod Taylor as your starting quarterback until you're eliminated from the playoffs? I asked.

"Tyrod's our quarterback for next week," McDermott said.

That's not exactly a soaring vote of confidence for a popular veteran who behaved like a good teammate after having his job taken away and watching rookie Nathan Peterman throw five interceptions in one half in a 30-point blowout loss to the Chargers two weekends ago.

Taylor and his teammates are too nice to say it, but they deserve better. Maybe it's too much to expect McDermott to admit he compromised their playoff chances by making the premature switch to Peterman. But the least he could do is take Taylor off some week-to-week probation.

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We'll never know how things would have turned out in LA if Taylor had started. The fact that they lost by 30 doesn't mean it couldn't have unfolded a lot differently. But Sunday's stunner at Arrowhead reinforces the notion that Taylor gives them their best chance to win, regardless of his well-chronicled shortcomings as a passer.

That blunder will follow McDermott around, like an unpaid college loan, for years to come. For better or worse, this is what you get from Taylor, and McDermott made the bargain when he decided to bring him back. You win games with a risk-free passing attack, a strong defense and good special teams, as they did Sunday.

Taylor played one of his typically safe, solid games against the Chiefs, completing 19 of 29 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions. He made plays with his legs, rushing five times for 30 yards. Taylor needed to attempt only five passes after halftime as the Bills nursed the lead.

It was, in many ways, a signature Tyrod road game. Taylor has not passed for 200 yards in a road win since the game at New England early last season, when Tom Brady was suspended, and he has done it twice overall. He has won road games for the Bills while passing for 182, 124, 166, 158 and 109 yards.

Maybe that's why McDermott decided to try Peterman, because he felt a raw rookie could somehow raise the standard and elevate an average offense to a higher level, playing Russian roulette with his team's playoff chances in the process.

Apparently, he still feels that way. Given a chance to praise Taylor after the win, he called it "good team offense," which sounded very much like he was suggesting he could have plugged in Peterman and gotten the same result. At this point, it would not be a shock if he went back to Peterman after the New England game.

OK, the Bills had a grand total of 69 offensive yards in the second half, 62 yards passing by Taylor. It was reminiscent of many road wins during Taylor's time as quarterback, where the offense goes into a shell in the second half and allows the opposition to stay in the game.

But they won. Taylor didn't throw the ball to the other team five times. He had one scary moment when he floated a pass to Charles Clay that could have gone the other way for six. But overall, he took care of the ball, made his one nice touchdown throw, and went 6 for 12 on third down.

It's an admittedly low standard, but until the Bills find a real franchise quarterback in the draft – or until they're officially bounced from this scrambled AFC playoff race, it's a standard McDermott has to live with.

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You couldn't blame Sean for being a little cocky after wiping the floor with his mentor, Andy Reid. Vilified and dismissed as playoff impostors by the national media, McDermott and his coaches dug in during a crisis and had their team prepared for a big road test.

One week after a historic meltdown in LA, the Bills, a 10-point underdog, snapped a three-game losing streak and reasserted themselves as a serious playoff contender in a watered-down AFC. The Bills' defense, which had allowed an average of 45 points and 212 rushing yards in a three-game losing streak, throttled KC's offense, holding the Chiefs to one first down in the first half.

The offense, though uninspiring, did just enough. They had four possessions in the second half that netted just 42 total yards and resulted in punts every time. Twice, coordinator Rick Dennison decided against a simple power run on third-and-1. A team that led the NFL in rushing two years in a row has to get cute in short yardage?

But they held together. There was talk of McDermott losing his locker room after the Peterman experiment. But there was no indication of that during the week or on Sunday.

"No, that was never an issue," said linebacker Lorenzo Alexander. "I think we have enough leadership and professionalism in our locker room to where that would never happen. Tyrod handling it the way he handled it was key. Some young guys were upset.  You can't worry about those decisions, because you can't control them. You have to do your job to best of your ability to help whoever is at the helm."

They're 6-5, back alone in the final AFC wild-card spot pending the Ravens game on Monday night. It was easy to write them off after a historically bad three-game losing spell. But as McDermott told reporters a half-dozen times last Wednesday, they're still in the hunt.

On Saturday night, McDermott motivated his players by showing them a bunch of pregame predictions from around the nation. As Taylor recalled, 17 of 19 experts predicted the Bills would lose.

"We like those underdog feelings," Taylor said. "It was great to come get this win."

Yeah, it can be inspiring when people don't believe in you, even when it's your own head coach.

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