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Bills-Chargers Report Card: Failing grades still far too common for Buffalo

Jay Skurski

Grading the Bills


LeSean McCoy rushed nine times for 39 yards. It’s the ninth time in his past 17 games that McCoy has been held to less than 50 yards. McCoy had a long run of 27 yards, which means his other eight carries gained just 12 yards. That’s putting the Bills in obvious passing situations, which is bad news. Backup running backs Chris Ivory and Marcus Murphy combined for just 13 yards on five carries. Quarterback Josh Allen scrambled his way to 32 yards on eight rushing attempts. The rookie  needs to start sliding at the end of some of those runs, or he might not make it through the season.


Allen’s first career start made the scouting reports on him coming out of college look pretty good. Allen made some ugly decisions with the ball – particularly his third-quarter interception, as he was being dragged to the ground – and missed some gimme throws, including one to Murphy. He also showed some good signs. He finished 18 of 33 for 245 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. It was a low bar to clear, but Allen’s performance was an upgrade from what the team got in Week 1 from Nathan Peterman. Protection remains an issue as Allen was sacked five times and forced to scramble out of the pocket on several other occasions.


The first half was ugly as the Chargers gained 106 yards on the ground. It got much better in the second half, as the Bills held Los Angeles to just 3 rushing yards. Defensive end Jerry Hughes got caught gambling on Melvin Gordon’s first-half touchdown run. Something to watch going forward – Matt Milano and Ramon Humber appeared to rotate at times. Safety Jordan Poyer and linebacker Lorenzo Alexander each made two tackles for loss.

Jay Skurski's observations: Bills defense puts on another lackluster performance


Here’s a new one: cornerback Vontae Davis retired in the middle of the game. That left teammates stunned, and rightfully so. It was a gutless move. Davis gave up a touchdown catch to Mike Williams before pulling himself. Phillip Gaines suffered an elbow injury in the first half and couldn’t return, and safety Rafael Bush was shaken up in the second half, meaning the team finished the game with just five healthy players in the secondary. Alexander had the only pass defensed. The pass rush showed some life in the second half, with Hughes and Alexander getting sacks.


It was an adventure for punt returner Murphy, who chose not to call for a fair catch in the third quarter and paid for it, getting blasted and muffing the catch. Logan Thomas took a holding penalty on a punt, giving the Chargers good field position, which they cashed in for their first touchdown. Somehow, Humber and long snapper Reid Ferguson let a ball bounce into the end zone for a touchback. That hurt punter Corey Bojorquez’s net average, which was 37.2 yards on five points. Stephen Hauschka made a pair of field goals in the first half.


Two games into the season and coach Sean McDermott has been forced to take over defensive play-calling duties from coordinator Leslie Frazier. The Bills once again were woefully underprepared at the start of the game, falling behind at halftime, 28-6. Part of that has to fall on the coaching staff. McDermott went 0 for 2 on challenges. Starting the game with just four healthy cornerbacks has been a mistake two straight weeks.


Grading the Chargers


Austin Ekeler is the ideal No. 2 running back. He had 77 yards on 11 carries on a day when starter Gordon was limited to 28 yards on nine attempts. Quarterback Philip Rivers, not exactly fleet of foot, scrambled for 7 yards on the first play from scrimmage. The Chargers got enough from the running game to keep the Bills honest, which was enough.


Rivers can ball. He finished 23 of 27 for 256 yards and three touchdowns. Gordon had a big impact in the passing game, finishing with six catches – tied for the team lead with Keenan Allen – for 38 yards and two touchdowns. Allen’s six catches went for 67 yards, a relatively quiet output for him. Second-year receiver Williams got the opening touchdown, making a nice grab in traffic.


Holding McCoy to 39 yards is a win for any defense. Safety Derwin James is playing like an early contender for Defensive Rookie of the Year. He finished with a team-high eight tackles. “He can fly,” coach Anthony Lynn said. Nose tackle Brandon Mebane is a load in the middle of the defense. Inside linebacker Denzel Perryman had six tackles, including one that went for a loss.

Bills-Chargers Report Card: Failing grades still far too common for Buffalo


Linebacker Kyzir White made a great play in coverage to intercept an Allen pass in the fourth quarter, shutting the door on any hope of a Buffalo comeback. White had an impressive total of three passes defensed. Safety Adrian Phillips had nice coverage on Murphy in the third quarter, coming away with an interception on an ill-advised throw. The pass rush didn’t miss Joey Bosa, finishing with five sacks and several other hurries. Melvin Ingram led the way with 1.5 of those sacks.


No great plays, no terrible ones, either. With Travis Benjamin out, J.J. Jones took over as punt returner, gaining 17 yards on three attempts. Punter Drew Kaser averaged 39.8 net yards on five punts. Allen returned one kickoff for 25 yards.


Lynn wouldn’t buy into the idea of this win being sweeter because it came on the road against the team that passed on him for the head-coaching job in the 2017 offseason, but it had to be. I didn’t understand not trying a 51-yard field goal with Caleb Sturgis in the second half that could have made it a three-possession game. It was a perfect day for kicking. The unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against cornerback Desmond King got Lynn’s blood boiling. “You’ll never see that again from Desmond,” Lynn said after the game.

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