Grading the Bills
RUNNING GAME: C
The Buffalo Bills were balanced, rushing 27 times and passing 29 times. LeSean McCoy had a second straight solid, but not spectacular, game. He finished with 73 yards on 16 carries. Rookie quarterback Josh Allen scrambled four times for 20 yards, including one that went for 11 yards. Backup running back Chris Ivory couldn’t get much going. He gained just five yards on six carries. The team average of 3.7 yards per rush isn’t good enough. Third running back Marcus Murphy was again inactive.
PASSING GAME: F
It was mostly ugly when Allen was in, then got downright graphic when Nathan Peterman came in the game and did what Nathan Peterman does. That nice 16-yard touchdown pass to Zay Jones became a distant memory when Peterman threw the game-clinching pick-six. He doubled down with another interception on the Bills’ final, desperation drive. The wide receivers produced what has come to be expected – seven catches for 100 yards. That’s as a group.
RUN DEFENSE: A
Another job well done. Eddie Yarbrough started things off early when he buried Lamar Miller for a 4-yard loss. Linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano combined for 17 tackles, three of which went for losses. Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips had a tackle for loss, as well, one of 11 racked up by the team overall. The run defense continues to show great improvement from where it was a year ago. Safety Micah Hyde missed one tackle in run support, but there were few other instances when that happened.
PASS DEFENSE: A-
The pass rush was beastly. Kyle Williams and Lorenzo Alexander are both diving into the fountain of youth, combining for 3.5 sacks. Jerry Hughes remained a terror off the edge, with 1.5 sacks of his own. Fellow defensive end Trent Murphy forced a fumble on his sack. This is how good the rush was – even Shaq Lawson got involved. He made his first sack of the season, one of seven overall. Tre’Davious White had solid coverage on DeAndre Hopkins for most of the game. Phillip Gaines was whistled for a crucial pass interference late in the fourth quarter.
SPECIAL TEAMS: F
I mean, seriously, how much worse can it get? From the first play of the game for the special teams to the last, it was awful. Ray-Ray McCloud fumbled twice on his only two catches. With a chance to give his team good field position after the Texans tied the game late, Taiwan Jones bobbled the kickoff and was buried inside the 20-yard line. Don’t even get me started on the blocked punt, which was horrendous. To put the cherry on top of this stink sundae, there were penalty problems, too. Just awful, save for the two field goals Stephen Hauschka made, including one from 52 yards.
Why would the Bills try the get-them-to-jump offside play in the fourth quarter, then when it predictably doesn’t work, waste one of their timeouts. That made no sense. Special teams coordinator Danny Crossman has got to be feeling the heat after his unit’s effort Sunday. The pre-snap penalties that drive McDermott crazy were again a problem. There is no reason the team should be called for illegal formation as much as it is. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier once again did a nice job mixing in blitzes from the defensive backs.
Grading the Texans
RUNNING GAME: D
Lamar Miller was pedestrian, gaining 46 yards on 15 carries. Backup Alfred Blue did have a 17-yard gain, but otherwise finished with 26 yards on seven carries. Quarterback Deshaun Watson finished with 2 yards on two carries. He came into the game leading the NFL in rushing yards by a quarterback. The offensive line failed to give any of the Texans’ ball carriers room to run.
PASSING GAME: D
Hopkins went 15 of 25 for 177 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. His decision to throw across his body in the first half, which led to an easy interception by Jordan Poyer, was a terrible one. DeAndre Hopkins had five catches for 63 yards and one touchdown, which came when Watson fired a ball into tight coverage. Houston’s three tight ends combined for one catch that produced 6 yards. Offensive tackles Kendall Lamm and Julie'n Davenport could not handle the Bills’ speed off the edge.
RUN DEFENSE: C+
Linebackers Benardrick McKinney and Zach Cunningham combined for a whopping 24 tackles, but the only one of them that went for a loss was McKinney’s sack. Defensive end J.J. Watt and linebacker Whitney Mercilus both were stout. Nose tackle D.J. Reader had a tackle for a loss, as did defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, when he pulled down Ivory by the running back’s dreadlock for a 3-yard loss.
PASS DEFENSE: A
Watt recorded his seventh sack of the season. He’s far from washed up. The sack came when he bulled his way through a double team. Johnathan Joseph had the game-deciding pick-six, while fellow cornerback Kareem Jackson sealed the victory with a late interception. They combined for nine tackles and five passes defensed. Houston had seven passes defensed overall.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A+
Brennan Scarlett recovered the muffed punt by McCloud to set up the game’s opening touchdown. Scarlett also recovered the blocked punt by Tyrell Adams in the second quarter that set up a field goal. The Texans’ coverage units held the Bills to 2.7 yards on three punt returns and 14.3 yards on three kick returns. Kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn made a pair of field goals, including a late 27-yarder that tied the score. Punter Trevor Daniel averaged 39.0 net yards on five punts, placing two of them inside the Bills’ 20-yard line.
The offensive game plan was less than inspiring. It’s a surprise the Texans didn’t go after Bills cornerback Phillip Gaines more. The taunting penalty on Clowney was undisciplined, and could have been costly. Overall, though, the Texans took just six penalties for 50 yards, which is an acceptable amount. Houston won two of the three phases of the game, which was good enough against an inferior opponent. It’s a stretch to say the Texans look like legitimate playoff contenders, though.
Story topics: Chris Ivory/ Danny Crossman/ Eddie Yarbrough/ Jerry Hughes/ Jordan Poyer/ Josh Allen/ Kyle Williams/ LeSean McCoy/ Leslie Frazier/ Lorenzo Alexander/ Marcus Murphy/ Matt Milano/ Nathan Peterman/ Ray-Ray McCloud/ Sean McDermott/ Shaq Lawson/ Stephen Hauschka/ Tre'davious White/ Tremaine Edmunds/ Trent Murphy/ Zay Jones