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Position grades: Long day for Vernon Butler and rest of the Bills' defense

Position grades: Long day for Vernon Butler and rest of the Bills' defense

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Bills Colts second

Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor (28) rushes the ball against Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Harrison Phillips (99) during the second quarter at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021.

The Indianapolis Colts’ 264 rushing yards Sunday were the most allowed by the Buffalo Bills in three years.

The Bills gave up 273 in a loss to New England on Dec. 23, 2018. The Colts’ total was the third most allowed in Sean McDermott’s Bills tenure. New Orleans rushed for 298 in a game at Buffalo in 2017.

Jonathan Taylor became the first player ever to score five TDs vs. the Bills.

Here are the position grades for the game, based on video review and on a scale of 0 to 5:

Defensive line (0.5): The roughest day for the Bills was turned in by Vernon Butler, who got the second-most snaps at defensive tackle (45). He did not hold up to the Colts' double-team blocks. He was pushed by Mark Glowinski on an early 10-yard run and by Ryan Kelly on another 10-yarder early. So it went. He was blown back by a double team on a late 19-yard gain. Long day for him. Harrison Phillips held the point of attack better than Butler in his 54 snaps, although it was a long day for Phillips, as well. It would have been better if Star Lotulelei had been available for 50 snaps and Phillips played 30. Phillips got thrown by Kelly on a red-zone run and had some tough double-team plays. He missed a tackle at the line on Taylor’s 40-yard run. Ed Oliver missed a tackle on an early 6-yard run and got pushed back by Braden Smith on a 10-yarder. He was pushed aside by Smith on a 9-yarder. The Colts’ used the Bills’ attacking against them on the 40-yard run, with Oliver and Jerry Hughes getting upfield as Taylor blew past them. Oliver and Mario Addison missed a sack on Carson Wentz’s 18-yard scramble. Addison thought he was pushed into Wentz on the roughing the passer foul. Efe Obada also made the mistake of a roughing-the-passer foul. Obviously the next time the Bills face the Colts, whenever it is, the coaches need to find some different answers.

Linebackers (1.0): It was a long day for A.J. Klein in the middle, too, a week after his strong showing against the Jets. The line wasn’t keeping guards from getting to him on the second level, and he had trouble getting to cutback lanes Taylor was hitting. The Colts did a good job of using jet sweep action to keep Matt Milano wary of the outside game. He led the Bills in tackles with nine.

Defensive backs (2.5): If the Bills could have forced the Colts into must-pass situations, there were favorable matchups for the secondary and pass rushers. Left tackle Eric Fisher is vulnerable to bull rushing. But Wentz had to throw only 20 times for 106 yards. Taron Johnson was fooled on the throw-back TD pass to Taylor. Johnson also had a hold that wiped out a sack by Oliver. Levi Wallace whiffed on the edge on Taylor’s 10-yard TD run. Jordan Poyer missed a tackle on Taylor’s 40-yard run, which could have stopped it at 17 yards.

Quarterback (1.0): With two INTs, Josh Allen dropped to 14th in quarterback rating (97.1). He’s sixth in passing yards. His day is reviewed in an analysis in this section.

Offensive line (1.0): A handful of breakdowns helped derail drives and spoiled a decent pass blocking day for the offensive line. The first drive was ruined by penalties on Cody Ford (false start) and Mitch Morse (holding). A sack foiled the third drive. Daryl Williams got pushed back by Kwity Paye, but Allen kind of ran himself into trouble. He had room to step up. Williams also gave up a hurry to Al-Quadin Muhammad that helped cause the second interception. Morse had trouble on a couple of plays with Grover Stewart. Dion Dawkins had a good day in pass protection. He blocked Paye well. Ford had trouble on the first drive but wasn’t that bad most of the game. He held his own against big DeForest Buckner.

Running backs (2.5): Too bad the Bills couldn’t have stayed within 10 points of the Colts and employed the running game more. Matt Breida had two more runs of 10-plus yards (they went for 28 and 16). He needs to stay in the active lineup. The Bills had a few nice pin-and-pull run plays. Maybe going to that more often, using the mobility of the line in space, can help take some pressure off Allen moving forward. After further review, Zach Moss didn’t drop the pass late in the second quarter. The throw was short.

Receivers (2.0): The Colts were playing with two backup safeties. If the Bills could have kept the game close, maybe they could have exploited them in the play-action game. The Bills needed to take better advantage of the middle of the field. Tight end Dawson Knox had three drops. It’s hard to criticize him since he’s playing with pins in his broken hand. He did make nice catches of 18 yards over the middle and 31 yards down the sideline. The Bills are going to need him to play well given the shell coverages they’re facing. Stefon Diggs ran a great route on his first TD catch. The Bills can’t worry about forcing the ball to him. He’s still on pace for 100 catches. Work the soft underbelly of the defenses and Diggs’ chances will come around. Cole Beasley, playing with sore ribs, had four catches. Allen missed him with a pass that was too high on third-and-5 on the third drive.

Special teams (0.5): Obviously, Isaiah McKenzie’s fumble was the most devastating play of the game for the Bills, gifting the Colts a TD that made the score 24-7. It was the first turnover of the year on special teams. Tyler Bass got good hang time on the opening kickoff (4.1 seconds) but Damar Hamlin and Tyrel Dodson got blocked up on the Colts’ 33-yard return. Sean McDermott should have gone for it on fourth-and-5, trailing by 17, instead of having Tyler Bass try a 49-yard field goal in the rain. 

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Bills/NFL writer

Gaughan's insight is featured in the "PlayAction" video series, providing analysis to get Bills fans ready for the next game. He is past president of the Pro Football Writers of America and served as a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector for 12 years.

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