And it is gone.
The Buffalo Bills had their chance to control their destiny, at least a little bit, by winning their final 4 games of this 2015 NFL season, starting with the Philadelphia Eagles.
So much for that.
The Bills’ latest defeat, 23-20 at the hands of the Eagles, followed a formula that Bills fans have seen many times this season: Penalties, untimely defensive breakdowns and some gaffes on special teams.
Bills running back, LeSean McCoy had 109 all-purpose yards in his return to Philadelphia, while Bills quarterback, Tyrod Taylor was 19 of 36 for 268-yards passing, added 53-yards rushing and threw a touchdown and an interception. Bills wide receiver, Robert Woods led the Bills with 106-yards, while fellow Bills wideout, Sammy Watkins added 84-yards and a touchdown.
Eagles quarterback, Sam Bradford had 247-yards, a touchdown and an interception on 23 of 38 passing. Eagles tight end, Zach Ertz paced the team with 98-yards, while Eagles running back, Darren Sproles ran for 41-yards and a touchdown.
The Bills traded scores with the Eagles, before a muffed punt from Marcus Thigpen led to the Eagles taking the lead. Then, Buffalo had a 10-point deficit to make up as the third quarter, down 20-10 before Buffalo came back to eventually tie it. However, a big play by Ertz set up the Eagles to kick a field goal to take the lead for good. Buffalo’s playoff hopes officially went from “Maybe They Can Do It” into the full blown “Until Mathematically Eliminated” version when Taylor’s final pass wound up picked off by Eagles safety Ed Reynolds.
Here are some observations of the loss that may have finally cooked Buffalo’s playoff aspirations:
- Fun Fact! Only twice in the last three seasons have the Bills won a game when they have allowed more than 21 points: Week Two against the Carolina Panthers (24-23) in 2013 and Week Eight against the New York Jets (43-23) in 2014. So while Buffalo has had some solid games offensively, they have not been able to rise to the occasion lately when the team has truly needed them. The Bills stalled out in crucial moments, including punting with 2:17 left in the game. Did it help when the defense only let 17-seconds off of the clock? Yes. But Buffalo’s offense is far from the consistent threat they need to be.
- The defense had its moments of weakness as well. Without starting cornerback, Stephon Gilmore, the Eagles attacked reserve corner, Leodis McKelvin often. McKelvin did make amends later on with an interception, but a missed tackle on Ertz set Philadelphia up for the eventual game-winning field goal. McKelvin was also beaten several times by Eagles receivers, and his tackling remains an issue. While the Bills could use Gilmore, now they can bring him back more cautiously, since the playoffs are now even more far-fetched.
- Taylor made his mistakes today, but was under a lot of heat throughout. The offensive line struggled with Philadelphia’s faster defensive line, in particular with Eagles defensive tackle, Fletcher Cox. Cox routinely slashed through Buffalo’s line, even against Bills guard, Richie Incognito, and made life in the pocket more difficult for Taylor. Cox and the defensive line also created problems in the running game, forcing McCoy into bad situations very quickly on several running plays.
- McCoy did this Bills team no favors by running his mouth all week. There are people may not buy into it, but supplying a team some bulletin board material is not ideal. The Eagles had an extra chip on their shoulder while facing McCoy, who lost his cool several times, including punching Cox after a play. McCoy needed to stop running his mouth all week, stop creating stories and just play. He did not, and the sneaky-underrated Eagles defense made life a bit more difficult for Buffalo in this game.
- Buffalo has had a battle with injuries, and today showed it more than ever in this season. Backup tackle, Jordan Mills had a lot of bad penalties, McKelvin was not sharp in coverage, reserve linebacker, Kevin Riddick was invisible and then the Bills lost tight end, Charles Clay, taking away a weapon in the offense.
- The Bills special teams unit has not been very special for the Bills this season. Frankly, they are allowing a return touchdown away from being terrible. They allowed Sproles to break off a big return, while return man, Marcus Thigpen (who tweeted several times during Denarius Moore’s stint in Buffalo) muffed a punt that allowed the Eagles to take a lead early in the game. After an era where the Bills had a great return game with an arsenal of kick returners (see: Roscoe Parrish, Terrence McGee, Jonathan Smith, Nate Clements, McKelvin), the Bills are lucky when they get a 10-15 yard return.
- As it stands, in addition to the loss, Buffalo didn’t get any help, as Pittsburgh, Kansas City and the Jets won, moving the Bills two games back on the wild card race. Each of those teams stand at 8-5 with three weeks left, while Buffalo needs to win out and get a LOT of help. Realistically, it is over, call it right now. It is time to look at draft scenarios, as December football means nothing once more for Bills fans.
- The question remains: What is a catch?
WHAT’S NEXT: The Bills (6-7, 3-2 AFC East) head to Washington (6-7, 2-2 NFC East) to take on the Redskins.
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