With a pesky 4-10 Dallas Cowboys team trailing by only 3 points with 2:30 left in the game, the Buffalo Bills turned to an unlikely face to close out the game: undrafted rookie running back, Mike Gillislee.
Gillislee, the former Florida Gator, highlighted a game where he had 93 rushing yards with a 50 yard touchdown run to help the Bills finish off the Cowboys, 16-6, at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Gillislee was not alone in the rushing game for Buffalo, as fellow rookie running back Karlos Williams had 79 yards and a touchdown, and quarterback Tyrod Taylor ran for 67 yards. For Taylor, he has gotten to 506 yards rushing on the season, which eclipsed the Bills’ record for rushing yards by a quarterback set by Doug Flutie in 1999 (476 yards). Taylor also threw for just 179 yards and an interception. Bills wide receiver, Sammy Watkins also reeled in 5 catches for 84 yards.
Dallas was led by quarterback Kellen Moore, the Cowboys’ fourth quarterback in their abysmal 2015 season. Moore was only 13/31 passing for 186 yards and an interception, with passes constantly fluttering in the wind. Cowboys running back Darren McFadden ran for 99 yards, while Dallas wide receiver Brice Butler led the Cowboys in receiving with 74 yards on 4 catches.
It was a rough game to watch, as the teams were tied 6-6 at the half, with only three scoring drives to count. Dallas kicked a pair of field goals to match a Karlos Williams touchdown from the Bills, but Buffalo didn’t have the lead at the half due to Bills kicker Dan Carpenter’s fifth missed PAT of the year.
It didn’t shape up much better in the second half, as there were only 3 more points, a Carpenter field goal, before Gillislee’s touchdown scamper sealed the game with 2:30 left.
Here are some post-game observations:
- In a game between a 6-8 team (Buffalo) and a 4-10 team (Dallas), there wasn’t much on the line here. However, several players for Buffalo essentially proved their worth for the upcoming season in 2016.
- Gillislee was exactly what Buffalo needed late in the year. The undrafted rookie from Florida has been a revelation for the Bills, and a nice find by the staff. Gillislee has moved himself into roster consideration next season. Gillislee was what former Bills backs Daniel Herron and Bryce Brown (and even the 2015 version of Fred Jackson) were supposed to be: talented depth runners.
- Bills defensive end Mario Williams has had his issues with the defensive scheme, but I saw several instances where he had a favorable matchup with Dallas tackle Doug Free and tight end Jason Witten. Williams was held in check, not even registering a pressure on the young Moore. Expect him to be released in the offseason, a move that will benefit both the Bills and Williams.
- Bills cornerback Leodis McKelvin was bailed out several times by Moore’s lackluster arm strength. McKelvin was beat deep during Dallas’ first scoring drive by Butler. Butler couldn’t find the ball, however, when Moore’s duck of a pass was pushed away by a light wind. On Moore’s interception, McKelvin was beat on a slant when the ball arrived behind Butler, and the ricochet landed into the arms of Bills linebacker A.J. Tarpley. Expect Buffalo to free up some cap space by releasing McKelvin as well.
- Can we end the talk about Bill Polian possibly coming back to Buffalo as a consultant? Polian called the offensive line “aging and unathletic.” Mr. Polian, the tape may beg to differ here, as center Eric Wood and guards Kriag Urbik and Richie Incognito have shown great mobility this season in pulling for run plays. Their ability was on full display again with a strong run blocking game and allowing only one sack on Dallas’ stellar defensive front as well. Polian is not what he once was. Yes, he was the architect behind the great teams of the 1990’s, but he also was saved from being fired during his tenure with Indianapolis, for many years, thanks to how well future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning covered up the roster’s holes. Bills fans, I implore you, leave the past in the past. General manager Doug Whaley has been doing just fine.
- Buffalo is playing out the string, but can put a spoiler scare into their AFC East rivals, the New York Jets. The Jets merely need to win to be in the playoffs, but a loss to Buffalo, combined with a Pittsburgh Steelers win over the hapless Cleveland Browns would leave the Jets on the outside. Bills head coach Rex Ryan downplayed it to the media, but many suspect he has a burning desire to take his old team down with the Bills into “early golf season.”
- This game was boring. It was tough to watch, let alone attend in the cold rain. I was ready to leave several times, mostly when it was a 9-6 barnburner.
WHAT’S NEXT: For the Bills (7-8, 3-2 AFC East), it’s a chance to play spoiler against their division rival, the New York Jets (10-5, 3-2 AFC East) in their season’s finale at Ralph Wilson Stadium. As stated above, there is a playoff implication on the line, and they can knock the Jets out of the playoffs in the final week of the 2015 NFL regular season.
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