On a day when the rain seemingly never stopped falling, the Buffalo Bills proceeded to turn in a gloomy performance.
Despite a 3-1 edge in turnovers forced on the day, Buffalo fell to the Cincinnati Bengals 20-16 to move to 3-2 on the season. Heading into their week six bye, they’re in a three-way tie with the New England Patriots and New York Jets at the top of the AFC East.
It was another troubling display of offensive ineptitude for the Bills. They finished the game with a paltry 221 yards of total offense with the run game unable to eclipse 100 yards on the ground for the third time this year. And there are legitimate concerns regarding the status of tight end Charles Clay, who suffered a left knee injury in the first half and didn’t return.
Sunday’s loss certainly functions as a return to Earth for a Bills team that’s among the NFL’s great early season stories. What transpired in Cincinnati carries with it several question marks moving forward. With that in mind, what are the biggest storylines to take away from the game?
Week Five Buffalo Bills Takeaways
Tre’Davious White Struggles With A.J. Green
If you’re looking for an early season defensive rookie of the year candidate, Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White is certainly on your radar. The former LSU Tiger already owns some accolades this year as the NFL named him the best rookie on defense for the month of September. He comprises a ball-hawking Bills secondary that came into this game with six interceptions, tied for the third best total in the league.
But against the Bengals, White dealt with his fair share of issues in covering A.J. Green. The talented seventh-year man out of Georgia made his presence felt on the first play of Cincy’s second possession of the game. Running a go route down the right sideline, Green took advantage of some hesitation from White in coverage and caught a well-placed ball from Andy Dalton en route to a 77-yard touchdown.
— SNF on NBC (@SNFonNBC) October 8, 2017
It wouldn’t be the first time Green victimized White on the day. On third and long late in the third quarter, he made a 47-yard grab that saw White chasing him down the field after getting burned in man coverage. The play set the Bengals up with goal to go and on the next play, Joe Mixon ran it into the end zone. It enabled the Bengals to retake the lead, one they wouldn’t relinquish for the remainder of the game.
Part of the problem stemmed from the Bills defensive scheme on Sunday not putting White in a position to succeed. Too often, Buffalo relied on man coverage on the boundary with not enough of a safety net over the top from either Jordan Poyer or Micah Hyde. On Green’s touchdown catch, Hyde appeared to bite on the play fake, leaving the Bills exposed deep. Adjustments are certainly necessary as the Bills face another dangerous playmaking wideout in Mike Evans after their bye.
LeSean McCoy With Another Unimpressive Showing
Five games into the season and there are certainly a variety of concerns regarding the Bills offense. Tyrod Taylor had another ordinary outing, completing 54 percent of his passes and managing just 165 yards at 4.5 yards per completion. Though he threw a dime to Brandon Tate for the Bills only touchdown of the game, he also tossed a back-breaking interception late in the game that sealed the defeat.
Even more concerning is the play of LeSean McCoy up to this point. He’s averaging a measly 55.8 rushing yards per game at 3.2 yards per carry. That former number is the lowest since his rookie season in 2009, while the latter would be a career low if it doesn’t improve by at least .9 yards. And never in his career has McCoy gone without a touchdown in the first five games of a season.
McCoy didn’t have the worst game in the world on Sunday against the Bengals. He did manage a grand total of 89 total yards (63 rushing, 26 receiving) and broke off two run plays for double digit gains. But he was hugely ineffective in Buffalo’s screen game. Despite leading the team in target share, he averaged just 4.3 yards per catch with a long of seven. The Bills certainly need more out of their bell cow back moving forward.
Charles Clay Injury Another Blow to Depleted Bills Offense
Coming into Sunday’s game, the Bills were already shorthanded at the skill positions due to Jordan Matthews‘ thumb injury suffered last week against the Falcons. It meant that Clay would continue to be one of Taylor’s favorite targets in the passing game. Clay came into the game leading Buffalo with 227 receiving yards. But things took a turn for the worst after Clay got hit by Shawn Williams on a catch late in the first quarter.
Hard to tell what happened on Charles Clay injury. Limping on sideline pic.twitter.com/XEQjjyggp1
— Nick Veronica (@NickVeronica) October 8, 2017
After a brief trip to the medical tent on the sidelines, Buffalo later brought the cart out for Clay. Although details remain sparse as of this writing, Clay appeared to suffer an injury to his left knee on the above hit. If the veteran tight end is indeed lost for an extended period of time, it’s a significant setback for a Bills passing game ranked second worst in the league through four games.
Such a scenario puts added pressure on two players in particular: Zay Jones and Nick O’Leary. Jones is in the midst of a rough start to his NFL career as the rookie second round pick has just five catches for 66 yards through five games. That number is even more worrisome considering he’s received 23 targets. O’Leary made five catches for 54 yards on Sunday and will need to step up from here on out if Clay’s injury is long-term.
View the original article on Last Word On Pro Football: Week Five Buffalo Bills Takeaways