It won’t win points for aesthetic beauty. In fact, it was downright ugly at times. But in the end, it goes down in the win column and played a massive role in salvaging the Buffalo Bills‘ playoff hopes.
That’s an adequate characterization of what transpired on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. The Bills, needing an unlikely road win to avoid falling below .500 for the first time in 2017, upended the Kansas City Chiefs by a score of 16-10. It erases a three-game skid for Buffalo while condemning Kansas City to its fifth loss in their last six.
But the most important aspect of Sunday’s victory, the Bills’ first in Kansas City since 2011, is that it reignited Buffalo’s push for postseason football after things fell apart over the past three weeks. They currently find themselves sixth in the AFC standings, temporarily moving past the Baltimore Ravens who host the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football. With their next three at New Era Field, the opportunity is there for them to consolidate their playoff positioning.
For now, fans can revel in a gutsy road performance in which Buffalo executed when they needed to. It sets them up with significant positive momentum ahead of next week’s clash with the New England Patriots.
Run Defense Returns to Prominence
It’s not hyperbole to describe Buffalo’s ability to stop the run during the previous three games as offensive. They surrendered a total of 638 yards and ten rushing touchdowns in that span. To put it in perspective, both those statistics account for over 50 percent of opponents’ output for the whole year, with the touchdown number at 62.5 percent. There had to have been a fair bit of apprehension about that trend continuing against the Chiefs with Kareem Hunt in the backfield.
But the Bills held the rookie in check and in so doing kept him mired in a funk after such a scintillating start to the season. Hunt finished the game with 11 carries for a paltry 17 yards and failed to find the end zone for the eighth straight game. His longest run of the game went for just nine yards, with his 1.5 yards per carry the lowest total of his young career up to this point. The combination of improved tackling, gap discipline and winning the battle at the line of scrimmage all contributed to Sunday’s stoutness against the run.
When all was said and done, it was quarterback Alex Smith of all people who led the Chiefs with 35 yards rushing. For the game as a whole, Buffalo gave up a mere 55 yards on the ground, the third lowest total of the season. It’s a development that has to have head coach Sean McDermott pleased about this group’s ability to respond to adversity. But they’ll need to prove next week against New England’s multi-pronged rushing attack that this revival in defending the run is part of a trend rather than an aberration.
Big Play Tre
Much like Hunt, Bills rookie Tre’Davious White experienced a bit of a pullback in recent weeks after an impressive start to his first season in the league. The LSU product took home defensive rookie of the month honors in September, but since then has dealt with a few issues related to getting beat downfield. It was on full display in losses to the Cincinnati Bengals and New York Jets, where A.J. Green and Robby Anderson registered touchdown receptions after beating him on vertical routes.
On Sunday, White had a fairly quiet day from the standpoint of raw defensive stats, finishing with a tackle and pass breakup apiece. But part of it was a function of Smith’s reticence to throw the ball in his coverage. Per Pro Football Focus, the rookie corner saw action on 41 cover snaps yet saw only three passes thrown his way. He allowed a single catch on those targets, with Smith garnering a minuscule 2.8 passer rating when throwing towards White.
Throwing into Tre’Davious White’s coverage today?
NOT a good idea! pic.twitter.com/fyJsMMWYcE
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) November 26, 2017
And of course, it included a big play when his team needed it the most. With the Chiefs in Bills territory and in search of a game-winning touchdown with under two minutes left, it required one more defensive stand to preserve the upset win. Enter White, who jumped in front of a pass intended for Tyreek Hill and nearly took it the distance for a pick six. Not only was it his first interception since week three against the Denver Broncos, it was the first for the Bills as a whole since their last win in week eight over the Oakland Raiders.
Tyrod Taylor Out-manages Alex Smith
Tyrod Taylor‘s time on the Bills’ bench didn’t last long. After last week’s failed experiment with Nathan Peterman, Taylor reassumed the starting role against the Chiefs. His numbers weren’t gaudy by any stretch of the imagination as he threw for just 183 yards. But he played mistake free football, complimented his passing with nine rushes for 27 yards, and made a great pass to Zay Jones in the first quarter for Buffalo’s lone touchdown of the game.
Neither Taylor nor his counterpart on the Chiefs managed to eclipse the 200 yard mark from a passing standpoint. That certainly compels many to break out the “game manager” label in describing their play. For Smith, that moniker’s been with him for most of his career, even though he began shedding it earlier in the year when the Chiefs were rolling. In Taylor’s case, the fact he’s thrown for over 300 yards just twice as Bills’ starter makes it a convenient way to portray his game.
But if it works, there’s no reason to go away from it. Sunday’s triumph means that Taylor is now 20-18 in his tenure as starting quarterback in Buffalo. With Smith and Tom Brady throwing interceptions this week, Taylor now finds himself tied with the latter for fewest picks among quarterbacks with a minimum of 150 completions in 2017. McDermott continues to waver in his commitment to Taylor, as indicated by some of his post-game comments. But if the Bills are serious about the process of erasing this playoff drought now rather than later, Taylor must remain the man behind center going forward.
View the original article on Last Word On Pro Football: Week 12 Buffalo Bills Takeaways