Bills rewrite script with 30-27 win over Tampa Bay
ORCHARD PARK, NY – The moment LeSean McCoy fumbled the football away to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with 9:30 remaining in the fourth quarter, Bills fans inside New Era Field and sitting on their couches at home knew what was coming next.
They’ve seen this script play out far too many times before. Time and time again the Bills have found themselves in control of a game late in the fourth quarter only to throw it away with a costly turnover, a missed field goal, you name it.
Not this time.
McCoy’s fumble, while costly as it gave Tampa Bay a momentary 27-20 lead, didn’t come back to haunt the Bills. Instead, the offense answered with a touchdown score of their own. The defense forced their third turnover of the day, and seven plays later Stephen Hauschka nailed a 30-yard field goal to propel the Bills to victory and a 4-2 overall record.
Heartbreak was not in attendance today. Finally, one of those stressful endings to games left Bills fans celebrating instead of mourning.
“It’s a huge win for the team just to show that we’ve got a lot of heart, we’ve got a lot of grit and we can get the job done regardless of how it presents itself,” Hauschka said after delivering the Bills a victory via his right foot. “There will be a lot to correct, but this team is going in the right direction and doing the types of things that good teams do. We’re growing. We’re moving up and a lot of the guys on the team are new and we know about the past of the Bills and whether good or bad there’s a lot of history here and a lot of passionate fans. We love them for that.”
Bills fans are certainly loving head coach Sean McDermott and his “process.” That may have been difficult back in August, when McDermott’s partner in crime, general manager Brandon Beane, was wheeling and dealing some of the Bills’ most skilled players from recent years and drafts. The Sammy Watkins trade was perhaps the most head-scratching, as it left quarterback Tyrod Taylor with a collection of misfits to throw to at receiver.
But alas, winning cures everything, including the skepticism Bills fans and the media had about this season back before Week 1. Now at 4-2, with impressive wins over a Denver Broncos squad just two years removed from a Super Bowl victory, the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons – at their place mind you – and now the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the type of game that over the last 17 years has often ended in heartbreak, the winds feel like they’re changing at One Bills Drive.
“It certainly helps with belief, right?” McDermott responded regarding what such a dramatic win means for his locker room. “I know these guys play hard and when you play hard, you got a chance every week. What more can you say? They fought, they fought. That’s a good team on the other side and a well-coached team. These guys fought. Down to the very end, the very last play.”
What makes this union between McDermott and Buffalo even more special is that the embrace is mutual. Not only are fans buying into McDermott, he is embracing the city of Buffalo. At one point in his postgame presser, he went as far as calling playing at New Era Field “heaven” for a home team. Guess that makes him the deity who oversees it.
“Really, to me [this win] personifies this city, doesn’t it?” the Bills head coach said. “Heart. Toughness, blue-collar, and fans stuck with us all day. I thought it was awesome.”
Buffalo attempted to rewrite some other narratives in their win over Tampa Bay as well, more specifically Tyrod Taylor. The 28-year-old entered Sunday with a 1-11 record when he threw 30+ passes in a game. Make it 2-11 as he finished 20-for-33 for 268 yards and one touchdown. Additionally, he was 2-16 as a starter when Buffalo trailed by four at any point in a game. How about 3-16 now. He also recorded his third fourth quarter comeback and fifth game-winning drive.
This win helps rewrite the script that’s been written over the last 17 years. It’s different, it’s new, it’s exciting. And, yet, Bills fans should pump the brakes. Things can turn quickly in the NFL. They did when Buffalo started 5-1 in 2008. And after an identical 4-2 start in 2011. Even just last year the Bills were 4-2 through six games.
Sunday’s climactic win is the first step towards putting the tortured Bills fan base at ease. It’s another reason to trust McDermott’s process. But the playoffs are what Bills fans desire most, a promised land they haven’t reached since January of 2000. Only when that goal is achieved can they finally put their demons to rest.
T-Mobile – I’m not talking about the cell service inside New Era field today. I’m talking about the Bills actively using Tyrod Taylor in the run game. Taylor rushed only once for three yards in Buffalo’s Week 5 loss to the Bengals. Today, offensive coordinator Rick Dennison made a point to incorporate his legs into the game plan and it worked beautifully. Taylor finished the day with six carries for 53 yards.
Deonte Thompson – After signing with the team on Tuesday, Thompson was active over Kaelin Clay on Sunday. He made two nice grabs in the first half for 40 yards, adding two more receptions for 67 yards in the second half, including a huge 44-yard catch that set up a game-tying touchdown two plays later. Quite the debut.
LeSean McCoy – McCoy called his shot earlier this week, when he said he felt like this was the game the rushing attack he leads could break out. How about 23 carries for 91 yards AND his first two touchdowns of the season? Not to mention 173 total rushing yards for the Bills.
Hausch-Money – The Bills kicker missed his first field goal since Week 1 – a 41-yarder – on his second attempt of the game late in the second quarter. But he came up huge for Buffalo regardless, nailing his other three attempts, including a 52-yarder and of course the game-winner with 18 seconds left. Hausch-Money indeed.
Red Zone Offense – Two-for-five scoring touchdowns when you cross your opponents’ 20 isn’t great.
Zay Jones – In Friday’s feature story I highlighted Zay Jones’ motivation to prove people wrong. He didn’t help his cause today. On first-and-10 from their own 33 late in the second quarter, Taylor found him on an out route that he bobbled and dropped on his way out of bounds. It was the latest of many brutal drops this season. He finished with two receptions on the day.
The Passing Defense – That’s two consecutive games where an opposing QB has thrown for 300+ yards. The Bills secondary is trending in the wrong direction.
Points off Turnovers – The Bills defense did what it’s done throughout most of the season, forcing three turnovers on Tampa Bay, but neither of the two first half takeaways could be turned into points by the offense. Late in the second quarter, Hauschka missed a 41-yard FG following a Buccaneers fumble. Minutes later, a Matt Milano interception put the Bills in perfect position to add to their lead at the Tampa Bay 26; they failed miserably after they couldn’t spike the ball to kill the clock. Finally, they came through with Hauschka’s game-winning field goal following a fumble on Tampa Bay’s second-to-last possession, but three points off three turnovers is a let down.
Final First Half Possession – That Matt Milano interception came with 22 seconds to go in the first half and put Buffalo at the Tampa Bay 26. Coming away with points should have been easy, except after gaining just eight yards on first down and spending their last timeout of the half, Taylor threw a pass to Jordan Matthews much too far from the sideline on the very next play and time ran out before they could spike the ball. It was an absolutely brutal sequence.
LeSean McCoy’s fumble – Despite posting his best performance since Week 1, Shady did something he hasn’t done since Week 12 of the 2015 season: coughed up the football. It came at the worst possible time, with Buffalo needing an answer after the Buccaneers had tied the game up at 20. Instead it led to a touchdown that momentarily gave Tampa Bay the lead. Had the Bills lost this game, McCoy’s fumble would have been the key talking point on local sports radio tomorrow.