The Bills’ 16-year playoff drought is wearing us all down. Missing out in 2015 was especially disappointing because, theoretically, the roster looked solid or better everywhere but one spot.
If they could get ANY production out of their QB, they’d be in great shape.
Well, Tyrod Taylor finished the season with more than 3,000 passing yards, 20 passing TDs, and just 6 interceptions. He added 4 rushing TDs and a franchise-record (for a QB) 568 rushing yards. Yet here we sit– again– thinking about offseason strategy rather than playoff matchups.
Looking back on the 8-8 season, every loss hurts but some sting more.
This week, we rank the sting, counting down from the least painful (Sting Ranking #8) to the most painful (Sting Ranking #1) loss of the year.
Tom Brady’s 466 passing yards were a strong indicator that the 2015 Bills defense might not rival the 1985 Bears… but it didn’t do severe psychological damage to a fan base that’s used to chalking up these games as losses. Despite suffering through 3 interceptions and 8 (EIGHT!) sacks, a 3 TD performance out of Tyrod Taylor in just his second NFL start showed a flicker of light at the end of the seemingly interminable QB tunnel. Of the Bills’ eight losses, this was the easiest to take… and most predictable.
- Brady’s suspension was upheld.
- the Pats didn’t rip off 21 straight points following the Bills’ 10-0 lead.
- Aaron Williams didn’t suffer a neck injury that sidelined him for the year.
- the Bills didn’t have to play the Patriots twice a year.
The Bengals came into this one 5-0 and left with their perfect mark intact. The worst part about this loss is that it was the third-straight in Orchard Park but at least it happened against a quality opponent and left the Bills at 3-3. Up next: a cakewalk in London against Jacksonville and then the bye week so… NBD.
- the Bills didn’t amass a total of ZERO offensive yards combined over four consecutive first half possessions.
- Kyle Williams didn’t suffer a season-ending knee injury and Sammy Watkins didn’t hurt his ankle on a 22-yard TD catch.
- Marvin Jones didn’t come down with a perfect catch on perfect pass against (near) perfect coverage for a 42-yard gain on the Bengals opening drive of the second half.
- Tyrod had played.
The Skins’ first-half offensive display brought back memories of their destruction of the Bills in January 1992. Each of these teams came in with a 6-7 record. If there was a collective belief in the Bills’ playoff chances at this point, the loss would’ve been a lot closer to the top of our list. Make no mistake, this was an awful game to watch. We just didn’t really care anymore.
- the Bills didn’t spot the Skins a 21-0 lead, giving up a TD on each of the first 3 drives of the game.
- Bacarri Rambo didn’t whiff on DeSean Jackson’s 77-yard TD catch-and-run.
- something called Mike Gilleslee didn’t lead the Bills in rushing yards.
- the Bills’ playoff hopes hadn’t fallen apart a week earlier in Philly.
This one was the beginning of the end. The Bills came in 6-6 with a remaining schedule of: at Eagles, at Redskins, home against Cowboys, home against Jets. 10-6 seemed entirely possible. 9-7 seemed likely? This was a standard early-December “go do your job, hope for a little help around the league, and you might wake up Monday morning smelling like a rose” NFL weekend that we’ve come to know very well around here. Contrary to the happy plan outlined in the previous sentence, the Steelers/Jets/Chiefs/Raiders all won. The Bills did not. Nobody believes the “In the Hunt” graphic at 6-7. Yuck.
- the Bills didn’t take 15 (FIFTEEN!) g-d penalties.
- Tyrod Taylor’s streak of 222 passes without an interception didn’t come to an end on the potential tying/winning drive with just over a minute to play.
- LeSean McCoy’s performance lived up to the hype.
- Kiko Alonso still played for the Bills. (Kidding– that trade was an absolute steal.)
Psychologically, the difference between 3-1 (“SUPER BOWL!”) and 2-2 (“This thing really could go anywhere.”) is monumental. Not only did the Giants drop the Bills to 2-2, they did it in Orchard Park in convincing fashion… at least until you consider the “what ifs.”
- Sammy Watkins and/or LeSean McCoy played.
- the Bills weren’t flagged for SEVENTEEN penalties (officially) totaling 135 yards.
- one of those penalties wasn’t a phantom hold against Kraig Urbik which turned a 31-yard Tyrod Taylor TD run into 1st-and-25 at the Giants 41 on a drive that ended in a missed FG.
- another of those penalties wasn’t a ridiculous “chop block” against Richie Incognito that turned a 32-yard Taylor to Charles Clay TD pass into 1st-and-25 and the Giants’ 47 on a drive that ended with the Bills turning the ball on downs.
Gillette Stadium is not the ideal setting for your only Monday Night Football appearance of the season. Dreams of winning the division had already died but the Bills sat firmly in the Wild Card mix at 5-4. With a full arsenal on offense and missing just two defensive starters (Aaron Williams and Kyle Williams), the Bills never led but also never trailed by more than 10– an accomplishment in this one-sided series. Down by 7, the Bills took over at their own 16 yard line with 1:51 left in the game. They made it as far as their own 48 yard line with :02 left to play. Then the game ended. Why? No reason at all. The whole final drive was full of BS.
Sammy Watkins was never touched and rolled out of bounds, they should have one more play with 2 seconds left pic.twitter.com/AQF7zmiIc3
— The Cauldron (@TheCauldron) November 24, 2015
- Tyrod Taylor didn’t suffer a shoulder injury prior to the drive.
- “communication issues” didn’t mysteriously crop up in the Bills’ headsets during the final drive. (In Foxboro? No way!)
- on the first play of the drive– initially a 10 yard gain but reviewed and reduced to a 9 yard gain– the officials didn’t burn 22 seconds deciding to take a second look.
- on 4th and 3, it didn’t take a review to determine that Sammy Watkins had picked up the first down, allowing the Bills’ drive to continue. (Ultimately this one didn’t matter, but was frustrating as hell nonetheless.)
- the Bills had been able to run one more play… which they should’ve, because Sammy Watkins picked up a first down and got out of bounds with two seconds left on the clock! In a season full of frustrating moments/decisions/calls, none was more maddening. And it was probably going to be EJ Manuel heaving the ball. The poor dude lost his chance at glory.
It’s always nice to receive an apology from the league the day after a loss. From profootballtalk.com:
Both teams enter with a 5-5 record and can get a huge leg up in the Wild Card race with a win. The Bills take a 10-0 lead, Sammy Watkins is unstoppable for 30 minutes. Then, slowly but surely, it all falls apart.
- the Bills, already up 3-0, didn’t have their second drive of the game thwarted by a McCoy fumble inside the Chiefs 30.
- the second half REMOTELY resembled the start of the game in which the Bills were moving the ball at will.
- Nickell Robey fully committed to his perfect read when he jumped a screen route with 4:20 left in the game– a certain pick-6 (for the lead) instead went for a gain of 2 followed by a KC FG.
- Chris Hogan’s 11-yard catch on the “tying” drive wouldn’t have been called incomplete because the ball came loose when he hit the ground.
- the Bills had chosen to have the play reviewed.
- Sammy Watkins (6 catches, 158 yards, 2 TD) hadn’t been held without a catch in the second half.
Cheerio! The 3-3 Bills head to Wembley Stadium in London to face the 1-5 Jaguars before heading into the bye. 4-3 with two weeks off to give some injured players time to heal? Sounds great… especially for Tyrod Taylor. Wait… EJ’s gotta play? Uh oh.
- EJ Manuel hadn’t completely melted down for a few minutes in the second quarter. After the Jags took a 7-3 lead in the first minute of the second quarter, Manuel gave away the house with turnovers (one fumble, one pick) for touchdowns on consecutive offensive plays followed by another interception three plays later leading to another TD three plays after that. The Bills went from up 3-0 to down 27-3 in less than six minutes.
- with three minutes left and the Bills leading by 4, Nickell Robey wasn’t flagged for a phantom pass interference call instead of forcing the Jags into 4th and 15 from their own 47.