Bills get expected victory

There’s still plenty to learn about the 2017 Bills

Howard Simon
September 10, 2017 - 7:37 pm

I’m not going to lie. All week long, I felt like the opener against the New York Jets was an extension of the preseason.

I didn’t think there would be many substantial takeaways from a game all of us expected the Buffalo Bills to win. The score was closer than I thought, but even when it was 7-6, and later on when it was 14-12, I never felt the Jets could actually win this game.

I wouldn’t read much into this victory, but to the Bills credit they took care of business against a team they, and most other Jets opponents, should beat. The serious evaluations of the Bills will start with their second game at Carolina.

Having said that, there were some things to like about an opener that, at times, was downright boring. LeSean McCoy remains one of the most exciting players to watch in the NFL. McCoy, at the “old” running back age of 29, was sharp against a Jets defense that has formidable talent up front. McCoy once again showed excellent vision, patience, burst through holes and cut back moves to make guys miss. He ended up with four runs of 10-yards or more, three of those went for 20-yards or more.

Last week, head coach Sean McDermott said he has no problem giving McCoy a heavy work load and in the opener it was evident. McCoy ended up with 22 carries, his second most as a Bill, and 27 total touches if you add in his receptions. He averaged 19 touches each of the last two years under Rex Ryan.

One of the bright spots of the game was the play of the Bills' offensive line. The unit struggled during the preseason and because of injuries and competition for the spots on the right side, the starters didn’t get that much time together. They opened some huge holes for McCoy and Mike Tolbert too.

Tyrod Taylor had an efficient day. He looked more comfortable in the offense than he did in the preseason, although they pretty much told him to just stay in the pocket during those games. Taylor did a good job of getting the ball out, he found the tight end and he completed passes over the middle. I didn’t see too many plays where he missed open targets and left chunks of yards on the field. As usual, Taylor used his legs as a positive whether it was to keep a play alive or run for positive yards. There wasn’t anything to speak of in terms of the deep ball, but that is more about the new-look receiving corps rather than Taylor. He did try one deep throw to Jordan Matthews, but it was uncatchable and landed out of bounds.

One thing that played out as anticipated was a larger role for Charles Clay. The tight end has a key role in Rick Dennison’s offense, and Clay led the team with nine targets. In addition, it isn’t surprising that Taylor would feel more comfortable with Clay than newcomers Zay Jones, Jordan Matthews and Andre Holmes. His chemistry with them and the trust factor with that group is still a work in progress.

It was a solid performance for the Bills defense, but I didn’t expect anything less against a Jets offense that sure looks like it will be the worst in the league. The Jets were never able to establish any kind of running game. They ran 15 times for a total of 38 yards. Josh McCown completed 26 of 39 passes but only for a total of 187 yards. The Jets probably knew the matchup of their offensive line against the Bills' front-four would not bode well for them, so McCown spent the afternoon getting the ball out pretty quickly and it was mostly short throws, plenty of them to the edge.

Newcomers had some nice plays on defense for the Bills. The two new safeties, Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, each made good reads on interceptions and Tre'Davious White broke up a fade pass in the endzone for Jermaine Kearse.

The Bills defensive stat line, for what it's worth, was one touchdown given up, just 214 net yards, 2.5 yards per-rush, and two interceptions. The Jets converted just 29-percent of their third downs. Out of eleven Jets offensive possessions (not counting a kneel down before the half), the Bills defense had a three-and-out five times.

One other positive to point out: for those of you that were freaking out about too many penalties during the preseason, the Bills were flagged just six times in the opener.

This day was all about winning a game that was the biggest lock victory on the 2017 schedule. The Bills accomplished that, but now it's time to sink our teeth into the season and it starts on Sunday in Charlotte.

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