It was yet another difficult watch this week this time however, it was more of a predictable finish. I doubt anyone was going to predict Tyrod Taylor to out-duel Tom Brady, but I still walked away feeling disappointed because there were plays left on the field.
Obviously, the rain made things slightly more difficult for Taylor, but even the plays he did make, I walked away shaking my head. This game, however, I will admit there were a number of plays Taylor’s receivers gave him absolutely no help.
It’ll be easier if I just show you; let's see how it played out.
Let us start with one of Taylor’s best throws of the afternoon. A wonderfully designed pick route that frees up Brandon Tate on a wheel route against a one-high safety look. This route combination works very well against Cover 3 like the one on this play because it’s very difficult for the safety (playing incredibly deep on the play) to get over to the sideline where the route is intended to go. What you’ll see footwork-wise from Taylor on this play is what I’d really love to see from him on a far more consistent basis.
What you can see in the slowed version of this play is Taylor gather himself quickly. Obviously, on this play, Taylor knows where he’s going with the ball before the snap. I think when he has a clear mismatch and knows where he plans to go with the ball, he has less to think about pre-snap and can focus on his footwork. You see that here, where he gets the ball out quickly, before Tate even has time to turn his head around.
All-in-all this was a really well-placed ball on 3rd down and you absolutely need Tate to bring this ball in. This is one of those plays where I can certainly agree that he got zero help from a player who likely has no business on the field in a 3rd down situation. It’s unfortunate, but there isn’t much you can do.
Grade: B+ (NOT taking into account the drop)
This is one of those plays many will say makes Taylor a suitable NFL quarterback or a play that illustrates him doing things other quarterbacks around the league can’t do. Sure, I’ll give you his ability to turn a sack into positive yards is a great attribute but not on plays that have receivers streaking open. His footwork here is infuriating, he drifts out of the intended pocket, presumably to wait for Nick O’Leary to get open, but he has to be aware of the deep in (either Robert Woods or Walt Powell) that is running free.
It’s a terrifically run route and in my mind should be the route he focuses on especially with O’Leary essentially clearing out the entire middle of the field. Even if Taylor had seen the open in route, his footwork put him so out of position he likely wouldn’t have made the throw on time.
It’s also another glaring example of Taylor holding onto the ball for far too long. Especially on the deep in route, it’s a route that essentially has to be thrown when he makes his break. He drifts, as I mentioned, to wait until O’Leary gets open (which he never does) and allows the pass rush to get close enough where the play ultimately breaks down.
He has to realize a couple of things on this play. The first being that if the receiver on the bottom of the screen running that deep in runs an effective route, he should break it off and be open immediately. Secondly, if he drifts too far left, he’ll effectively ruin the timing of the route by drifting too far away, making it a far more difficult throw that it was ever intended to be. This is a play he should have stepped up on instead of to the left and delivered a strike as soon as the linebacker covering O’Leary opened his hips to run opening the entire middle of the field.
Alright, so other than the throw being grossly inaccurate, Taylor basically locks onto his intended receiver from the snap of the ball and sees no one else on the play. Obviously, at this point everyone including myself has to realize Taylor is only reading half the field, so he likely would have no way of knowing Clay breaks open immediately on a 5-yard out for what would have likely been an easy pitch-and-catch for a first down.
Although I like the fact that Taylor gets the ball out in rhythm, he does so without ever reading the field. This is the sort of play a good or great defense will see on film and use against you.
As for the throw, this is a simple 6-yard (ish) throw. It’s hitch by the inside receiver and part of me thinks Taylor is expecting Hunter to break back towards the sidelines like more of an option route based on where the location of the throw is, but even so all of Hunter’s momentum is bring him to the middle of the field. Either it’s a miscommunication or it’s just a very poorly thrown ball.
I just really need to see Taylor make an accurate throw in this situation, it’s and easy throw and catch, and it’s designed to take the pressure off Taylor and the offense so they aren’t backed up into 3rd-and-long situations. It’s supposed to be as easy as a run play on first down but again, Taylor’s accuracy is seriously brought into question.
What you should do on this play is watch Walter Powell, he runs a similar in route to one of the previous plays above. It’s that deep in route and again, it’s wide open. Taylor “reads” through his progressions. In his defense, his first and second options didn’t come open until he had already dumped it down to Gillislee. However, he completely looks past Powell because he had already, in his mind, committed to not turning the ball over to make the safe dump off throw.
Yes, it’s great that Taylor doesn’t turn the ball over and his main objective is to protect the ball. But this is the sort of play I need my starting quarterback to make and make early. He doesn’t even think about making this throw, heck, he may not even see it. But he’s absolutely terrified of making a mistake, and you can see it on this play.
Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t an easy throw to make. But in my mind, pre-snap, I’m thinking I’ll likely look off the safety by looking left first, get him to commit his hips to the right sideline to buy myself an extra second to hit my go-to option; Walt Powell. It’s a well-designed play, and it’s the second time they ran it and had a receiver wide-freaking-open. Taylor just has it so ingrained in his mind to not make a mistake that he’s simply unwilling to throw it.
I’m actually going to give Taylor a bunch of credit for hanging tough on this play. The Patriots simply bring more guys than the Bills can block and in an empty set, Taylor is stuck. I also think it’s a fairly well thrown ball, and it’s actually Clay’s fault for bending the route off instead of fading it off to the far goal post.
Would I have liked Taylor to throw it a lower and more inside on this play? Maybe. But I think with a free rusher, Taylor bought himself and Clay enough time to make this play work. His athleticism actually buys himself another second. The free-rushing linebacker actually has to stop to position himself better in case Taylor decides to take off.
If this was Brady or most quarterbacks in the league, that rushing linebacker is going full speed ahead looking to clean his clock, but he can’t because he has to prepare for Taylor’s running ability. At this point, the game was well in hand, but I’d like to see Taylor do more of this.
To me, this is a game of what could have been. Do I think if Taylor is able to make three or four more plays that the Bills would have won? Absolutely not. But the game would have been much closer.
There’s no doubt, the Bills defense had absolutely no answer for Brady and the Patriots offense. But I just want to see Taylor be a bit more willing to make a difficult throw. Not turning the ball over isn’t impressing me if there are plays to be had but aren’t being made because he’s focusing too much on protecting the ball.
You can protect the ball by being accurate and placing the ball where only your receiver can get to it. He also needs to do a better job throwing receivers open. It certainly doesn’t get any easier next Monday night when they’ll face a very good Seahawks defense, but hopefully, the addition of Percy Harvin will instill some much-needed confidence into Taylor and the Bills offense.