Every season, going back sixteen years now, the Buffalo Bills have encountered the “backbreaker.” This is the turning point of the season, where we knew that Buffalo’s playoff hopes had essentially come to an end, and the team was going to be playing out the string for the rest of the year.
Last season, it was a 22-30 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs that essentially torpedoed Buffalo’s chances to challenge for a wild card spot. Two years ago, it was a loss to the Oakland Raiders that appeared to do them in (although circumstances later convened to mathematically eliminate the Bills even had they won that game). This year, the Bills ran into the Raider buzzsaw once again. The Raiders, two years matured, now possess a veteran Khalil Mack and Derek Carr, along with one of the league’s best offensive lines, and that’s a big explainer for their 10-2 record. The Bills, battered and bruised, were missing two of their top three receivers, along with starting cornerback Ronald Darby. This was going to be a tough matchup on paper.
Buffalo held things together well for a large part of the game, to their credit. They emerged from the first half with a 10-9 lead, the only black mark being a prevent defense that helped the Raiders score a quick field goal at the end of the half. They put together two strong drives to start the third quarter, building an impressive 24-9 lead.
Then came the buzzsaw. The Bills went three-and-out on three straight drives, and the Raiders scored two more touchdowns before the end of the third quarter. One more drive ended in a 37 yard Amari Cooper touchdown thanks to a rookie mistake by Kevon Seymour. On Buffalo’s next drive, Khalil Mack hit Taylor’s arm on a throw to force an interception deep in Buffalo territory, leading to one more Raiders touchdown.
Field position was an absolute, total killer for Buffalo this week. Colton Schmidt had an awful day punting, and the Raiders rarely had more than 60 yards to go before the end zone.
Taylor’s passing accuracy, which started so well to begin the game, completely fell apart in the second half. He missed routine throws to kill Buffalo’s momentum.
With this loss, Buffalo’s playoff hopes are reduced to a hope and a prayer for four straight wins and a lot of luck. To be clear: They are not mathematically eliminated, and if they win their remaining games, their chances amount to a coin flip. But let’s be realistic: this was the backbreaker. Start your offseason research.