By this stage of his NFL career, the Buffalo Bills know exactly what they have in starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor: an efficient passer who keeps plays alive with his legs, doesn’t turn the ball over, and doesn’t single-handedly win games. This much was true of Taylor’s performance during Sunday’s big 16-10 win by the Bills (6-5) over the Kansas City Chiefs (6-5) at Arrowhead Stadium.
Taylor, who finished the game completing 19 of 29 passes for 183 yards, tossed a nice 11-yard touchdown pass to Zay Jones in the corner of the end zone as the Bills snapped out of an early-game slumber to strike first with 1:29 remaining in the opening quarter.
On the 2nd-and-nine play, Taylor rolled out to his left, and with LeSean McCoy drifting into the flat, two defenders stayed with Shady. Taylor did not check down to his tailback, but instead dropped a pass into the arms of a diving Jones for the early lead. The ball was placed where only Jones could catch it.
Following a Chiefs punt, Taylor got rid of the ball quickly on a 2nd-and-8 situation and hit Jones on a slant pattern for 17 yards that set up Buffalo’s first field goal of the game, a 34-yard Stephen Hauschka boot that gave the Bills a 10-0 lead three minutes into the second quarter.
Taylor stepped up and scrambled for nine yards on Buffalo’s final drive of the first half, completing four of five passes to set up Hauschka’s 56-yard field goal as the Bills took a 13-3 lead into halftime.
On Buffalo’s first series of the second half, after a Chiefs touchdown trimmed the Bills lead to 13-10, Taylor lofted a ball over the outstretched arms of a Kansas City defender and into the arms of Charles Clay, whose 33-yard catch and run set Buffalo up at the Kansas City 27-yard line. The Bills would tack on three points on Hauschka’s 49-yard field goal, as Taylor and the offense did just enough to hold on for the win.
The defense, which applied pressure for much of the game and held Kansas City to two conversions on 13 third-down attempts, deserves much of the credit for the victory.
But Taylor did his part, once again showing he can step up and elude the pass rush, keep plays alive with his legs, and be a dangerous scrambler. Taylor didn’t take any shots downfield, but he also didn’t force the action and kill any drives with back-breaking interceptions.
Taylor won’t do it by himself, but hopefully offensive coordinator Rick Dennison can open up the playbook more and play to the strengths of his quarterback, who threw 24 first-half passes but only five second-half passes as the Bills became extremely conservative from a play-calling status.
If Buffalo is to return to the playoffs for the first time since the 1999 season, this is the version of Taylor that will lead them.