Leading up to the game, we highlighted five Bills to watch who would play an integral role were Buffalo to upset the Broncos, who entered the game as three-point favorites. How did our Bills to watch fare on Sunday?
Buffalo’s much-maligned signal caller, who is in a make-or-break year, put forth one of the best showings of his career versus a stout Broncos defense. Taylor completed 20 of 26 passes for 213 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions on his way to a 126.0 QB rating; the fourth-best mark during his 32-game career as a starter in Orchard Park. Taylor completed 76.9 percent of his passes, second-highest since joining Buffalo, and his throws led to first downs 42.3 percent of the time, the fourth-best mark of his Buffalo tenure. Taylor wasn’t perfect, missing out when rookie Zay Jones was wide open on a well-run route, but he directed Buffalo’s attack to points on six of 11 drives before taking a knee late to cement the win. He dropped an impressive pass into Nick O’Leary along the sidelines for a big 31-yard gain, and used his legs to out-maneuver Von Miller early in the second quarter, scampering for a first down. Taylor finished with a passer rating of 88.2 when under pressure. When the pocket was clean, Taylor was flawless, completing 15-of-17 passes, racking up 127 yards and both of his TD tosses.
Clay continued his strong start to the 2017 season, hauling in six passes for 39 yards and one touchdown. Clay was targeted by Taylor six times, and came down with the catch every time he was targeted. Trailing 16-13 and in the red zone with 6:26 remaining in the third, Taylor and Clay hooked up on a nifty touchdown pass. After rolling out and progressing through all of his options, Taylor found Clay all alone for a back-breaking touchdown as the Bills took a 20-16 lead. Clay and O’Leary already have shown they are proficient blockers, and they’re proving themselves to be reliable pass-catching targets for Taylor, too.
Taylor was sacked four times by Denver’s vaunted pass rush, but a few of those takedowns can be attributed to Taylor trying to get creative and extend plays by scrambling outside of the pocket, more than leaky protection from the offensive line. Denver brought an aggressive pass rush on 16 of 34 drop-backs, but Mills and his offensive linemates held up well in the face of constant pressure. The run game once again struggled, as LeSean McCoy and Mike Tolbert ran for just 75 yards on 33 carries, an average of 2.3 yards per rush.
Hughes didn’t record a sack vs. the Broncos, but he and the rest of Buffalo’s talented front four made life miserable for Trevor Siemian. The constant pass rush forced Siemian, who entered the game tied for the NFL lead in TD passes (six) to scramble out of the pocket, and Buffalo made him pay, picking off Siemian twice. Hughes finished with three tackles (two solo) and one QB hit, and his disruptive play opened things up for Preston Brown (10 tackles), Ramon Humber (eight tackles), and Kyle Williams (four tackles, one sack) to enjoy big games.
After back-to-back weeks earning a spot on Pro Football Focus’ Team of the Week, Poyer did not record an interception, and he did not break up a pass vs. Denver, finishing with four tackles (two solo). Instead, it was Poyer’s teammates in the secondary, E.J. Gaines and Tre’Davious White, who picked off Siemian.