With 2017 in the books following a fairly surprising playoff berth, we look back at the season and our beloved Buffalo Bills. Every week is a story and we bring this to you through the lens of key plays that defined the game. Your Week 7 match-up:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Buffalo Bills
The Bills had come back down to earth a bit with their loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week five. A Week six bye set up Buffalo with extra time to regroup and get a promising season back on track. An erratic Tampa Bay squad had the potential to be an attractive next opponent. However, close losses against the Patriots and Cardinals gave a small measure of buzz to the first Florida team the Bills would face in 2017. There were murmurs of a Ryan Fitzpatrick sighting as part of his ongoing curse. Bucking the curse and healing in time for the game, Tampa Bay’s steadily improving offense was led by the dynamic Jameis Winston after all.
A slow first half gave way to an electric ending. When the dust settled, the teams combined to put up 881 yards of offense, 4 turnovers, and comfortably secured payouts for gamblers who chose the “over” on the 46.5 point prediction. Late heroics from both teams pushed it to the wire, with Stephen Hauschka putting up the last points of the day to give Buffalo a needed win.
LeSean McCoy TD (Q2, 9:26)
No one would have predicted that LeSean McCoy would go a full five games without scoring a touchdown, yet here he was. McCoy was confident before the game started that this bad streak would end and he didn’t let us down. This was the first of two for Shady on the day. No need to analyze, just enjoy.
Ryan Davis Forced Fumble (Q2, 6:36)
Down by four in the middle of the second quarter, Tampa Bay was putting together a promising drive. Ryan Davis came off the blindside edge mostly untouched. Right as Winston was preparing to throw, a well-timed chop by Davis dislodged the ball. Preston Brown wasn’t able to field it, but pushed it toward Leonard Johnson who gets the credit for the recovery. The Bills couldn’t turn this into points, with a rare miss from Stephen Hauschka. However, making sure the Buccaneers didn’t score would end up being critical to the outcome of the game.
Poor clock management (Q2 0:12)
With no timeouts left and 12 seconds to go in the half, the Bills were very clearly in field goal range. They elected to call...this crap. This play has literally the worst of all worlds in terms of play calling. Twelve seconds arguably gives the Bills one realistic shot at a play which should be touchdown or throway. Note though that no route takes any receiver remotely near the end zone. It’s possible that they wanted to make sure there was no time for a random miracle play on the return, but only Nick O’Leary runs a route that moves to the sideline quickly enough to stand a reasonable chance at getting out of bounds. Bad play call pairs up nicely with bad execution as Tyrod Taylor throws the ball to Jordan Matthews. Matthews is quite easily tackled in-bounds. The clock expires and the Bills can’t extend their lead.
LeSean McCoy fumbles (Q4, 9:39)
The Bills led 10-6 at the half. Both offenses came alive after the break, with an entertaining back and forth. Five minute into the fourth quarter, the Buccaneers tied it up at 20. Two plays later, Shady had a rare fumble and Tampa Bay recovered. The Buccaneers drove down the field and scored a touchdown to take the lead with 3:14 to go.
Deonte Thompson 44 yard catch (Q4, 3:14)
Note the time stamp on this play. This is the same amount of clock left after the Tampa TD. With little time remaining, the Bills wasted none of it. Tyrod Taylor climbs the pocket and launches the ball to the awaiting Deonte Thompson for 44 yards. The flag at the end was icing on the cake in the form of Unnecessary Roughness on Robert McClain. With the extra 15 at the end of the play making the field even shorter, LeSean McCoy punched it in two plays later. The entire drive lasted a mere 46 seconds. With the game now tied, the Bucs had 2:28 to try to retake the lead once again.
Tre’Davious White forced fumble (Q4, 2:28)
Once again, note the timestamp. The Bills wasted zero time here as well. Turnovers are fluky for sure, but there’s plenty you can do to affect the rates. This strategy was featured all season by the Bills and is best characterized as “swarm and punch.” The first defenders make the tackle and anyone else in the vicinity tries to get the ball free. On this play, Tre’Davious White is going for a knockout with Preston Brown already on tackle duty. This fumble recovery set the Bills up in Hausch-money range and a routine kick gave the Bills the final points of the game.
The Bills had learned valuable time management lessons earlier in the game though. They drained the clock as far as they could to leave the Buccaneers with 14 seconds. The Buccaneers managed only 6 yards on their first attempt at a miracle. With eight seconds left and 69 yards to go, they were left with only one option. [cue Yakety Sax]