Buffalo Bills offense showing big-play dimension
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Whether it's Tyrod Taylor throwing deep, Sammy Watkins making catches in double coverage or LeSean McCoy bursting his way down the sideline, the Buffalo Bills offense is showing signs of having a big-play dimension.
With injuries piling up on defense, coach Rex Ryan understands he'll have to lean more on his offensive playmakers for the Bills to stay in the AFC playoff hunt.
"Oh yeah, no question," Ryan said Monday. "I think this is what we talked about building a team where it's complementary football. And that's what you want."
The Bills (6-6) are going to need to overcome a banged-up defense that could be minus yet another starter — cornerback Stephon Gilmore — on Sunday when Buffalo travels to play Philadelphia (5-7).
Ryan said he's not sure whether Gilmore will play after he hurt his shoulder in a 30-21 win over Houston on Sunday. Backup cornerback Ron Brooks is in question after he also hurt his shoulder. Starting linebacker Nigel Bradham is in jeopardy of missing his second game with a sprained right ankle.
Starting defensive tackle Kyle Williams is on injured reserve. And starting safety Aaron Williams still isn't ready to return from a neck injury that has forced him to miss the past six games.
That puts more emphasis on Buffalo's offense, which is starting to establish a quick-strike identity that was on full display against Houston.
Taylor, who had three touchdowns passing and another rushing, completed just 11 of 21 attempts, but three of them went for 40 yards or longer. Along with two 53-yard completions to Watkins, and Taylor secured the win with a go-ahead 40-yard touchdown pass to tight end Charles Clay with 1:53 left.
Buffalo's running game showed legs, too. McCoy had runs of 32 and 20 yards in topping 100 for third time in five games. Even Mike Gillislee got into the act by reeling off a 30-yard run a day after being promoted from the practice squad.
Add it up, and the Bills combined for 390 yards offense on just 58 plays from scrimmage against a Texans defense that had not allowed more than 270 yards in each of its previous four games.
"Those big plays you see are not by mistake," McCoy said following the game. "We want to pound the ball, give them different looks, and then we want to take shots."
Buffalo's offense is the most productive when balanced. The Bills are 6-0 when attempting 29 or fewer passes.
The Bills lead the NFL with 19 touchdowns of 20 yards or longer. And they entered last weekend ranked second in the NFL with 47 runs of 10 yards or more.
That's the type of approach Ryan and coordinator Greg Roman envisioned when they arrived in Buffalo in January.
It began with the addition of McCoy, the NFL's 2013 yards-rushing leader, who was acquired in a trade with Philadelphia. It continued with Buffalo signing Clay to a contract the Miami Dolphins refused to match. And it came together once Taylor won an offseason quarterback competition and provided the offense a dual-threat dimension as a strong-armed passer and dynamic scrambler.
The Bills are 6-4 under Taylor, a first-time starter who spent the previous four seasons serving as Joe Flacco's backup in Baltimore.
With each outing, Taylor is showing signs of having the potential to keep the job on a long-term basis.
He has set a team record by not throwing an interception in 187 consecutive attempts. He ranks fourth in the NFL with a 104.3 passer rating. And he has a league-leading 117 passer rating in the fourth quarter.
"That tells you that the pressure doesn't get to him. He's a cool customer," Ryan said, referring to Taylor's numbers. "I think that's a good indication that we might actually have a real quarterback."
NOTES: In his past eight starts, Taylor has 13 TDs passing and two rushing with one interception and a lost fumble. ... Ryan said he's hopeful rookie running back Karlos Williams (left shoulder) and starting right tackle Seantrel Henderson (illness) will return after both missed one game. ... Buffalo's 13 touchdowns rushing are the most through 12 games since they had that many in 2002, according to STATS.
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