Offense's inability to deliver in clutch costs Bills
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — As efficiently as quarterback Tyrod Taylor has performed this season, coach Rex Ryan expects even more from the Buffalo Bills first-time starter.
Delivering consistently in the clutch would be the next step for Taylor to continue establishing himself as the Bills long-term solution.
"You'll never be considered a great quarterback until you bring your team back and win in those situations," Ryan said. "So yeah, I would say that's the next stage."
Ryan delivered his critique Monday, a day after a 23-20 loss at Philadelphia all but ended Buffalo's playoff chances. The Bills (6-7) can be eliminated — and extend the NFL's longest active playoff drought to 16 seasons — on Sunday, when they travel to play Washington (6-7).
What stood out against Philadelphia is how the Taylor-led offense stalled twice in the final four minutes.
Hampered by a pair of penalties, Buffalo combined for minus-2 yards net offense on its final two possessions, failing to put the Bills in a position to attempt a game-tying field goal.
The first drive ended with the Bills punting from their own 16. The second ended with Taylor overthrowing receiver Robert Woods up the right sideline and being intercepted by Ed Reynolds.
It was the first time Taylor was picked off in seven games, and after he had established the franchise record with 222 consecutive attempts without an interception.
Taylor finished 19 of 36 for 268 yards with a touchdown.
What troubled Ryan was that this isn't the first time Buffalo's offense has come up short with the game on the line for Taylor.
Two of those wins have come with Buffalo either trailing or tied in the fourth quarter.
Taylor put together touchdown drives on consecutive second-half possessions in a 14-13 win at Tennessee in Week 5. In a 30-21 win over Houston two weeks ago, Taylor broke open a game that was tied at 21 with a 40-yard touchdown pass to Charles Clay with 1:53 remaining.
On the downside, the Bills have also lost five times — including once with EJ Manuel starting — when failing to score on their final possession in games they trailed by 8 points or less.
"Yeah, you'd love to be able to see that on a consistent basis," Ryan said.
Not all of the blame rests on Taylor's shoulders. Against Philadelphia, the Bills offensive line struggled in protection, which led to a rash of holding penalties.
And yet, it's incumbent on Taylor to continue developing in his bid to establish himself as a capable NFL starter after spending the previous four seasons as Joe Flacco's backup in Baltimore. The Bills signed Taylor to a three-year contract in free agency last spring, though the quarterback has the option to void the final year of his deal now that he's played a majority of Buffalo's snaps this season.
The Bills have been at their best this season when Taylor's not required to win the game with his arm.
They're 6-0 when Taylor throws 29 or fewer attempts. Buffalo is also 6-1 when Taylor doesn't throw an interception or lose a fumble.
Taylor said he's not looking beyond Buffalo's next game.
"I think I've shown some good things and definitely learned some things that I could correct," Taylor said, following the loss. "It's not about me right now. It's more to continue whatever I can to go out on Sundays and help the team win."
NOTES: Ryan said there's a "real possibility" LB Nigel Bradham will play against Washington after missing two games with a sprained right ankle. ... CB Stephon Gilmore (dislocated shoulder) is expected to miss his second straight game. ... TE Charles Clay's status is uncertain after he hurt his back against the Eagles.
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