Missed opportunities keep Tampa in game

ORCHARD PARK — Winning ugly isn’t easy, but the Buffalo Bills found a way to do it. In Sunday’s 30-27 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Bills dropped two interceptions — one turned into an offensive catch, failed to score in the red zone before half, gave up 376 yards passing and were booed off the field as the horn opened halftime.

Over 68,000 at New Era Field were put on a rollercoaster with nauseating plays being followed up by jumping-out-of-your-seat chunk plays, which had home fans leaving optimistically sick after the win.

It was a nail-biting, 30-yard field goal by Stephen Hauschka, after a fumble recovery by the Bills defense, that put the Bills up for good and got them the win to move to a 4-2 record.

The grotesque performance began with 12 seconds before halftime. The Bills were up 10-6 at the 20-yard line. Buffalo had no timeouts and the next call seemed obvious.

Either take the risk and throw one up to the subpar pass catchers or line up for the field goal.

McDermott picked choice three; the Bills ran a passing play to target the left flat, where Jordan Matthews caught it and was tackled in bounds. The clocked bled to zero and the Bills were left with no points as the ball sat 18 yards away from a score. The home Bills received jeers from the crowd as the team was up by less than a touchdown with a prolific kicker waiting on the sideline in scoring range.

Taylor noted that 12 seconds was predicted to be enough time for the offense to get a play off and spike the ball, if needed.

“We tried to get a play ran and usually with 12 seconds,” Taylor said, “you can get a play ran whether you are tackled inside or getting out and actually get back to the line of scrimmage and spike the ball. But that didn’t happen. Something we have to learn from.”

Putting that into perspective, it takes around 2 ¢ seconds for a quarterback to drop back three steps and release the ball. Add on more time for the ball to travel and for the player to catch it and get tackled. At that point, the ball must be reset by the ref, where time continues to tick.

It can be assumed that the time it would take for the ball to be snapped, thrown, caught, ran and reset at the line of scrimmage would be around 10 seconds, but with many variables to count for. That’s not including another second for the next snap and to spike the ball.

The purpose to the short throw to the left can be to align the kick for Hauschka, who prefers his point-after-touchdown kicks on the left hashes. All-in-all, did the benefit of lining up at the left hashes really outweigh the risk of coming up with no points?

“That was my fault. That was all my fault,” McDermott said. “I thought we could get three plays off there, meaning a completion or a shot (at the end zone), and then a spike after that. We’ll go back and work on that.”

The defense has been the savior for the underwhelming offense this season. That was until Sunday.

Jameis Winston drove the Buccaneers down the field consistently, but it was the turnovers that saved the defense from allowing more in a game that let up a season-high in points. The defense had chances again to be elite, but did not come up with the plays to pull away.

Cornerback EJ Gaines grabbed a Winston throw but the intended receiver, Desean Jackson, ripped it away and got the reception on Tampa Bay’s second drive of the game. Another interception was dropped by Micah Hyde in the fourth quarter. Buffalo would have prevented a field goal in the first and a touchdown in the final stanza.

At the end of the day, the three takeaways that the defense accrued meant little to Hyde, who focused on the “missed opportunities.”

“Honestly, the number one thing about our defense is that we’re not talking about the three takeaways,” Hyde said. “We’re talking about those missed opportunities that we had. I think that is the number one thing about our defense. … However, we’re not satisfied with those takeaways because we could have had plenty more. EJ (Gaines) and I also had our hands on one.”

These errors were compounded by a fourth-quarter fumble by McCoy, which allowed Tampa Bay to take the lead, 27-20, with only 3:14 remaining in the game.

McCoy said he pointed out Lavonte David before the game as a Buccaneer who aimed for turnovers, but couldn’t prevent the fumble at a pivotal time.

“I mean that can’t happen. That won’t happen again,” McCoy said. “I’ve got to do better. … And the crazy thing is I penciled him (David) down because his thing is he forces fumbles. But I mean, he made a play so I have to do better myself. It’s as simple as that.”

When down 27-20, the tension in the air was palpable. The fumble created a gasp as Buffalo looked to recede back into the playoff drought years.

However, Taylor, who had a stellar game on the ground and at points in the air, picked up his running back. Taylor dropped back and found the bye week acquisition in Deonte Thompson deep near the left sideline for a 44-yard gain. The yardage gave the Bills the ball at the 31-yard line, but a unnecessary roughness penalty put the Bills at the 16. In one play, Buffalo jumped from its own 25 to Tampa Bay’s 16.

Later that drive McCoy pounded it in from 7 yards out to tie the game.

Tampa Bay had 2:28 to get in field goal range and the Bills knew that Jameis Winston was hot. He threw for 378 yards in the game, but the Bills weren’t the Bills of old as rookie Tre White stripped the ball from receiver Adam Humphries and recovered the ball. That set up the final kick by Hauschka and the win for the Bills.

McDermott’s motto is to trust the process. Despite no one expecting the Bills to have the ability to end the drought this season, these Bills have potential to be the first Buffalo football team this century to have a game after Week 17.

This was a win that could have been one-sided, if the 4-2 Bills played and were coached like they should have.

Twitter: @Kuczkowski95