Bills might regret some play-calling in anemic offensive effort

Can we say the Buffalo Bills’ offense still hasn’t been in the playoffs since 1999?

Sunday’s wild-card game was a hard assignment for Buffalo. The Jacksonville Jaguars defense is probably the best in the NFL. Buffalo relies heavily on running back LeSean McCoy, and he wasn’t himself after suffering a bad ankle injury last week.

Still, the Bills offense did almost nothing in a 10-3 loss at Jackonville. It was an unsatisfying end to a season that will be remembered as breaking Buffalo’s streak without making the playoffs, which dated back to 1999 and was the longest in major American professional sports.

The Bills were overmatched, because they simply don’t have the playmakers to compete with the Jaguars’ stars on defense. But regardless of the talent discrepancy, few play-calling sequences were really strange.

The Bills led 3-0 late in the second quarter when they got the ball on their own 10-yard line with 1:02 left. They hadn’t moved the ball much, and neither had the Jaguars. There was no reason for the Bills to believe they were suddenly going to go 90 yards in a minute. Yet, they didn’t just try to run out the clock. They threw on second down, and it was dropped for an incompletion that stopped the clock. Then they threw on third down, short of the first-down marker, to Zay Jones who went out of bounds to stop the clock. The Jaguars got the ball back with plenty of time and a couple timeouts, and moved to score a field goal and tie the game 3-3 by halftime. It was a gift from the Bills.

Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (91) tries to stop Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor. (AP)
Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (91) tries to stop Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor. (AP)

There was another gift from the Bills on their only scoring drive. Buffalo lined up for a field goal, and Jacksonville inexplicably got an offsides penalty to give the Bills a first down. And from first-and-goal at the 1 the Bills … passed the ball? Bills receiver Kelvin Benjamin was called for offensive pass interference, which moved the Bills back 10 yards. That cost them dearly, because they had to settle for a field goal.

The Bills had a few chances in the fourth quarter, but they couldn’t put together a drive. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor was knocked out of the game with 1:17 left, when his head was slammed to the ground on a tackle by Jaguars end Dante Fowler. Nathan Peterman came in and actually got a couple first downs. But then Peterman, who famously threw five interceptions in a half when the Bills strangely benched Taylor for him in midseason, threw a game-ending interception to Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

The Bills finished with just 263 yards and no touchdowns. They had a great chance at the road upset, especially because the Jaguars offense was equally horrible. The Bills rarely tried to get anything going downfield, trying to dink and dunk and put together long drives against the best defense in the NFL. Buffalo also punted on fourth-and-1 at their own 43, fourth-and-2 at their own 49 and on fourth-and-6 at the Jacksonville 48 in the fourth quarter. Maybe some more boldness from the staff would have helped.

It’s also easy to argue that the Bills didn’t take many chances because they have nobody, aside from McCoy when he’s healthy, who can make big plays against a good defense. They should try to add a playmaker or two in the offseason. They need 2017 second-round pick Jones to do more. There will probably be more discussion if Taylor is good enough at quarterback.

Very few offenses moved the ball against the Jaguars this season, and the Bills weren’t a good candidate to put up many points on them. Still, the offensive outage was a disappointing way for a fun Bills story to end.

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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