The Buffalo Bills trailed for most of week five’s matchup against the Tennessee Titans but came back late to steal a victory in the Music City. Rallying behind Tyrod Taylor, a tough defense and the Bills Mafia fan base that took over Nashville, Rex’s team was able to pull out the 14-13 win to improve to 3-2 on the year.
This was not Buffalo’s best offensive showing as Greg Roman’s unit had a hard time moving the ball all game. The stingy defense kept the Bills in it with a bend but don’t break performance which is exactly where most of the good marks are assigned.
Individual player grades for week five:
Marcel Dareus: The big man was a monster on the inside taking up space and swallowing any play that got near him for a total of five tackles. He occupied multiple players on Tennessee’s offensive line and forced the game-clinching interception by pressuring Marcus Mariota into a quick throw. Dareus broke through the line and hit the quarterback as he released it capping another big performance . Grade: A
Stephon Gilmore: “Gilly” was locked in against the Titans only allowing two receptions on six targets with three pass breakups. The cornerback was able to time Mariota’s throws so he could arrive just as the ball got there effectively forcing incomplete passes. After the game he credited this to watching tape of Tennessee’s receivers.
Gilmore also showed off his ball skills when he snatched an overthrown pass out of the air on what proved to be the game-winning interception. His one tackle was a major hit in the flats where he flew up and completely leveled the running back. Stephon’s aggressive play did lead to one pass interference call but it was an overall impressive performance. Grade: A
Kyle Williams: I didn’t see K.W. standing up on the edge much against the Titans and it’s probably for the best as he dominated the middle of the line with Dareus. The veteran created pressure and cut off most of the running lanes near him. Williams also had a beastly sack where he basically bulldozed through his man and finished with four takedowns. Grade: A
Preston Brown: The second-year linebacker had a strong performance as he played fast and aggressive and helped set the tone early on defense. Brown was especially effective against the run as he plugged up the holes with big hits on his way to six tackles. It would be nice to see him be more decisive when blitzing the quarterback but overall it was the type of performance that Buffalo absolutely needed from its middle linebacker. Grade: A-
Tyrod Taylor: Despite getting off to a slow start, facing major pressure from the Titans’ defensive line and missing top offensive weapons, Taylor was able to will his team to a big road victory. The dynamic quarterback didn’t get much going in the first half through the air or on the ground as the Bills didn’t run a play in Tennessee’s territory once.
That all changed in the second half when Taylor let loose with his legs for a single-game franchise-record 79 rushing yards including this 22-yard touchdown run for paydirt. He also picked up a huge first down on a long 3rd and 24 scramble that kept the game alive for Buffalo. Through the air Tyrod hit on 10 of 17 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown, with the biggest completions coming on a beautifully thrown deep ball to Chris Hogan followed by a short out that “711” caught for the score. Grade: B+
Mario Williams: The defensive end was able to move the pocket and get enough pressure to bother the rookie quarterback. Williams had a bone-crushing sack and also tipped a pass as he continues to play smart by keeping his eyes in the backfield. He also showed good recognition on screen passes although he couldn’t quite shut down the play. Mario finished with three tackles. Grade: B+
Aaron Williams: The starting safety returned to the field for the first time following his recent neck-injury and looked as if he didn’t miss a beat. Williams came out flying all over the field making plays against the run and finished with seven total tackles.He also did a great job of staying home on a reverse play to limit the yardage. Buffalo’s defense has sorely missed his presence and will be in much better shape going forward with Aaron in the lineup. Grade: B+
Ronald Darby: Limiting yards after the catch has been a theme through the first four games and Darby continued that solid play only allowing three catches on five targets for 20 yards. Darby was mostly tight in coverage but did give up too big of a cushion (could have been the play call) on a third down conversion. His closing speed stands out on film as the rookie has a knack for when to break on the ball. He and Gilmore look like an elite duo through five games. Grade: B+
Chris Hogan: After a dismal first half for the entire offense, Hogan spoke out about making some plays and whatever he said apparently worked. “711” broke free for a 41-yard catch in the fourth quarter as he beat his man down the sidelines for the big gain. The third-year receiver showed great body control on the grab and topped it off with a two-yard touchdown reception from Taylor.
Interestingly enough that score was set up by a trick reverse-play which resulted in a four-yard pass from Chris to Tyrod. It was a big time moment and Hogan stepped up finishing with three catches for 51 yards and one touchdown. Grade: B+
Corey Graham: Just like his counterpart A.W. in the secondary, Graham was flying upfield to make hits and finished with a team-high 10 tackles and one for a loss. He looks more comfortable at the position and played solid coverage throughout the contest. The safety did get whistled for a key third down penalty but only allowed two catches on three targets for 19 yards. Grade: B+
Jerry Hughes: Hughes started off quietly but gradually grew into a major problem for the Titans as he outmatched LT Tyler Lewan for most of the game. The TCU product battled hard, drew three penalties and was more than a handful to block.
He did miss big open field tackle on a screen pass but finished with four tackles and found ways to contribute even when not quite getting to the quarterback. Grade: B
Flash Goodwin: In his first game of the regular season Marquise reminded everyone why the coaching staff kept him around as he made couple timely receptions for 24 yards. The Tennessee defensive backs were cognoscente of #88’s speed which allowed him to get separation on two out routes towards the sidelines. One grab came on a big third-down conversion late in the game and if healthy, Flash could be a factor in this offense. Grade: B-
Boobie Dixon: Filling in for Buffalo’s injured running backs Dixon only found 19 yards on 7 carries but made an impact in other facets of the game. Boobie was great in pass protection as he pancake blocked a Titans defender putting him on his back and caught three balls for 20 receiving yards. One of those catch and runs included a nasty stiff arm and hurdle for a solid gain. Grade: B-
Nigel Bradham: The referees missed a call late in the game when Bradham dragged down Mariota by the back of his jersey. It wasn’t the most vicious play but it definitely put a hurting on the Titans QB. Nigel had an overall solid day finishing with six tackles. Grade: B-
Robert Woods: With Sammy Watkins out it was another opportunity for Woods to shine but he was quiet for most of the day only recording one reception for six yards. The feisty receiver did have the block of the day however, taking out two Titans defenders with one lunge that sprung Taylor’s touchdown run. Grade: C+
Nickell Robey: Robey plays tough as he recorded four tackle but continues to give up yards in coverage and especially after the catch. He will still get plenty of snaps but when Leodis McKelvin returns after week 6 it will be interesting to see if he gets the shot at dime/nickel duties. Grade: C
Charles Clay: One reception for 7 yards on three targets is all Clay could muster on a quiet day from the tight end. He did haul in a long grab along the sidelines but wasn’t able to get both feet down before out of bounds. Grade: C
Percy Harvin: Playmaker Percy didn’t do a whole lot against the Titans as he ran for negative one yard and slipped on a crucial third down attempt. Harvin did beat his man down the sidelines but Taylor overthrew the ball. He will benefit from the return of Sammy. Grade: C-
The offensive Line: This unit is being graded as a whole because overall they had an underwhelming performance. Seantrel Henderson and John Miller visibly struggled as the second-year tackle was whistled for a few penalties and got beat badly for a sack. Miller returned after sitting out in week four with a groin injury and couldn’t get much push in the running game. These two flashed solid pass protection at times but still have a lot of room for improvement.
Richie Incognito, Cordy Glenn and Eric Wood were a little steadier but still lacked a major push upfront and had to deal with a tough Tennessee line. Titan’s defensive tackle Jurrell Casey gave everyone problems and blew up multiple plays along with recording 1.5 sacks on Taylor. The positive is that the offensive line came together at the end on the two scoring drives, opening up running lanes for Boom Herron and providing Tyrod enough time to operate in the pocket. Grade: C-