After a disappointing 0-2 start to the season, Rex Ryan proclaimed the Arizona Cardinals were the exact opponent his team needed to face in week 3. Common logic would suggest that going up against a potential Super Bowl-contending squad seems like the opposite of what anyone would want, but we’re talking about the Buffalo Bills here, where nothing ever seems to be conventional.
With the offensive line setting the tone for LeSean McCoy’s best Bills performance yet and Tyrod Taylor’s ability to make big plays, Buffalo upset an extremely talented Arizona team 33-18 in front of a raucous home crowd. It wasn’t a perfect performance but just like their head coach said earlier in the week, it was just what the team needed to potentially save its season.
Here are the individual offensive player grades for week 3’s Bills-Cardinals contest at New Era Field:
LeSean McCoy: Shady was the key to a Bills offense that finished the day with 208 rushing yards. Totaling 112 yards on 17 carries and two touchdowns including a 24-yard scamper into the endzone, McCoy consistently used sharp vision to find cutback lanes and space in the defense. With his elusive running-style, we’re used to seeing LeSean getting outside the numbers but against Arizona he did a lot of his work in between the tackles and over the middle.
Whether it was bursting through the hole, a cutback, a stutter step or simply putting his head down for extra yards, #25 had it all going. The Bills used him on a few direct snap plays as well that led to positive gains. McCoy did miss a blitz pickup early but made a couple good blocks later in the game to protect his QB. And although he did fumble after a third down conversion it was recovered by a teammate. LeSean was as good as he’s ever been in a Bills uniform on Sunday and it looked like vintage Shady. Grade: A+
Richie Incognito: After letting up an early sack along with Wood, Richie turned out a great performance. He settled in playing solid in pass protection and was an absolute earth-mover in the running game. You’ve probably seen this pancake block on McCoy’s first TD run but Incognito was also pulling and finishing on plays to open up room for the running backs.
He did get called for a hands-to-the-face penalty and still has issues at times with fast pass rushers, but when Incognito is dominating defensive linemen like he did on Sunday then Buffalo’s rushing attack can be scary. Grade: A-
John Miller: The second-year guard had a productive afternoon against the Cardinals as he did his job opening up holes in the middle for McCoy and Gilislee. Miller showed good footwork on a pull block that sprung LeSean for a big run and also picked up a blitz which gave Tyrod enough time to operate in the pocket. These type of games are probably what GM Doug Whaley and the Bills front office had in mind when they drafted him. Grade: B+
Cyrus Kouandjio: Despite rarely seeing the field in his first two NFL seasons, Kouandjio has been filling in for an injured Cordy Glenn this year and seems to be getting the hang of things. The third-year tackle was solid in pass protection early on as he used his long arms to keep blitzing defenders at bay. He showed off his ability to block in the running game too on a third down conversion by Mike G and also displayed good awareness by not holding a defender he was engaged with which directly aided McCoy in scoring his second touchdown.
Cyrus was called for two holding penalties late in the second half but it was an encouraging performance from the former All-American from Alabama. Grade: B
Robert Woods: Woods made an impressive yet questionable (ball hit the ground) 24-yard grab after beating Patrick Peterson down the sidelines early in the game. It was a momentum-swinging play but besides that and an earlier fly pattern where he was interfered with after getting a step on a Cardinals CB, most of his damage was done in the short passing game.
Woods found success underneath and led the Bills with 6 receptions on 8 targets for 51 yards. He’s gained a reputation as a physical blocker but made a mistake when he pushed a Cardinals’ defensive back out of the way while a pass was still in the air and was whistled for the interference. He also dropped a pass over the middle but it would have been negated by an offensive penalty anyways had he converted. Overall, it was a solid performance from Buffalo’s #2 receiver as he showed the ability to get enough separation in tight spaces. Grade: B
Eric Wood: Like Incognito, Wood got beat up the middle for a sack early but bounced back by opening a good running lane for McCoy’s 24-yard score. He also held his block perfectly on Tyrod’s 29-yard TD run and held up on most running plays. Wood still sometimes struggles with quick blitzes up the middle in the passing game but it was a much-needed performance from the Center. Grade: B
Jordan Mills: The starting right tackle started off with a false start penalty on the first offensive possession but settled in quickly with effective blocking in the running game. Mills made a heady move and bailed McCoy out by recovering his fumble after a nice first down run.
His big gaffe was a holding penalty on a direct snap play that went for a big gain in the second half. Mills also looked decent in pass protection especially on the 29-yard pass to O’Leary. It will be interesting to see what happens if anything when RT Seantrel Henderson returns from his four-game suspension. Grade: B
Walter Powell: The Training Camp standout recorded his first career reception on Sunday and added a couple more before it was over with three grabs for 28 yards. Powell got more playing time with Greg Salas and Watkins sitting out and was able to provide a small spark for the offense. After working the slant pattern for a couple nice gains, Powell caught a bubble screen pass and converted it for a big third down pickup.
He made the catch then lost his balance and stumbled to the ground but was able to get up untouched and make a quick cut to avoid a defender and move the chains. He did drop a high pass from Taylor later but Walter continues to show that he can play when given the opportunity. Grade: B-
Mike Gillislee: Filling in for Shady, Gillislee showed a good mix of power and speed as he was able to push the pile for a 7-yard gain early and then hit the hole hard for an important third down pickup in the redzone. When he is healthy, the former Notre Dame standout is a solid change of pace back to McCoy. He finished with three carries for 20 yards. Grade: B-
Tyrod Taylor: Taylor had an up and down afternoon against Arizona that saw him making big plays with his feet/through the air but also struggle at times with accuracy. He started off by hitting Woods right in the numbers for five yard gain and then completed a pass to Flash for a first down. It was a low throw but #88 made a nice adjustment to move the chains.
T-Mobile followed that up with a monster 49-yard pickup on a read-option run where he made the correct decision, took advantage of a blown defensive assignment and flew up the sidelines. He also looked in sync with Powell early as they connected on two slant routes for decent gains before throwing it too high a third time as the receiver broke open on his route.
Tyrod then set up the first Bills touchdown with a 24-yard touch pass he dropped perfectly to Woods along the sidelines. That duo was on the same page for most of the game as Robert led the team in receiving. He did later sail a pass well over the head of a wide open Charles Clay, but the performance was better than just the passing numbers would indicate.
Taylor for the most part looked comfortable in the pocket and was actively scanning through his progressions all over the field. I also noticed he didn’t hesitate to use his legs and pick up easy yards which seemed to be lacking in the first two weeks. That decisiveness led to a 20-yard touchdown scramble and a total of 76 rushing yards on nine carries. He finished 14-25 passing for 119 yards, one interception and a QBR of 60.2. I expect those numbers to improve with Sammy Watkins in the lineup and even though he wasn’t extremely successful through the air, T-Mobile lived up to the moniker and was able to gash the Cardinals on the ground to get the W. Grade: C+
Marquise Goodwin: Flash was targeted five times but only came down with one of those for a six yard gain. It was an impressive catch as the throw was low and it did move the chains. Besides that however it was a rather ineffective performance on five targets. Grade: C
Charles Clay: The tight end didn’t record a catch and was on the sideline for parts of the game working with the trainers. It wasn’t a pretty day through the air for the Bills offense anyways but many were hoping Clay would step up with the absence of Sammy Watkins. He did get open down the field but Tyrod airmailed the pass. Regardless if it’s the offensive game plan or lack of targets, he needs to have a bigger role/impact going forward. Grade: C-