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3 things we learned about the Bills

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — On a day where gaining first downs seemed like a tall order for most of three quarters, the Buffalo Bills figured out a way to win.

Meanwhile, the Tennessee Titans found another way to lose a game they could have won.

Leading two 80-yard second-half touchdown drives, quarterback Tyrod Taylor rallied Buffalo to a 14-13 win Sunday at Nissan Stadium.

After his 22-yard touchdown scramble got the Bills (3-2) on the board with 1:20 left in the third quarter, Taylor connected with wide receiver Chris Hogan on a 2-yard scoring strike at the 5:25 mark of the fourth quarter for the winning points.

Although Taylor’s overall numbers — 10-of-17, 109 yards in the air and eight carries for a game-high 76 rushing yards — were modest, Buffalo coach Rex Ryan couldn’t stop raving about his first-year starter.

“He’s the reason we won the game,” Ryan said of Taylor. “He’s courageous. Great effort on his part.”

Missing their top two running backs and their top wide receiver due to injuries, the Bills did nothing during the first half, managing only 51 total yards and four first downs. They didn’t collect a first down until the 7:10 mark of the second quarter.

Meanwhile, Tennessee (1-3) reached Buffalo territory on its first three possessions and owned the ball for 20 minutes and 56 seconds of the first half. But all the Bills managed was a 21-yard field goal by kicker Ryan Succop with 14:09 left in the half.

The Titans built on their 3-0 halftime lead when running back Antonio Andrews plunged home from the 1 with 6:51 remaining in the third quarter, cashing in a fumble by Bills wide receiver Denarius Moore at the end of a 27-yard punt return at the Bills 39.

But the Buffalo offense finally found a rhythm, creating big plays behind the gritty, elusive Taylor, who took advantage of a defense that opted not to deploy a spy, which might have kept him from scrambling.

“It was just a matter of coming together as a cohesive offensive team,” Bills left guard Richie Incognito said. “It felt like we were banging our heads against the wall, but the defense kept us in it.”

After the Bills finally took a lead, their defense made sure they kept it. Tennessee managed only one first down on its final two possessions, that coming off a personal foul. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore supplied the clinching play, intercepting a pass by rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota with 1:32 left.

Mariota completed 21 of 32 passes for 187 yards and added a team-high 47 yards on five rushes, but the Titans blew a double-figure lead for the second straight game.

“It was a team loss,” Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan said. “We’ve got to learn to finish. It’s not on the offense, it’s not on the defense, it’s not on the special teams. We’ve got to stick together, but our spirit isn’t broken.”

Ryan praised Mariota’s talent and toughness, but saluted his defense’s fight.

“They were running on the field at the end of the game,” Ryan said. “They couldn’t wait to get out there and help us win it.”

What we learned about the Bills

1. QB Tyrod Taylor willed them to a win they probably didn’t deserve Sunday. Taylor lifted the injury-riddled team on his shoulders for two 80-yard TD drives in the second half, producing no less than four plays of 22 yards or more. His runs of 26, 22 and 24 yards finally gave the offense traction and his one big pass play — a 47-yarder to Chris Hogan –set up the winning score.

2. Buffalo needs its playmakers to get well in a hurry. Without RB LeSean McCoy and RB Karlos Williams, as well as WR Sammy Watkins, the Bills have no one besides Taylor capable of producing a big play. None of their receivers could consistently gain separation from Tennessee cornerbacks as Taylor managed just 109 yards passing, 47 on one play.

3. Coach Rex Ryan vowed that Buffalo would get a handle on the penalties that marred its first four games, and it indeed did make some improvements. After being flagged 58 times prior to Sunday, the Bills cut down to seven penalties for 62 yards. Three of those came in the first 8 minutes, so Buffalo did play with more discipline. That has to be an every-week thing.

Etc.

–RB LeSean McCoy (hamstring) was inactive Sunday and is likely to miss at least two more games, which means he won’t return until after the team’s bye in November. McCoy has rushed for just 146 yards in three games.

–RB Karlos Williams (concussion) didn’t play Sunday after being injured in last week’s loss to the New York Giants. Williams could have been the second player in team history to score in each of his first five games, joining Joe Cribbs (1980).

–WR Sammy Watkins (calf) missed his second straight game, which played a part in limiting Buffalo’s passing game Sunday. Watkins’ status for next week’s visit from 5-0 Cincinnati isn’t known yet.


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