Buffalo Bills running out of options in the passing game

CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 20: Charles Clay /

The Buffalo Bills suffered another key offensive injury, as tight end Charles Clay left Sunday’s game during the first quarter.

For the first 30 minutes on Sunday, the Buffalo Bills played the type of game which had seen them start the season 3-1; mistake-free football, forcing turnovers and keeping the game close.

Unfortunately, it all fell apart during the second half, even though they still managed to keep the game close. As a result, the Cincinnati Bengals won 20-16.

Not surprisingly, most of the criticism was aimed towards the offense. This was understandable, considering they managed 185 net yards during the first half, but just 36 after the break.

What isn’t quite as understandable, is how much of the blame is being focused on Tyrod Taylor. Yes, this is a quarterback league and he did throw an interception near the end to ruin any comeback attempt, but is the criticism entirely fair?

Last time we checked, no matter how good a quarterback is, football is a team game. If it really was just all about the man under center, Peyton Manning would have won more than two Super Bowls and Aaron Rodgers would not just have the one championship.

For a start, consider how much LeSean McCoy struggled after the break. As noted by Howard Simon of WGR 550, McCoy had just 12 yards on the ground in the second half, after managing 51 during the opening 30 minutes.

Of course, some people will point to the Bengals concentrating on nullifying McCoy, hence his numbers. They will then add that Taylor should have used this to his advantage in the passing game.

However, here comes the second reminder of how important the team is, again no matter how good the quarterback is. Consider who Taylor had to throw to; or more to the point didn’t have to throw to.

We already know the Buffalo Bills’ best receiver was traded away, when they offloaded Sammy Watkins. Then Anquan Boldin, who was expected to use his experience to help Taylor, decided to retire – and this was before the season even started.

Then, last week against the Atlanta Falcons, Jordan Matthews went out with an injury, which will see him out for at least a month. While theoretically not on the same talent level as Watkins, Matthews was still third on the team in receptions, behind McCoy and Charles Clay.

Which brings us (not so) nicely to the latest loss to Taylor’s receiving corps. Clay left the action during the first quarter on Sunday, before being ruled out for the rest of the game.

Clay’s loss was especially vital, as he had been a key component of Taylor’s approach to playing quarterback this season. More specifically, not taking as many risks down the field, using his outlet receivers more and generally playing mistake-free football, while relying on his defense.

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The point being, however much you want to criticize Taylor, most quarterbacks would struggle without the options listed above. As such, the amount of criticism being leveled at him just doesn’t seem right, or entirely rational.

Of course, one of the main concerns for the Buffalo Bills and their fans now, is the health of Clay. At this stage, it is unclear how much time — if any — he will miss, but everyone is well aware of the knee issues he’s had, since entering the NFL.

If Clay does miss any games, Nick O’Leary and Logan Thomas will have to pick up the slack. On the positive side, at least the Bills now have their bye week, which will give the players a chance to rest up and regroup..

Overall, don’t mistake any of this for meaning Taylor doesn’t deserve any criticism for Sunday’s defeat. However, if the Bills are going to bounce back from losing to the Bengals, it’s going to take a total team effort, as opposed to just the play of one man.

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Pending how long Clay is out, how will this affect the Buffalo Bills on offense? Do you have confidence in Taylor finding other ways to succeed, without Clay (and Matthews)? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.