It was far from convincing, but Tyrod Taylor and the Buffalo Bills are atop the AFC East after Week 1.
Buffalo opened the 2017 season at home with a 21-12 win over the New York Jets in front of 68,751 at New Era Field.
Hampton High and Virginia Tech alum Tyrod Taylor was efficient in his first start since suffering a concussion in Buffalo’s Aug. 26 preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens. Taylor threw two touchdowns and went 16 of 28 for 224 yards passing, while adding 38 yards on eight rushes.
With Rex Ryan gone and new head coach Sean McDermott at the helm, Sunday’s game didn’t feature Buffalo calamity as much as quiet New York ineptitude, as the Jets struggled on offense and the Bills running game slowly wore the defense down.
Buffalo scored all three touchdowns from one yard out. Taylor opened the scoring with 11:30 left in the second quarter on a touchdown throw to Charles Clay. A pass to Andre Holmes midway through the third quarter made it 14-6 Bills, and Mike Tolbert’s 1-yard touchdown with 12:47 left in the fourth quarter gave the Bills the 9-point lead it carried to the final gun.
Buffalo had nearly twice as many yards as the Jets on Sunday — 408 to 214 — but they didn’t cash in on every opportunity the run game gave them. LeSean McCoy had 110 yards on 22 carries and added 49 yards receiving on five catches.
Taylor became the Bills all-time leader for yards rushed by a quarterback in the third quarter, passing Joe Ferguson with 1,175 career yards. Ferguson played twelve seasons for the Bills, while Taylor began his third season with Buffalo on Sunday afternoon.
A scoreless first quarter, though, featured some early miscues. The Bills’ first drive ended in an end zone interception after Charles Clay tipped a high Taylor throw into the hands of Juston Burris in the end zone with 9:02 left in the first quarter.
“I wish we could have a couple of those back,” Clay said after the game.
Stephen Hauschka also missed a 48-yard field goal in the second quarter that the Jets answered with a Chandler Catanzaro field goal to make it 7-6 Bills at the half.
Despite the mistakes, Buffalo was never truly in danger of letting the Jets take over the game. The Bills defense limited the Jets to just 11 first downs, and McCown went 26 of 39 passing but for just 187 yards and two interceptions.
“That’s a resilient football team. Good football teams are resilient,” McDermott said. “We thought we had some opportunities that we didn’t come away with more points in the first half when we should have. And that’s where we have to continue to grow as a team.”
Taylor relied heavily on Clay and McCoy in the passing game, though Jordan Matthews finished as the Bills’ leading receiver with 61 yards — 47 of which came on one of his two catches. Still, Taylor said the targets were based on matchups and not an inability to throw downfield.
“We didn’t think those guys could stop Shady and Charles coming out of the backfield,” Taylor said. “Those outside targets will come, but it’s a game of matchups.”
Taylor didn’t appear to have any ill-effects from the concussion he suffered when his head hit the turf on a sack in preseason. He cleared the concussion protocol late last week and said he’s playing it safe and avoiding contact with defenders.
“The main thing is that I just don’t take any unnecessary hits,” Taylor said, noting with a smile that on one carry late in the fourth quarter he “slid for the first time.”