For all the drama and excitement that Sunday offered a beleaguered Bills fan base, Buffalo wouldn’t be in the playoffs if not for a stellar, albeit unexpected, start to the season.
Yes, after trading Sammy Watkins to the Rams in August, the Bills, many thought, were punting the 2017 season.
Then they started 5-2.
“I think they got off to a fast start – an unexpectedly fast start,” Bills legend Steve Tasker said on The DA Show. “They did it by churning out a ton of turnovers in the first seven games. They went to a 5-2 mark strictly on the back of a plus-17 turnover ratio. The only thing that the offense did was they just didn’t turn it over.”
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor led a conservative attack. He threw for 2,799 yards, ran for 427 yards, and scored 18 touchdowns (14 pass, four rush) this season. More importantly, he threw just four interceptions in 420 attempts.
“Tyrod Taylor scored just enough points,” Tasker said. “He never throws for over 200 yards, let alone 300 yards. They stay on the football field, they don’t turn it over, they play field position, and the defense was churning out turnovers.”
Kicker Steven Hauschka did his part, too.
“Steven Hauschka came in and never missed,” Tasker said. “He set a record for 13 straight 50-plus-yard field goals, and all of a sudden they get to 5-2. They felt like at that point, if we can just get any spark at all in our offense, we’re going to be tough to beat.”
The Bills benched Taylor, briefly, in Week 11 for rookie fifth-rounder Nathan Peterman. That was an unmitigated disaster, as Peterman threw five interceptions in a 56-24 loss to the Chargers.
“It exploded in their face,” Tasker said. “They went right back to Tyrod Taylor.”
The Bills won four of their last six games to put themselves in position for a New Year’s Eve miracle – and they got it, as Andy Dalton threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Boyd on 4th-and-12 to beat the Ravens in Baltimore.
“Let’s face it: (the Bills) got some help from an AFC team that, after you get past the Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s a little bit of a toss-up in the conference,” Tasker said. “They got a little bit of help there, and here they are after 17 years back in the playoffs.”
The Bills play the Jaguars (10-6) in Jacksonville this Sunday. Kickoff is at 1:05 p.m. ET.