The stars seemed to be aligning for the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. They were playing the 8-0 Kansas City Chiefs at home in 30 degree weather. They came out of the gates firing. They had a 10-3 lead at halftime. By the end of the game, they had piled up an astonishing 241 yards on the ground. They held the Chiefs’ reliable offense to only three field goals.
Yet at the end of the day, the Chiefs beat them by 10 points.
It’s what happens when you start a third-string QB in this league. Jeff Tuel was an undrafted free agent from a losing college program but there he was, starting his first NFL game against the undefeated Chiefs. To his credit, he hung in there for a while and had a very efficient first half, but like most guys with his talent and experience level, he became unhinged after one costly mistake.
The Bills had third-and-goal from the Chiefs’ two-yard line on the first possession of the second half. Tuel didn’t have to throw one pass to get them there, but after two failed run attempts, his number was called. It was a hot read with both Stevie Johnson and T.J. Graham slanting inside to the end zone. He chose Graham from the snap and stared him down, but CB Sean Smith sat on the route and intercepted the pass and ran it back 100 yards for the Chiefs’ first TD of the game.
Johnson, who didn’t even get so much as a look from Tuel, was sitting uncovered in the back of the end zone.
Tuel never got his feet back under him after that mistake. He became erratic and was constantly overthrowing receivers. He also became a little skittish in the pocket and would take off and slide down 2-3 yards upfield rather than scan the field after he escaped pressure. When the Chiefs added another defensive TD after a Graham fumble, it was an uphill battle that Tuel wasn’t prepared to overcome and the Bills fell to 3-6.
You can hardly blame Tuel. After all, he’s a third-string QB — an undrafted rookie. The bottom line is that his number was called and he had to go out there and try and win the game, and couldn’t. The irony is that the Bills talked all season long about finally stabilizing the QB position, and thought they did when they drafted E.J. Manuel.
Now it seems like the season has come off the rails because of inconsistent QB play after Manuel’s injury. I guess that about sums up the luck of the Bills over the past 13 years.