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Tyrod Taylor maturing as performer, leader


He is tied for the lowest number of pass attempts per game among the starting quarterbacks in the league (27.1). On Sunday against Houston his 21 pass attempts were six below his season average, but Tyrod Taylor made the most of his 11 completions with three going for touchdowns including the game winner with 1:53 remaining.

Taylor's completion percentage of just over 52 percent mattered little in a game where Buffalo was averaging better than seven yards a carry on the ground in the first half. The Bills signal caller only attempted seven passes through the first two quarters, but he was remarkably efficient with two of his four completions going for touchdowns. For the passes that connected they had laser-like precision.

His first pass of the game went for a three-yard touchdown to Sammy Watkins as he placed the ball over the head of a late reacting Kevin Johnson.

"We just prepared for that play," said Watkins. "We knew we were going to get that look and knew exactly what he was going to do. Tyrod just kind of trusted it and put the ball in the air."

Taylor accounted for the team's second touchdown with an eight-yard scramble to the front left corner of the end zone where he was able to stretch the ball over the goal line and around the pylon for another score as he was shoved out of bounds.

Come the close of the first half, Taylor had perhaps his most precise pass of the day. Facing a third-and-goal at the Texans two-yard line, Taylor zipped a pass to Robert Woods' back shoulder on a fade stop just inches away from the outstretched arm of Johnson.   

"We worked on it all week," said Woods. "Trying to sell fade, work the defender. We stayed after practice working on that play. It was so exciting for us because it was all about repetition and working on timing. Perfect throw, we get a touchdown."

Head coach Rex Ryan referenced Taylor's Thursday practice in which he threw about 60 passes with only one hitting the ground. While the completion percentage didn't necessarily translate, what has is his ability to make the biggest plays when they're needed most.

Case in point with two minutes left in the game and the score tied at 21. Taylor on a 2nd-and-7 at the Texans 40-yard line stayed patient, waited for TE Matthew Mulligan to pull the safety wide and hit a wide open Charles Clay for a game-winning touchdown pass, his third passing touchdown and fourth of the game.  

"This is what his eighth or ninth start," said Ryan. "He just keeps getting a little better. That Houston group wasn't easy. They do so much. They mix coverages. They do a great job and they keep painting false pictures on you. I thought Tyrod did a great job. I think he's legit and he's real and I think people are starting to realize that."

Taylor knows he's still learning on the job, which is why he has thrown himself into his work since he signed as a free agent last March. Upon winning the starting job he redoubled his efforts, watching extra film, conducting extra player only film sessions and being a more vocal leader in the locker room.

"Tyrod is a guy who works extremely hard. I don't think I've ever seen someone with the work ethic he has," said Clay. "It doesn't come as any surprise whenever he plays real well. I see the way he works and studies and lifts weights. His work ethic is second to none. Whenever he plays a game like that it doesn't surprise me at all."

Perhaps the most important aspect of his improving game has been the one constant since he first lined up in Week 1. For a quarterback with all of 10 starts on his resume he's done exceptionally well in protecting the football.

He has just four interceptions this season, giving him a better than 4:1 touchdown to interception ratio (17 TDs, 4 INTs). On Sunday he set a team record for most consecutive passes without an INT eclipsing Drew Bledsoe's mark of 175 straight pass attempts. Taylor now has 187.

Add in his budding on field rapport with Sammy Watkins with both now healthy and playing together for the last five games and with four games to play the possibilities are encouraging.

"We've built some chemistry and definitely when he's one on one, in my mind, he's either going to make the play or he's going to protect the ball from getting in the defender's hands," said Taylor. "I like those odds and he's done a good job of tracking the ball once it's in the air."

"It's about just getting the right looks and Tyrod building the chemistry with the wideouts and he's just throwing us the ball," said Watkins.

Taylor's growth and confidence is unfolding with each passing week. Buffalo's precarious playoff aspirations have only emboldened the play of Buffalo's quarterback. If that continues the Bills could remain in the playoff race right until the end.

"That's what he's doing for the rest of the season is just being aggressive," said Watkins. "And that's what we're doing."

"He's an exciting player," said Woods. "He's making plays and some great throws."

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