Taylor has 7 games left to prove he's Bills long-term answer

FILE - At left, in an Oct. 30, 2016, file photo, Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots in Orchard Park, N.Y. At right, in an Oct. 30, 2016, file photo, Bills
Bill Wippert, File

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) During Tyrod Taylor's bid to establish himself as the Bills' unquestioned leader, it's understandable for the quarterback to bristle when challenged about his long-term future in Buffalo.

That was the case last week when Taylor gave a terse answer after being asked to assess his progress midway through his second season as Buffalo's starter.

''You all are going to write what you all want to write anyways,'' he said. ''So that's up to you all.''

Taylor provided a more assertive response with his performance in Buffalo's 31-25 loss at Seattle on Monday night.

Though the Bills (4-5) didn't win entering their bye week off, Taylor enjoyed what was regarded as one of his most complete outings. Playing on a national prime-time stage and in one of the NFL's most intimidating environments, Taylor went 27 of 38 for 289 yards with two touchdowns (including one rushing) and an interception. He oversaw an offense that produced 425 yards, the most Seattle's allowed at home in nearly a year. And the Bills finished with 30 first downs, including 16 passing, their most in two years.

''He was lights out,'' running back LeSean McCoy said of Taylor. ''That was probably one of his better games and it sucked that we couldn't get him a win.''

The question remains whether this was Taylor's coming-out party or another blip on an inconsistent resume for a quarterback with a 12-11 record.

What drives the discussion further is Taylor's contract status. Despite signing a lucrative five-year extension in August, Taylor's future is not secure. The Bills can opt out of the deal after this season.

The front-office hasn't provided any hints, though coach Rex Ryan continues to praise his starter.

''I think the country got to see the kind of ability that this young man has,'' Ryan said following the game at Seattle. ''Tyrod plays well every game. I wish I wasn't the only one that sees it.''

At 6-foot-1, Taylor lacks the prototypical size of an NFL quarterback, though he makes up for his limitations with his dynamic scrambling ability.

He ranks 24th in the NFL with 1,769 yards passing; is 25th with a 60.4 completion percentage among players with 100 or more attempts; and his 87.7 passer rating is 31st. On the positive side, Taylor leads NFL quarterbacks with 362 yards rushing and ranks 10th in attempts (268) versus interceptions (three).

What's difficult to take into account is how injuries to Buffalo's top three receivers have affected Taylor's production. Sammy Watkins has missed seven games. Robert Woods has been hobbled by a right foot injury. Marquise Goodwin has been in and out of the lineup with several injuries. And that doesn't include McCoy being hampered for a few weeks by a left hamstring problem.

Another issue is the time it's taken Taylor to adapt since Anthony Lynn took over as offensive coordinator after Greg Roman was fired two games into the season.

''I look at the quarterback play and see if the ball's going where it's supposed to go and on time. And he's done a pretty good job of that,'' Lynn said. ''He has missed some throws, don't get me wrong, but all quarterbacks miss throws, so I think he's playing fine.''

Is he playing well enough to influence victories?

Before Monday, Taylor had similar numbers in Buffalo's four wins (668 yards passing, six touchdowns, including one rushing, and two turnovers), as he had in four losses (812 yards passing, six touchdowns, including two rushing, and an interception).

The big difference was Buffalo combined for 462 more yards rushing in its wins than losses, an indication of how much the offense relies on McCoy's presence .

''That's the way we're built, so we're not going to have as many pass attempts as most people,'' Lynn said.

And yet, leaning on a running game makes it difficult for teams to play catch-up.

Overcoming deficits has been the most troubling concern under Taylor. He's 1-11 when Buffalo falls behind by four or more points at any point in a game, and has engineered just two wins when Buffalo's tied or trailing in fourth quarter.

Performing in the clutch is one issue general manager Doug Whaley brought up in January when reviewing Taylor.

''It is going to come down to those last-second heroics, where we have to put the team and the game and the ball in his hands, and he carries us down and wins the game for us,'' Whaley said.

''He did it in Tennessee, so it's there,'' he said, referring to a 14-13 win last October. ''We just want to see it more often.''

Taylor said he can't pinpoint why the Bills have struggled when trailing.

''Comeback victories aren't something that are the norm in this league,'' Taylor said. ''It's just not our team, it's 32 teams in this league.''

That's not entirely the case.

In 774 games since the start of the 2015 season, 161 teams have won when trailing by four or more points. Three teams did it last week alone, including Seattle.

Former Chicago Bears scouting director Greg Gabriel says it's difficult to reach a conclusion about Taylor. Ultimately, he said the Bills' decision hinges on whether they believe Taylor can continue developing, and whether there's a better option. Franchise-type quarterbacks aren't readily available in free agency, and they have to be developed when drafted.

''As the season progresses, going down the wire, there's going to be important games. How does he play in those games and do you see the arrow going up?'' Gabriel said. ''If you can't say yes to that, then make a change. If you can say yes to it, then it's wise to keep him because it's just too hard to find these guys.''

Stay tuned.

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