ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan finally acknowledged Monday that quarterback Tyrod Taylor has been battling an ankle injury all year, and it's certainly not getting better after a game such as Sunday's when Taylor ran for 76 yards in a 14-13 victory against the Tennessee Titans.
"I can tell you this," Ryan said Monday. "Tyrod is beat up right now. You should see him. He is sore, we knew he would be. We haven't really seen Tyrod at 100 percent."
Buffalo's defense played well enough to keep the Bills in the game at Nashville, and then Taylor - after a gruesome first-half performance - rallied the offense in the final quarter and a half to pull out a 14-13 victory. However, Taylor had to do it by running around and making plays with his legs, and he took a couple shots on the ankle, one of which forced him to sit out for a play.
The Buffalo offense is a mess without wide receiver Sammy Watkins and running backs LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams. With no one really stepping up to fill those voids, Taylor's burden has been enormous. He couldn't make it work in Week 4 against the Giants, and he was probably fortunate to be playing a young Tennessee team that hasn't figured out how to close games.
Ryan seemed disappointed in running back Boobie Dixon, who started in place of the injured McCoy and Williams and carried only seven times for 19 yards.
"Boobie is not where we want him to be right now," Ryan said of Dixon's conditioning.
Dixon missed about a month of training camp and the preseason with a calf injury. And while Ryan didn't mention the receivers, Percy Harvin and Robert Woods combined for seven catches worth just 60 yards in the past two games.
Taylor threw for just 109 yards against the Titans, and Buffalo had a mere 209 yards of offense in the game, and another part of the problem has been horrific starts. The Bills had only two first downs in the first half against New York, and just four against the Titans. They have been held without a first down or touchdown on 46.9 percent of their first-half possessions, second-worst in the NFL behind only St. Louis.
Ryan said he is hopeful Watkins will be able to return to play against the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals Sunday.
"I feel good about Sammy for next week's game," Ryan said. "We wanted to hold him out one more week."
The same can't be said for McCoy, who is almost certainly out. As for Williams, he is still in the NFL's concussion protocol and his status will be an unknown until late in the week.
Once they all return, it will be interesting to see what becomes of a Buffalo offense that has fallen far short of expectations.
"We definitely need those guys healthy," Harvin said. "That's the key for us. We were raving about having all our weapons on the field at once, that's what made us dynamic, so that's what we're looking forward to. This wasn't pretty by any means, but we got the W. It was a game we needed."
REPORT CARD VS. TITANS
PASSING OFFENSE: D-minus -- The absence of WR Sammy Watkins is proving to be far more devastating than the Bills could have imagined. Without Watkins drawing coverage, WRs Percy Harvin and Robert Woods have not been able to get involved and against the Titans they combined for just one catch (by Woods) for four yards. QB Tyrod Taylor really struggled as he completed 10 of 17 passes for 109 yards, one being a 46-yarder to Chris Hogan. TE Charles Clay, who had been Taylor's favorite target the past two weeks, was held to one catch for seven yards.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus -- The best runner on the roster right now is the quarterback. He rushed for 76 yards, most ever by a Bills quarterback in a single game. Some of the runs were designed, such as his 22-yard scamper for a third-quarter touchdown, but several were scrambles when protection broke down and no one was open to throw to. Without LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams the Bills were severely hamstrung, having to go with the troika of Boobie Dixon, Boom Herron and Cierre Wood. They combined for 19 attempts for 50 yards.
PASS DEFENSE: B-plus -- The Bills' pass rush continues to struggle, though it did produce sacks by Kyle Williams and Mario Williams to raise the season total to nine in five games. There was a bit more pressure in the second half, and they had Titans QB Marcus Mariota running around a bit more. CB Stephon Gilmore had a big day with an interception and three other pass breakups, SS Corey Graham made 10 tackles, and FS Aaron Williams returned to the lineup and was in on seven tackles.
RUSH DEFENSE: A-minus -- Like Taylor for Buffalo, Mariota was the Titans' leading rusher in the game with 47 yards, 23 of which came on a well-designed bootleg that fooled the Bills. Buffalo shut down the tandem of Dexter McCluster and Bishop Sankey on a combined 16 carries for 40 yards. DT Marcell Dareus was solid as he was in on five tackles, and LBs Nigel Bradham and Preston Brown each had six tackles.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- Marcus Easley, the Bills' leader on special teams, went offside on the opening kickoff and that wiped out a fumble recovery inside the 5-yard-line, a play that could have really been huge had the Bills lost. New punt returner Denarius Moore lost a fumble in the third quarter that set up Tennessee's only touchdown. Embattled kicker Dan Carpenter made both his extra points, and punter Colton Schmidt was solid as usual. New kicker Billy Cundiff, who was supposedly brought in for kickoffs, did not record a touchback in three tries.
COACHING: C - Rex Ryan shouldn't be continually reminding everyone that his team never quits, because it's not supposed to quit. But in this game, the Bills have to be given credit for sticking with it despite all the frustration on the offensive side. It looked like the Bills would never score, but they persevered and found a way to win. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman did all he could with the pieces he had, but playing without Watkins, McCoy, and Karlos Williams was a major problem. On defense, it was quite a performance in holding the Titans to only 13 points and 276 yards despite 35 minutes of time of possession.