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Bills defy expectations by ending playoff drought

From ESPN - January 8, 2018

The Buffalo Bills ended the season with a 10-3 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. Heres a recap of the season and whats next:

Season grade: Above average. The Bills exceeded preseason expectations to finish in the middle of the NFL pack for the regular season. The Bills had a minus-57 point differential, the NFLs 29th-ranked offense and 25th-ranked defense entering the final weekend. Despite these stats, they defied expectations and made the playoffs, perhaps a building block for the future.

Season in review: It was a season of peaks and valleys for the Bills that saw them climb to 5-2, tumble to 5-5 and recover late in the season to earn their first playoff berth since 1999. The Bills finished 9-7, marking only the third time since their now-ended postseason drought began in 2000 that they have posted a winning record.

The Bills fast start helped them stay out of the basement of the AFC, where they were expected to finish after firing coach Rex Ryan and eventually general manager Doug Whaley following a 7-9 record last season. The makeover of the Bills front office and coaching staff led to significant turnover on the roster, including the trades of wide receiver Sammy Watkins and cornerback Ronald Darby during training camp, as well as midseason deals that sent away defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and added wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. First-year coach Sean McDermott further rocked the boat when he benched veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor for rookie fifth-round pick Nathan Peterman in what became a blowout loss Nov. 19 to the Los Angeles Chargers. Peterman threw five interceptions before being pulled at halftime.

While McDermotts quarterback change flopped, he ultimately will be judged on his ability to change a losing culture in Buffalo. Despite turning over more than half of his roster from 2016, McDermotts team performed better than expected and gave owner Terry Pegula what he said in August he wanted: respectability.

Biggest play of season: Benjamins offensive pass interference penalty on first-and-goal from the Jaguars 1-yard line in Sundays wild-card game. The Bills were given second life in the red zone when the Jaguars jumped offside on a field goal attempt, but Benjamins flag pushed Buffalo back to the Jaguars 11-yard line. The Bills then failed to gain another yard on that possession, settling for a field goal. Having a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line and not scoring a touchdown was inexcusable, and the Bills inability to get into the end zone probably cost them the game and their season.

Key offseason questions

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