ORCHARD PARK, NY – The Cowboys had their chances to win this one, but like many games this season, a defensive lapse in the fourth quarter doomed them in the end. The offense wasn't much better, squandering a red-zone chance inside the 10 and then throwing a key interception late in the third to spoil their best drive of the second half.
But like all games, there were a handful of plays that could go unnoticed, but yet changed the outcome of the game.
Let's take a closer look at five that affected this game.
McClain's missed tackle –On a third-and-6 from the Cowboys' 15, the Bills threw a screen in the flat to Gillislee, who was run down in the open field by Rolando McClain. But the running back cut it back to the middle of the field and McClain overran the play, allowing Gillislee to get loose for a 14-yard play to the 1. The Bills scored a touchdown on the next play for a 6-3 lead. A tackle there by McClain limits Buffalo to a field goal attempt and considering Dan Carpenter missed his extra point, there's no guarantee he makes a field goal from a similar distance. [embeddedad0]
Holding on Frederick –Earlier in the week, much was made about Travis Frederick having just one penalty in 14 games – just a false start for five yards. Frederick, who was named to his second straight Pro Bowl, had just his second penalty of the season against the Bills, but it was a costly one. In the second quarter, with the Cowboys trailing 6-3, Kellen Moore hit Brice Butler for a 12-yard gain to the Buffalo 28, but Frederick was flagged for holding. That pushed it back to first and 20 at midfield and the Cowboys weren't able to convert a first down. Without the penalty, the Cowboys were already in field-goal range with the wind to their backs.
Costly midfield sequence– Early in the fourth, the Cowboys had first down at the 50 but a false start on Zack Martin set up first-and-15. From there, the Cowboys couldn't get to the sticks, and on third-and-4, Moore's pass to Butler was underthrown, setting up fourth down from the Bills' 44. Had the Cowboys called for a run there, not only could they get the first down but at least a little closer for a possible fourth-down play. Instead, they punt the ball away and don't get it back for another three minutes and back on their own 31.
Lucky flagged for holding– The Cowboys were down 9-6 and looking for either a tying field goal or go-ahead score. Darren McFadden ripped off a run down the left sideline for 17 yards to the Cowboys' 48. But Whitehead was flagged for a hold near the line of scrimmage. McFadden's run was cut to just nine yards and he finished with 99. That play cost him a third straight 100-yard game, which would've been a career-first and also kept him at 998 yards this season. But it also wiped out a play that had the Cowboys in prime field position. They still got there a few players later, but it did take more time off the clock. The Cowboys eventually punted from the Bills' 44 and never went back on offense again.
Defense can't corral Taylor – The Cowboys had Buffalo pinned back to third-and-six from their own 12 with 5:35 to play. A stop there and the Bills would be forced to punt into the wind with the Cowboys needing just a field goal to tie. However, despite getting at least three rushers around Tyrod Taylor, the Cowboys couldn't bring down the Buffalo quarterback before he scrambled away for seven yards and a first down. From there, the Bills kept it moving and finished it off with a 55-yard touchdown run to clinch the win.