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Extra Point: Groundhog Pick

November 13, 2012

Sunday must have felt like Groundhog Day for Ryan Fitzpatrick. Just as he did against Tennessee, Fitzpatrick played a sterling game only to unravel late in the fourth when the Bills were trying to lock up a victory.

Just like against the Titans, Fitzpatrick’s late miscue will receive just as much blame as the defense should for another 35+ point performance. That makes five games in which the defense has allowed 30 or more points. Shocking stat of the week: The Bills have lost all five games in which they surrender more than 30 points.

Danny Woodhead’s touchdown scamper was another astounding lack of run support from any of the 11 players on the field. But the rest of the performance wasn’t nearly as bad as the travesty that made up back-to-back losses to the Patriots and 49ers earlier in the year.

Buffalo outgained the mighty Patriots by nearly 140 yards. Yet they lost the game due in part to ugly penalty yardage and an early fumble that gave the Patriots a short field.

Chan Gailey still underutilized his most prolific weapon, CJ Spiller. But that won’t be the case on Thursday, as Fred Jackson will not be available for the Bills. Spiller finished with an average of 10 yards per play (9 carries, 70 yards and 6 catches, 61 yards). Once again, Spiller averaged a first down every time he touched the ball.

To his credit, Fred Jackson did plenty to justify the 20 touches that he finished with. Jackson ran well and looked like the dynamic weapon that powered the first quarter of Buffalo’s season in 2011. Not having Jackson will indeed hurt the Bills, especially if Gailey continues to shy away from giving Spiller the ball north of 20 times in a game.

It is no secret that the Bills defense has been the undoing of this team. The vaunted defensive line has been average and is now suddenly riddled with injury. The biggest question mark, the linebackers, have been downright invisible each game and the secondary has suffered due to the seven players in front of them.

Safe money says that Dave Wanndstdet won’t be back calling the defense in 2013. His scheme has been assessed to be simplistic on a criminal level and those criticisms seem to be accurate. There is little action coming from the line that boasts a $100M defensive end and two well respected defensive tackles. With little effectiveness on the defensive line, the underwhelming linebacking corps are victimized each and every game. His young secondary looks overmatched due to the lack of a pass rush and their specific lack of experience.

Luckily the Bills won’t be seeing any incredibly potent offenses for the rest of the season. However, it doesn’t mean that they won’t have any more trouble stopping them.

Hope for the Future

In passing I have suggested that this offensive line is the best that the Bills have had in some time. Perhaps since the Super Bowl years. By comparison, some of the worst lines in history have been patch worked together in hopes of  protecting a number of players dubbed as “the quarterback of the future”. Now that they have the line (if Andy Levitre is re-signed) and the pans to draft a QB, it might be safe to assume that the framework is in place to have the next Bills starter to be quite successful.

Ryan Fitzpatrick had one of his best days of the year on Sunday, and a lot of it had to do with the fact that he was kept clean for most of the game. Just imagine what a more dynamic QB may accomplish back there.

Indefensible

At no point Sunday did I expect much from the defense. That way, when they did force a punt or make a stop, I was happy. The defensive line has been beyond underwhelming and the linebackers are invisible. Kelvin Sheppard and Nick Barnett are clearly cut out for a 3-4 and Nigel Bradham was originally a decent upgrade over Arthur Moats, but even he has been bad. Luckily the remaining offenses aren’t juggernauts.

Finding a Solution

There still doesn’t seem to be a perfect answer for the Bills two-back system. CJ Spiller just isn’t getting the ball enough no matter if he is the hot hand or if Fred Jackson is having a big game. Perhaps Spiller and Jackson need to be on the field at the same time, with Spiller being used as a split end. That is the only remaining solution I can think of that will get the team’s best playmaker more touches.

MVP:I’m tempted to say Ryan Fitzpatrick here. Spiller had a big day, but didn’t get in the end zone. Jackson’s goal line fumble was costly, but not as bad as the final pick. Fred Jackson gets my vote.

LVP: Linebacking corps. I have a strong feeling that with better linebackers the Bills would look like a better team.

It was over when:Devin McCourty undercut Fitzpatrick’s final pass attempt in the end zone.

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