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Extra Point: Squishing the Fish

November 18, 2012

Winning affords teams a number of things. Namely, it absolves them of many of their mistakes made along the way. For one night, at least, the Bills can be absolved from some of their misguided decisions.

Buffalo managed to secure their first division win against Miami thanks to a sound defensive effort and another phenomenal return from Leodis McKelvin. C.J. Spiller had another productive evening on a night when neither offense was capable of building much momentum.

However, the one thing that stood out to many fans were the dubious playcalls made in specific situations by Chan Gailey. His third and short playcalling was particularly questionable on drive ending plays:

-          3rd and 1 from the BUF 33 – Tashard Choice wildcat run, no gain. Punt

-          3rd and 3 from the MIA 14 – Empty set, incomplete pass intended for Donald Jones. Bills FG

-          3rd and 1 from the MIA 16 – Empty set, incomplete pass intended for Scott Chandler. Bills FG

-          3rd and 3 from the MIA 17 – Fitzpatrick sacked. Bills FG

-          1st and goal from the MIA 4 – Three pass attempts, one defensive pass interference penalty and three incompletions. Bills FG from the MIA 1.

-          3rd and 1 from the BUF 44 – C.J. Spiller run for -1 yard.

The final play listed came in the fourth quarter when the Bills were milking the clock. Now, that was probably the right playcall and it just didn’t get the job done. But it is perplexing to think that Gailey would call six pass plays on short yardage situations in the red zone. Maybe the specter of Spiller’s goal-line fumble against New England still haunts the coach. Maybe Fred Jackson’s absence caused Gailey to go in a different direction. However, these are exactly the situations that fans and media have pointed to as shortcomings with Gailey’s attitude towards the run game.

Spiller did finally get his touches and he responded with a sterling 130-yard effort. He probably could have punched one in the end zone had some of the playcalling decisions been changed, but that is all 20/20 hindsight. Much like the ill-advised wildcat throw, if any of those plays work Chan Gailey would have looked like a genius. At the end of the day the team is playing to win and Gailey’s play calls were made with an aggressive mindset. Yet the obvious argument is to ask why the team’s most dangerous play doesn’t have the ball in his hands in those situations.

Either way, the Bills came away with the win. Spiller provided further evidence that he is the team’s most dynamic weapon and Jarius Byrd probably booked his ticket to Honolulu. The defense looked stout and there is suddenly hope than an unlikely 5-1 run could sneak the Bills into the playoffs.

Next Sunday’s date against the Colts will do a lot more to show where the Bills stand for the stretch run.

Byrd Cliché

Call him the Byrd Man, a Ball Hawk or any other avian-related term. Jarius Byrd has proven to be Buffalo’s most valuable defensive player this season. Not only has he learned to be effective in run support, but he has a nose for the football and simply makes plays. The Bills should drop a blank check at his locker and ensure that he will be a defensive cornerstone for a better part of a decade.

Finding him a viable partner should also be an offseason priority. Da’Norris Searcy is starting to see more time in the secondary and is showing his hard-hitting pedigree. However, he is still kind of raw. Personally, I think an upgrade to George Wilson needs to be found. Aaron Williams has safety written all over him, but I doubt he could put on the necessary weight to play strong safety in the NFL. Whether Searcy continues to progress, or a free agent is signed, getting another solid safety would do a lot to shore up the secondary.

End Returns

Mario Williams certainly looks healthy, no? Another sack (against a rookie) and a pair of tackles for loss buoyed his performance and was part of a very impressive showing from the Bills defensive end unit. Shawne Merriman finally did the Lights Out dance in a Bills uniform and Kyle Moore continued to impress. Moore is probably a shoe-in for a roster spot next season with a defensive end depth chart consisting of Mario Williams, Mark Anderson, Chris Kelsay and Kyle Moore.

Wildly Ineffective

To date, there has been one effective use of the wildcat. That came with the package’s inception at Foxboro when the Dolphins and Ronnie Brown took the Patriots to school. Since then it has devolved into a single wing, quarterback draw formation. Buffalo specifically signed Brad Smith to run their wildcat, yet the formation seems to have three plays (jet sweep, QB draw and interception).

The wildcat is effective when there is a viable run/pass option. However, the pass has been completely taken off the table. Even teams with quarterbacks that run the package rarely throw. Tim Tebow and Colin Kapernick rarely air it out. Perhaps Chan Gailey should give Smith a few more looks in terms of roll outs and passing plays in the formation. Maybe then it would serve as an effective change of pace to the Bills base offense.

Obvious Statements

Taking the game out of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s hands does wonders for Buffalo’s winning percentage. The Bills didn’t force Fitzpatrick to work any magic and it paid off. While Chan Gailey put a little too much faith in him in the red zone, Fitzpatrick didn’t need to be a factor in the game… Seems like there was a good reason that John Potter was kept around. Rian Lindell’s inability to kick touchbacks was evident and it hurt the Bills in the worst way. Potter’s release was expected and necessary, but Lindell’s ineffectiveness as a kickoff man is borderline criminal… Speaking of special teams, is there any way Bobby April can come on (after the Eagles staff is inevitably cleaned out) as a kick coverage specialist? Bruce DeHaven owns in the return game, but his coverage units seem to be lackluster. Bobby April is a special coach and I’d love to see him back in Buffalo.

MVP: Jarius Byrd LVP: Penalties

It was over when: Bryan Scott picked off Ryan Tannehill after Jarius Byrd’s interception resulted in a three and out.

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