Sunday’s outcome for the Bills was ugly. To say the least. An invisible pass rush, ineffective secondary and poor quarterbacking set the Bills back early in a 48-28 defeat at the hands of the Jets.
An offseason of hope and promise became two quarters of anger and frustration. Ryan Fitzpatrick, at times, seemed more in-sync with the Jets defensive backs than his receivers in the first half and the Buffalo defense looked lost when trying to defend the pass. Even the special teams units were ineffective, allowing a punt return touchdown to widen the New York lead.
Fitzpatrick’s performance was easily the most visible and alarming result from the game, he was inaccurate and could even be described as overmatched throughout most of the game. Aside from garbage time, when the Jets starters were watching from the bench, did he manage to sync up with his wideouts.
Defensively, the pass rush stayed in Buffalo, the linebackers failed to support in coverage in any way, shape or form and the secondary looked lost for the entire game.
It wasn’t all bad, just mostly bad. Bryan Scott injected a little promise with an interception on the first series and it seemed like the defense might have started to build some momentum. Of course, Fitzpatrick was picked shortly after the Scott INT and things went downhill quickly. Buffalo’s run defense was quite stout and didn’t allow any gashing runs until the result was well within reason and near the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter.
C.J. Spiller continued to build on his second-half surge from 2011 and looks to have rounded into a sterling NFL running back. His game breaking ability will soften the blow that is the loss of Fred Jackson. As for the loss of David Nelson, the Bills could be up the creek on that one. For a team that was injury riddled late last year, two knee injuries wasn’t the way to roll into 2012.
The loss was quite bad and has brought about a lot of criticism for the entire organization. Most fans are already to throw in the towel after the first 60 minutes and most of them are already calling for the head of anyone who works or plays football at One Bills Drive. You really can’t blame some of these fans. It has been 12 years without a playoff berth, the team finally invested in talent and then laid an absolute egg in their first game. Positions of question were exploited and fans are left thinking that these are indeed the “same old Bills” yet again.
Truthfully, there needs to be a bit more patience exercised by everyone. The Bills probably aren’t as bad as they showed on Sunday. They also aren’t as good as they will show in their most impressive victory. If they can rise to the median here, win the games they’re expected to win and build some positive momentum, they will still flirt with the playoffs. There is plenty of work to be done and there are some obvious issues at hand that need to be addressed immediately. But put your air raid helmets away. The sky isn’t falling just yet.
For all the bullshit that has been slung about Tim Tebow, he didn’t factor into the game at all on Sunday. The Bills neutralized the Jets use of the wildcat and rendered Tebow completely ineffective. In addition, it is doubtful that any time spent prepping for Tebow caused the overall defensive meltdown that occurred elsewhere. CBS stooped so low as to proclaim that Tebow’s use as a personal protector showed his versatility and showed a highlight package that showed all of four rushing yards. It is about time that the focus on a backup quarterback is ended, because he was eclipsed by a half dozen Jets offensive players.
Ryan Fitzpatrick was far and away the worst player on the field for the Bills on Sunday. His goat-worthy performance was followed closely by Aaron Williams and Ledois McKelvin. However, Mario Williams also caught a lot of heat for not turning up against an underwhelming offensive line.
Williams contract, draft status and history indicate that a lot should be expected of him. However, it would seem fans (and certain columnists) expect him to be sitting on the quarterback on every play. This is the same attitude taken by those who expect Ryan Miller to have a 1.50 GAA and .950 SV%. Simply put, unreal expectations for a player who will be keyed on by offenses.
Now, Williams sounded whiny in his filleting of the officials and was ineffective on a number of plays. He needs to be more of a force than he proved to be on Sunday. The best defensive ends are going to clock out of the regular season with somewhere north of 12 sacks. Anything in the 20-sack neighborhood is downright nasty. That means those players will not find the quarterback on every play and will only end up with a sack, or two, per game. Temper your expectations for Williams. He will be a difference maker, but he won’t be a sack-per-play Madden created player.
What made Williams’ lack of production more obvious was the fact that the Bills, as a whole, couldn’t rush the passer. Chris Kelsay created a little heat on a few plays, Williams himself did get in for a knockdown (I believe), but there was no other pressure from the d-line. Buffalo didn’t use too many five or six-man rushes and Mark Sanchez was well protected.
The issue, aside from not brining extra players, appeared to be the inability to win one-on-one battles. The defensive tackles didn’t push the pocket enough to warrant extra help inside (credit Nick Mangold) and the defensive ends weren’t dangerous enough on the edge. Finding a way to exploit mismatches will be a necessary improvement for the home opener.
Lightning in a Bottle
Funny, Jerry Sullivan made a point that he doesn’t see a Super Bowl roster. He pointed to Kelvin Sheppard, Jarius Byrd and C.J. Spiller as examples of players he didn’t see as the type of talents necessary to take the Bills to the next level. He then tried to defend his point by saying Spiller was a waste at nine, the Bills needed to go elsewhere and that he has been detrimental to progress.
While Spiller was a luxury pick for a team that couldn’t afford anything but pieces to plug holes, he has turned into a viable, gamebreaking talent. Mr. Sullivan, I will be waiting with your plate of crow whenever you’re ready.
Spiller was dynamic and has rounded into a back who can play on every down. Although I do still agree that other positions needed to be addressed when he was picked. Based on what he showed last season and Sunday, I’d say he was worth the ninth pick. It is certainly reassuring to have him in the fold with Fred Jackson out for an extended period of time.
Stephon Gilmore wasn’t as bad as advertised yesterday. I just think people are freaking because he wasn’t Revis right from the get go. Gilmore is going to be fine and I think Jarius Byrd will find his way back to his form from last year. However, Aaron Williams and Leodis McKelvin probably couldn’t cover Tupperware, let alone a receiver. I’ve never been high on Williams and I’m worried that he will eventually turn into a bust for this team. McKelvin is either awesome or awesomely bad on a week-to-week basis. This week happened to be awesomely bad.
Well, the run game was stout. Compared to recent seasons, the run game was phenomenal. The linebacking trio was active in run support and looked strong. That was easily the best part of the game for the Bills. However, those three weren’t even visible in coverage let alone effective. I wonder if Nigel Bradham’s athleticism will lead him to more time on the field in the very near future. Without any real support in pass coverage by the Buffalo linebackers, the secondary will be torched just as bad as they were on Sunday on a weekly basis.
Someone needs to explain how Brad Smith was declared active and T.J. Graham was inactive. Whether or not he “gets the speed of the game” shouldn’t have mattered. Graham is a weapon that can be used on any number of downs, even if just as a decoy. I’m sure there was a plan to use the wildcat formation at some point before the game got out of hand. However, there were plenty of opportunities to find a way to work an every-down receiver into the game plan rather than a gimmick player like Smith.
It was over when: Jeremy Kerley broke through the punt coverage and cashed in the first punt return TD against Brian Moorman in what seems like forever.
MVP: C.J. Spiller — LVP: Ryan Fitzpatrick