Sunday’s let down was more of a re-run than a new episode in the saga of “The Ways the Bills Lose”. After holding a lead for most of the contest, a late drive and poor offensive execution in the fourth quarter sealed a victory for the visiting St. Louis Rams.
CJ Spiller had eight touches all game and that is really all that needs to be said on the Spiller matter. Chan Gailey has criminally misused Spiller on nearly a weekly basis and hasn’t figured out a way to solve the problem. Spending more than a sentence on Spiller’s misuse on a weekly basis is quite literally the definition of insanity. So, why not focus on the other things the Bills have failed to capitalize on?
The Buffalo defense has been downright angry in the weeks since the bye. Mario Williams is good for at least one big play per game and has become a real issue for opposing lines to handle. In addition, the interior combo of Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams has added to the headaches for opposing offensive lines. Thanks to the play of those three players, someone is typically bursting through the line each play.
Thanks to the improved play of the defensive line, the Bills run defense has been nothing short of dominant and there has been far less pressure on the defensive backs to make huge plays. Just look at Stephon Gilmore who is rounding into a very impressive talent at corner. Between Gilmore and Jarius Byrd, the Bills have the makings for a very impressive defensive backfield.
Sunday’s final drive reeked of a team that was playing not to lose. The pressure on the passer was down, as was the aggressiveness of the defensive backs. Ron Brooks was victimized the most on the drive and despite showing some impressive traits over the last two games, he wasn’t capable to stepping up to make the big play the Bills needed.
On Brooks, he certainly seems capable of playing a significant role on defense for the Bills. One interesting quip from the Bills Kickoff soirée earlier in the year came from Dareus. When asked about Brooks he pointed out how strong of a prospect he was despite playing behind a pair of elite corners at LSU. When he has been at his best these last two games, Brooks has shown traits that have been absent in the performance of other corners this season, namely Aaron Williams.
Depending on the health of Williams and Leodis McKelvin, I could see McKelvin and Brooks continuing to share duties on the outside and as the nickel back while Aaron Williams is left on the sideline for the remainder of the year.
The depressingly bad offensive performance on Sunday appeared to emanate from the reserve linemen playing in a starting role. With their third string right tackle and (arguably) third string center in the game, the Bills weren’t able to effectively pass protect while flooding the defense with receivers.
While certain players (CJ Spiller) were capable of producing when they got touches, Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn’t in the position to manage the game as he had in recent victories for the Bills. However, the real problem could be that Fitzpatrick had the ball in his hands so often.
With such a large disparity between run and pass attempts (38-20 with scrambles counted as runs) it is not only difficult to get the ball to your best back, but it puts the game firmly in the grasp of a quarterback who has shown he is incapable of winning a game.
The injuries on the offensive line made running off right tackle a difficult task. However, the left side remained stout and Lee Smith’s talent as an in-line blocker make him a fine addition in running situations. However, keeping at least one extra blocker in passing situations not only limits passing options, but it will still leave certain portions of the line open to stunts, twists and stacked pressure.
Long story short, the Bills would have been better off running the ball repeatedly rather than trying to force the passing game. Not only is that a good strategy for a team whose two best players are running backs, but in windy and rainy conditions.
Redundant Uniforms are Redundant
The throwback helmets and uniforms were glorious when the Bills were doing their best impression of the Montreal Alouettes but now it is just a different version of the logo on almost the same exact uniforms. There is no point in trotting out another version of the road uniforms if there is no difference. If the Bills want an alternate uniform, create an alternate uniform. I’m getting some help from a far more talented graphic artist on this particular project and should have a post on it soon enough.
Time to Reset?
Personally, I am of the belief that nothing is accomplished by teams that recycle coaches every three seasons. Whether in the pros or college, I feel that five years is typically a good barometer to indicate what direction a team is going. However Chan Gailey has done far too much damage in the past few months to earn another year with the Bills. Maybe he would be able to do more with a real quarterback, but that doesn’t excuse him for his continued marriage to the passing game. His game management decisions have been poor and he hasn’t done anything to indicate that the nosedive at the end of last year has been fixed. A new QB and a new head coach could do wonders for this team.
As I detail in my post on Buffalo Wins this week, Buddy Nix’s roasting for his drafting decisions may not be fully justified. While the jury is out on 2012, many of the decisions he has made over the past few years have produced strong results. In addition, his free agent additions have provided similar positive returns. Scott Chandler was a great diamond in the rough find, Brad Smith has been somewhat serviceable and the additions of players like Kraig Urbik, Chad Reinhart and Kyle Moore have paid off. While his coach and QB haven’t given him much help, Nix should be allowed to continue for at least one season further.
If the NFL is fixed, Ryan Fitzpatrick is doing a good job sticking with the script. His late interceptions aren’t even upsetting anymore, they’re downright comical. The fact that fans know exactly when the INT is coming should say more about the professional football players and coaches who are studying film on Fitzpatrick each week. Maybe it is hard to fathom having the opposing quarterback throwing to you late in a game, but opponents seem to be doing just fine with it. I maintain that Fitzpatrick will be a great tutor for a rookie QB and makes for a great backup in the NFL. But his salary and production don’t justify sticking around as Buffalo’s starter.
Day and Night
The Bills linebackers were expected to be a weak point on defense this season. That hasn’t necessarily changed, but the unit has vastly improved since the front four has begun to dominate on a weekly basis. The Bills still need to find a three-down player who can cover the field (Manti Te’o) but they have also received a noticeable improvement from the current unit they trot out on a weekly basis.
MVP: Mario Williams – He picked up another sack, had a beautiful forced fumble and was dominant once again. Guess that wrist really was hurt.
LVP: Chan Gailey – Playcalling, abandoning the run, mistrust in his kicker and fumbling away another game can’t be ignored. He has been his team’s biggest enemy as of late.
It was over when: Brandon Gibson got inside Ron Brooks on the game winning touchdown pass. The TD sealed the fate for a team whose offense wasn’t going to be able to move the ball into field goal range.