I can’t imagine Bills beat writers enjoy the movie Groundhog Day considering they live the movie each week. Of course the Bills find some ways to change things up here and there.
Sunday’s blowout loss to the Seahawks mathematically confirmed what everyone else was already assuming about the Bills’ playoff chances. The Seahawks read-option attack shredding the Bills defense and helped to bury the Bills 50-17.
After an impressive run of stout run defense and a nearly equal effort against the pass, the Buffalo defense was unable to effectively scheme and attack the Seahawks scheme. Russell Wilson made the Bills look silly as linebackers were vacating the box in pass coverage, Wilson was scrambling in underneath the coverage to the tune of 92 yards and three touchdowns. Three rushing touchdowns from a quarterback is something you expect from Georgia Tech or Navy, not an NFL team.
Overall, the Bills gave up 270 yards to the Seahawks on the ground and 466 for the game. The performance was a drastic change from the sub-90 yard performances from the previous weeks.
I suppose it should be noted that a large chunk of Seattle’s rushing yardage came on two plays: Marshawn Lynch’s 54-yard scamper and the 29-yard fake punt run by Michael Robinson. If you wish to split hairs – which is all Bills fans really have left at this point – at least 30 yards against the run defense doesn’t really count.
The true damage was done by Wilson and Pete Carroll. Carroll was able to outfox Chan Gailey (and Dave Wannstedt) by keeping Wilson as an active run threat on every play. Wilson’s 92 yards came with ease as he was rarely challenged by defensive linemen or linebackers and was able to scamper on nine separate occasions for a 10 yard average. Even when there was a noticeable spy on Wilson the play was ineffective.
At times Mario Williams was disengaging as a rusher and preparing to set an edge against the quarterback. The same went for others on the line. While using Buffalo’s athletic defensive ends to attack the Seahawks scheme was a wise decision, the execution was poor. At the end of the day the absence of an effective linebacking corps is what became the Achilles Heel for the Bills defense.
Offensively the Bills were adequate. Ryan Fitzpatrick managed to put his turnover stamp on the game but also connected well with Stevie Johnson; to the tune of eight passes for 115 yards. Johnson and Scott Chandler (5 catches, 58 yards) keyed the Buffalo attack while CJ Spiller was able to get his fair share of touches (20 touches, 101 all-purpose yards).
Regardless, the story of the day was a defensive failure to the highest degree. Although the dismantling at the hands of the 49ers will remain as the most embarrassing effort on the year, this comes in as a close second. The offense was able to do some work, but ultimately fell short while the defensive unit was nearly invisible for the afternoon.
The Bills and Rodgers are expected to announce an extension of the Toronto series at some point in the near future. It is expected to come once the Bills are able to finalize a lease, which is taking much longer than expected. One question that is being asked north and south of the border is “What is the point of these games?” Season ticket holders are looking for a reason to go booze on Sunday morning and lose a valuable Sunday Funday with the annual pilgrimage. Torontonians have fully embraced a mediocre product with a mediocre, ass-out hug. Fan interest has clearly dwindled and this has become far more of a neutral site game as opposed to a home game for the Bills. Perhaps this has helped to regionalize, but I can’t believe Rodgers sees value in continuing this partnership.
Holes in the Screen
Perhaps the most effective play the Bills have been able to run this year has been giving the ball to CJ Spiller on misdirection and stretch runs. These two trump the screen simply because they’re still capable of producing yardage for the offense.
Recent weeks have seen defenses eliminate the screen game from the Buffalo gameplan. A few factors have contributed to this. First, defenses are again stacking the box to counter Spiller’s effectiveness out of the backfield. In addition, defenses know that Ryan Fitzpatrick won’t be beating them on deep one-on-one throws. Second, the injuries to the Buffalo offensive line has caused significant personnel turnover at vital positions. While Andy Levitre and Kraig Urbik remain entrenched at guard, the loss of Erik Wood has eliminated one of the team’s most athletic linemen. Without Wood to help lead the convoy – plus the limitations of having the third string center and right tackle as starters – the Bills screen game has almost disappeared.
The Bills are creeping ever closer to a top-five draft pick. In fact, Joe Buscaglia detailed a situation in which the Bills could even pick third should they lose out with a few other factors coming into play. Geno Smith is still likely to end up going first overall to Kansas City, but the Bills are in a position to have a variable pick of the litter in a top-10 that will be filled with talented offensive and defensive linemen.
I’d venture a guess that the Bills strike for the best defensive player available and leverage their high second round pick to jump back into the first round to grab Tyler Wilson. Buddy Nix said the time was now to trade up, he just didn’t specify where he would trade up to.
There isn’t much left to play for. I don’t subscribe to the lose on purpose thinking that you will hear surrounding teams looking for a quarterback. However, I think I’d prefer to pick fifth over ninth. Especially when players like Jarvis Jones and Manti Te’o lurk atop the draft. Sunday’s date in South Beach ought to result in victory, as should the pre-New Years game against the Jets. I’ll go out on a limb and take 6-10 as the final record this year.
MVP: Stevie Johnson’s catch. There wasn’t much to cheer about on Sunday, but Johnson’s full-extension, one-handed grab was phenomenal. Who says the Bills don’t put on a show in TO?
LVP: Defense. As if there was any other candidate.
It was over when the Seahawks went up 31-7 on Wilson’s third rushing TD. There was no way this team was coming back from that deficit.