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Howard Simon's Blog

Posts from November 2012


Bills GM Nix tight lipped about Gailey
As the Bills head towards what appears to be a 13th consecutive non-playoff season, the heat intensifies for General Manager Buddy Nix, Head Coach Chan Gailey and Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.  During his weekly segment with the WGR Morning Show, Nix was tight lipped and suggested he would end the interview during repeated questioning about Gailey.


You can listen to what Nix had to say about Gailey, Fitzpatrick, his own future and the disappointing 4-7 record:
 
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Bills QB Watch: Aaron Murray
Chan Gailey says the Bills are looking to develop a quarterback for the future but the Head Coach added he doesn't think its the "near future".  Here's hoping Gailey's definition of the "near future" is limited to the remainder of the 2012 season.
 
This weekend, you have a chance to personally evaluate a quarterback who the Bills should consider for the future, if indeed he declares for the draft.  Georgia's Aaron Murray will face Alabama in the SEC title game Saturday at 4pm.
 
Murray is a junior and has given no indication as to whether or not he will return for one final season with the Bulldogs or place his name in consideration for the 2013 NFL draft.  At this point, Murray is not considered a first rounder by most draft experts but my guess is that would change if he has a big game against a very strong Crimson Tide defense.
 
I fired up the DVR this week and watched Georgia's game against in state rival Georgia Tech from last Saturday.  There were a number of things to like about Murray although the game was a clear mismatch as the Bulldogs dominated the Yellow Jackets in a 42-10 victory.
 
Murray, who is listed at 6-1, 210 pounds, showed a strong arm, good accuracy, command of the offense(as a third year starter should) and solid recognition skills as he deciphered what the Yellow Jackets were showing.  Murray's decision making was strong throughout the game as he led Georgia to touchdowns on six of their first seven possessions.
 
The Tampa, Florida native ran the no huddle extremely well and ran it at different tempos, sometimes getting the snap off very fast while other times using a few more seconds to see what the defense was showing and bark out instructions to his teammates.  He operated with equal success out of the shotgun and under center.
 
On one first half drive he did miss what should have been an easy 20 yard touchdown because his pass was off target for a receiver by the goal line.  Georgia still scored a touchdown on that drive and Murray came back on the very next possession and threw a perfect deep ball, traveling about 45 yards in the air.  It went for a 63 yard gain and would have been an 85 yard touchdown but his receiver stumbled shortly after making the catch and was tackled.
 
Murray made nice plays on two other TD passes.  The first coming on a play where he had to sprint to his left to avoid some pressure.  Murray, the nation's leader in passing efficiency, turned back to his right so he could set and make a perfect throw to the left corner of the end zone.
 
In another instance, Murray showed good patience and poise in the pocket.  He saw a favorable matchup with a tight end facing a safety and waited for the tight end to get some separation.  Murray then led him perfectly on a 24 yard TD toss.
 
He also showed the ability to make throws outside the numbers with accuracy.  Murray was also adept at getting the ball out on time although he didn't face much pressure because the Bulldogs offensive line dominated Georgia Tech's defensive line.  There was only one time where Murray held on to the ball too long and took a sack.
 
His career in Athens, Georgia has been an impressive one.  Murray is the first quarterback in SEC history to record three straight 3,000 yard passing seasons.  He is 5th all time in the SEC in touchdowns(89) and pass yards (9,399).  He's led the Bulldogs to back to back SEC East titles after a 6-7 season during his freshman year.
 
Murray made the SEC ALL Freshman team in 2010 after throwing for 24 touchdowns.  In 2011, he was without stud receiver A.J. Green who left early for the NFL yet his touchdown total increased to 35 and he earned ALL SEC 2nd team honors.
 
One of the knocks on Murray was that he took too many chances.  After throwing just 8 interceptions as a freshman, he was picked off 14 times in 2011.  But this season, Murray has improved his decision making and isn't trying to force passes into tight windows.  His interception total has dropped down to just 7.
 
Murray will also face questions about his size since he is 6-1 and that might be generous since teams have been know to fudge a bit with heights and weights.  But remember that Drew Brees is only 6-0 and Seattle's rookie starter Russell Wilson is 5-11.
 
One other criticism is his performance in "big" games and thats why Saturday's SEC Championship game is so important.  Murray was awful in last years SEC title matchup against LSU, going 16-40 for 163 yards, one touchdown and 2 interceptions.
 
In two key matchups this season, he did not fare well either.  In the Bulldogs lone loss of the season, at South Carolina, Murray was 11-31, 109 yards, no TD's and 1 INT.  Georgia beat arch rival Florida but Murray was only 12-24, 150 yards, 1TD and 3 INT's.  Good news though as Murray has not been picked off since that game with the Gators.
 
He has never faced Alabama in his 3 year career and the Tide have one of the best defensive units in the country. A win and a strong performance could lead to Murray sky rocketing up the charts in a year where there are no clear cut, stars in the waiting in the collegiate quarterback crop.
 
 
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Martin Biron remains optimistic
The Buffalo Sabres were supposed to play host to the Winnipeg Jets and Vancouver Canucks this week.  Instead, the First Niagara Center and every other NHL Arena remain dark as the NHL lockout approaches its fourth month. 
 
Games have now been cancelled through December 15th and there don't appear to be any indications a deal will be reached anytime soon but former Sabre Martin Biron remains optimistic.  The New York Rangers player representative joined the WGR Morning show on Tuesday and said he thinks there will be hockey this season.
 
“I always said yes and I continue to believe we will at some point play just because its too important for everybody" Biron said.  "Its too important for the players, the fans, the owners.  We believe, the players believe, that the gap is very small right now.  We talked about a 182 million dollar gap on the make whole provision over a 5 year period which equals out to about a million dollars a team a year."

While the two sides remain apart on how the revenues should be divided, figuring out how to share billions of dollars isn't the main sticking point as far as the players are concerned.  Their big issue with the owners most recent proposal deals with contracting rights.  Among those are entry level contracts, capping the length of contracts, the age for unrestricted free agency and arbitration rights.

“The last time around, seven years ago, when we finally agreed to a salary cap, we gave up on the notion of living in a free market but we wanted some protection coming our way when it came to free agency, salary arbitration which was something that we acquired" Biron told WGR.  "For the league to want to go backwards on that is almost like us saying we want to go backwards on the salary cap and we’re not saying that. I believe those were rights that we acquired seven years ago that we should keep now."

Biron said the players don't feel they have a real negotiating partner right now because the owners have yet to reach the point where they truly feel the pressure to strike a deal.  He added the players feel that a handful of owners are driving their agenda and that too many owners aren't being given the opportunity to speak up and get involved in the bargaining process.

You can listen to the entire interview with Biron and hear what he says is NHLPA Executive Director  Donald Fehr's philosophy for these talks.
 
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Bills Mutiny on Offense?
When it appears all hope for a particular season is lost, some times dirty laundry gets aired in public.  It appears  some of the Bills dirty laundry was put on display after Sunday’s 20-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
 
Wide receiver Stevie Johnson, who recorded his first 100 yard game since last December, questioned the play calling and control of the offense by Head Coach Chan Gailey.
 
"How I see it is I think we need to let our quarterback call these plays you know what I mean?” Johnson said to reporters in the visitors lockerroom at Lucas Oil Stadium.  “He's out there on the field, he sees the adjustments that need to be done and I think we should just let him make the adjustments on the go. I think that's how we can move the ball better. He did it a little in the game and we moved the ball so that's how I feel about it".
 
Johnson didn’t stop there. “This year has been like the only year where it has been controlled from the booth or the sideline or whatever, but we got the right guy that can control the offense and we have to take advantage of that" Johnson said.

"The play calling is cool the plays are good what we have but in the situation, we’re the ones on the field you know what I mean? He(Ryan Fitzpatrick) knows what to check into, check out of you know what I mean? Its different when you're looking from the booth and see ok they may be in this from being out there you know what I mean? So, that's just my take on it."
More from Stevie:
"I think we have the guy that can control the offense that can call these plays and be a general on the field like he's been for the last couple of years. We need to let him loose and let him just call plays"
 
During his Monday morning segment on WGR, Gailey was asked whether or not Fitzpatrick has the freedom to call audibles. "Some times he does, some times he doesn't” Gailey said.  “He can go out there and change some things. It depends on the situation and the play and what we're trying to do.  Some times the thing we're trying to do is run the football, we don't want to change it to a pass.”
 
Gailey was asked why Fitzpatrick doesn’t have complete freedom when it comes to changing a play based on what he sees before the snap.  “If you ended up doing that every time, then he has to know every situation about pass protection” Gailey told WGR.  “He has to know how many times you want C.J. Spiller to get the ball.  He has to know do you want to run it here to set up third down? You've thrown it a couple of times, he has to know "lets run the football here".  There's a lot more to it than just seeing what they do and calling a play.  It’s setting up a play to set up the next play.  Fitz is really good, he is smart. He can make adjustments on the field and sees things and knows what's going on but we're doing things today just like we did them last year and the year before that.  We have been successful in times past.  We just need to continue to execute in all phases of what we're trying to get done and then we can get back to where we've been offensively.”
 
During Fitzpatrick’s Monday morning segment on WGR, he was asked if he feels he has less control over the offense now as opposed to the last two seasons.  “No, I don't think so. Chan does a great job during the week, going back and forth with the input that I have” Fitzpatrick said.  “Plays I feel comfortable with, plays I don't feel comfortable with. There's some leeway at the line of scrimmage with a decent amount of plays and some there's not, just like in any offense."
 
Fitzpatrick, who said he hasn’t spoken with Johnson about the post game remarks, was then asked what he thought of the comments from Johnson and why he might feel there’s more control coming from the sidelines this season. "We're trying to get the ball to CJ and Fred and they've done such a great job too” the Bills QB said.  “Last year and the year before, we may have done a little more of the no huddle and up tempo stuff to try and spark us and get us going a little bit. When that happens, Fred and CJ tend to not get as many touches and I think that’s probably part of the reason why we've gone that way this year."
 
As to the control of the offense, Fitzpatrick said he has no problems with Gailey in that area.  "Chan and I have a great understanding of each other and what we're trying to get done.  I'm very comfortable with my role in the offense and I think our relationship is fine in terms of on the field and our discussions on the sideline."
 
The full interviews with Johnson, Gailey and Fitzpatrick are available in On Demand Audio.
 
 
 
 
 




 
Kiss the Bills season goodbye
End scene.  It isn't official but for all intents and purposes, we can kiss the 2012 Buffalo Bills season goodbye. Good riddance too!

I was planning on spending my Sunday night looking at the remaining schedules of  teams in the hunt in the AFC wildcard race.  I wanted to see how they stacked up with the Bills.  If they had beaten the Colts, the Bills would have been one game behind Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati with 5 games to go.  But of course the Bills produced another day filled with head scratching coaching decisions and a slew of "what if plays" as they dropped to 4-7.  I quickly changed my thought process about the scoreboard and found bright spots like Cleveland and Jacksonville winning.  As we prepare for yet another December filled with meaningless Bills games, we're once again reduced to wondering whether or not they can improve their draft position. (insert your comment here about how it doesn't matter because they'll just mess the draft up anyway)

Once the game ended, I tried to figure out how the Bills had just lost. I have a lot of practice at that.  Its very simple.  They just aren't good enough.  They don't have a good enough Head Coach.  They don't have a good enough quarterback, and they don't have a complete defense.  How many times this season have the Bills put together a complete game? A game where you walked away feeling good across the board about the coaching, offense, defense and special teams? One? The week two victory over Kansas City? Maybe the win in Cleveland so two at the most.

Chan Gailey continues to add to the list of reasons to buy out the remaining two years of his contract.  I'll get to under utilizing C.J. Spiller in a moment because that has turned out to be a given.  Earlier this season Gailey said he isn't a fan of field goal attempts from 50+ yards.  Despite that, I still anticipated Rian Lindell trotting out on the field as the Bills faced 4th and 15 at the Colts 34 yard line, trailing 7-6 in the second quarter.  I scared the dog as I yelled at the TV "why the (expletive deleted) are you punting!!!!?" Gailey is a man of his word because the Bills haven't attempted a single field goal of at least 50 yards since the 2010 season.  

How do you run a team with the philosophy that you won't try a field goal unless the ball gets to at least the opponents 32 yard line? Perhaps Lindell's leg strength is the issue and the Bills don't believe he can make that kick anymore.  If so then why is he on this team? Hey Buddy, cut Lindell and bring in a kicker who can make( or at least try) a field goal longer than 49 yards!

During the post game press conference when Gailey was asked about his thought process, he said "he(Lindell) might make it, he might not." Faced with the idea of a 50+ yard attempt, Gailey(whose record with the Bills is now 14-29) said he thinks its better to play for field position.  So the Bills get a 24 yard punt and put the Colts back at their 11 yard line.  The defense then proceeds to give up an 82 yard drive ending in a field goal.  Instead of perhaps being down 7-6, the Bills now trail 10-3.

Now to the weekly "they didn't use Spiller enough" portion of the show.  Gailey said he was trying to strike a balance between passes and the number of times they handed the ball to Spiller.  I better check the definition of balance because I didn't think it meant a more than 2 to 1 ratio.  Ryan Fitzpatrick threw 33 passes while Spiller carried 14 times and not once in the final 13 1/2 minutes of the game.  It kind of reminded me of the Houston game when the Bills again declined to use their most dynamic offensive weapon.  Spiller's last run came with 13:33 remaining in the 4th quarter.  From that point on the Bills would have 14 more plays on offense but none were put in the hands of a running back who averaged over 7 yards a carry.  Spiller had runs of 41, 23, 13 and 11 so 4 of his 14 carries went for more than 10 yards.  

Perhaps the most puzzling moment came with 9:31 left and the Bills offense getting the ball at the Colts 25 yard line.  Buffalo had scored a touchdown on its previous possession, one that began with the 41 yard run by Spiller, to pull within 20-13.  The defense forced a three and out with Mario Williams getting a huge sack on third and three.  Momentum seemed to be swinging to the Bills and yet Spiller is standing on the sideline as the drive begins.  I don't know the exact play Spiller was sent out but he didn't get a touch until the 10th play of the drive.  A screen pass to Spiller lost 2 yards and a 3rd and 8 pass for Spiller was incomplete.  The Bills faced a 4th and 8 at the Colts 49 yard line with 3:31 to go, punted the ball away and never got it back.

Now we come to Fitzpatrick and the ever increasing list of throws he misses and points the Bills leave on the field.  Who knows how the game turns out if Fitzpatrick was accurate enough on two of his deeper attempts of the game.  He hit Stevie Johnson with a perfect pass on what turned into a 63 yard play but two misses came back to haunt the offense on a day it managed just one touchdown in 11 possessions and 13 points against a defense that was giving up an average of 26 points a game.

In the first quarter with Indy up 7-0, Spiller ran a route down the right sideline and got behind the defense.  If Fitzpatrick hits him, Spiller blows down the sideline for an easy score.  Fitzpatrick over threw Spiller and the drive ends with a field goal.

In the second quarter, Donald Jones beats his man down the left sideline and it appears once again that an on target throw would have been cashed in for a touchdown but once again Fitzpatrick misses his man.  He had to step around some pressure but still had time to set and throw yet he was high and wide with the pass.  The Bills get no points at all as the drive ends with a punt.

I can't find much fault with the defense since they did give up just one touchdown while also recording 4 sacks and an interception although Justin Rogers got lucky on that play.  He was beaten by Reggie Wayne but a bad pass from Andrew Luck went off Wayne and into the hands of Rogers.  Mario Williams had a tremendous game with 3 sacks.  Buffalo held the Colts running backs to 67 yards on 23 carries.  But Indy was 8-16 on third down and on the only drive when their offense produced a touchdown, the Colts converted on third and six(twice), third and 17 and third and goal from the eight yard line.

In the losing locker room, Gailey  told his team the goal is to get to 7-7 because "thats where the world champs were last year".  My goal is to see the day when I have faith in a Bills Head Coach to make the right moves more often than not and to see a coach who coaches to win as opposed to coaching not to lose.  My goal is to see a quarterback who can singlehandedly win games for the Bills.  My goal is to see meaningful December games.  That's where world champs are but the Bills are FAR from there.
 




 
Bills Defense Improving
If the Buffalo Bills are going to make a push for one of the two AFC wild card spots over the final six games of the season, a defense that has received a near total make over during the Buddy Nix/Chan Gailey regime must come through.
 
While the Bills are still a long shot to earn one of those two coveted wild card berths, the defense appears to be getting better at a time when the team faces essentially must win games the rest of the way.
 
I know what you’re thinking.  The way the defense looked in the first five games of the season, it would be almost impossible for them not to show improvement.  It could simply be a case of going from historically bad to mediocre.
 
To refresh your memory, Buffalo gave up a franchise record 621 yards in a 45-3 loss at San Francisco.  That came one week after they were gouged for 580 yards in a 52-28 smoking at the hands of New England.
 
In the game against the 49ers, the Bills became the first team in NFL history to give up 300 yards passing and 300 yards rushing in the same game.  Buffalo was also the first team to give up at least 550 yards in back to back games since 1950 when there was a team called the Cincinnati Reds that played football.
 
Through the first five games of the season, as the Bills went 2-3, the defense gave up an average of 36 points a game.  It has dropped over the last five games to 23 points a game although the Bills have the same record, 2-3, to show for their work.
 
Actually the numbers are down across the board when you compare the last five games to the first five of the season.  From rushing yards a game(171 to 134), to passing yards(277 to 190), and completion percentage(63% to 58%).
 
There’s a slight improvement with 3rd down defense(from 47% to 44%) but its still nowhere near good enough.  Sacks are up slightly from a total of 10 through the San Francisco game to 13 over the last five contests.  The only stat that is worse is takeaways( 9 down to 6).
 
Of all the statistics I looked at, the one that really jumps off the page to me are the big pass plays, which the NFL considers are plays that total 20 yards or more.  The Bills were getting torched in the first five games giving up 21 big pass plays.  The number has dropped significantly to just eight in the last five including none in the win over Miami, the defense’s best overall performance of the year.
 
I think that change and the overall improvement of the defense are due in large part to the play of the line.  The Bills defense is built to succeed or fail based on the play of the guys up front. 
 
Almost to a man, that group was under achieving(except for Kyle Williams) with big ticket free agent Mario Williams leading the way.  Marcell Dareus wasn’t taking the next step after a strong rookie season.  Mark Anderson, the smaller ticket off season signing to bolster Dave Wannstedt’s group, really didn’t show much before going down with an injury in the September 30th game with New England. 
 
Now we’re seeing production across the board from that group and you can add in Kyle Moore who has been the most consistent linemen when it comes to generating pass rush during his snaps.
 
Mario Williams has been more effective since coming back from the bye week surgery on his wrist.  He’ll probably never live up to a $100 million contract but in the last three games, Williams has 14 tackles, 3 for loss, 2 sacks and 2 quarterback hits.
 
Dareus, who had a very strong game against Miami, has been more consistent stopping runs up the middle. But he’s also been able to generate some pass rush pressure and tip passes at the line of scrimmage.
 
Even Shawne Merriman made some plays in the win over the Dolphins.
 
Back to that stat about the drop in big pass plays allowed.  Is  the pass rush making the secondary look better or is the secondary doing a better job of covering receivers, giving the pass rush more time to get to the quarterback?  It’s probably a combination of the two.
 
But I think there are two significant changes with the cornerbacks that have benefitted the defense.  I don’t like to see anyone get hurt but lets face it, the play of Aaron Williams was killing the Bills.  The most torched cornerback in the league was giving up big play after big play and had given up more touchdowns than any other corner in the league when he went down in the Houston game.
 
The Bills wanted Terrence McGee to step into the starting spot but his injured knee wouldn’t hold up and he has since been placed on injured reserve.  In stepped former first round pick Leodis McKelvin who won the nickel job in training camp and promptly lost it in the season opener.  McKelvin, who has the ability but seems to be lacking when it comes to ball skills, is playing like he did in the pre-season and has been an upgrade in coverage. 
 
Williams injury also led to the Bills changing their philosophy of having their corners play halves of the field.  Since the Houston game, rookie Stephon Gilmore has been matched up against the opponents best receiver regardless of where that player lines up.  Gilmore had some rough patches in his first few games as all rookie corners do but has played more consistently with the added responsibility.  His matchup with Reggie Wayne, who is already over the 1,000 yard mark for the season, is one of the keys to Sunday’s game. Gilmore is still looking for his first NFL interception.
 
Safety Jairus Byrd is one of the best playmakers, not just on defense, on the entire team.  His interceptions against the Dolphins and Arizona were big reasons why the Bills won those games.  Byrd, who will be a free agent after the season, is second on the team in tackles and he leads the team in interceptions, forced fumbles and fumble recoveries.  During his Friday segment on WGR, Bills General Manager Buddy Nix said he wouldn’t want to swap Byrd with any other safety in the NFL.
 
The defense still has a ways to go as far as their rankings in the NFL. They are 30th in points, 31st against the run, 31st on third down and dead last in the red zone.  But they could take advantage of a favorable schedule the rest of the way that sees them play some of the worst offenses in the league.  Here are the opponents and where they rank in terms of points scored:
Indianapolis  21st
Jacksonville   22nd
St. Louis          28th
Seattle             23rd
Miami              25th
NY Jets            24th
 
Here are the quarterbacks they will face and where they currently stand in terms of qb ratings:
Luck                26th
Henne             not rated
Bradford        19th
Wilson            12th
Tannehill       29th
Sanchez          30th
 
To this point of the season, the defense has been the Bills achilles.  It was supposed to be an improved group that would give the offense a chance to fail without costing them games.   Its taken a while but it appears the defense may be ready to do just that. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 




 
Looking for Bills QB of the Future
Do you remember the line from that classic  movie "Airplane" where Lloyd Bridges character says "looks like I picked a bad week to stop sniffing glue"? I thought about that as I continued my examination of quarterbacks who could be in the 2013 draft.  Looks like I picked a bad week to watch Tyler Bray from Tennessee.

This is really the first time I saw the 6-6, 215 pound Bray play, except for a handful of snaps in a game against South Carolina earlier this season and this is the problem with not watching quarterbacks on a weekly basis.  You come up with a snap judgement which can be incorrect.  If you saw play of the California native in the Vols 40-18 dismantling at the hands of rival Vanderbilt, you  wouldn't consider drafting him.  

Bray had his worst game of the season and I'm guessing one of the worst of his three year career for UT.  He was 11-29 for 103 yards, was picked off twice and actually pulled from the game for a couple of series in the second quarter.  He went back into the game in the second half but remained ineffective.

It was a combination of problems for the junior including bad passes from him, drops from his wide receivers, and miscommunication between QB and receiver a few times leading to throws that landed nowhere near anyone wearing orange and white.  Bray even had a touchdown pass wiped out by a penalty.  It was that kind of a night.  You could see a look of frustration on his face and he seemed demoralized on a night where Tennessee dropped to 0-7 in the SEC for the first time in school history. I don't like to see my quarterback with that kind of a look on his face and showing the body language seen from Bray on this night.

He does have a strong arm as evidenced by a number of deep throws but none connected.  He does show mobility in the pocket and he can operate an up tempo offense as the Vols ran the no huddle from time to time.  He showed some pretty good zip on his intermediate range passes too.

As I said, I must have caught him on a rare off night because the Vols offense has averaged 37 points a game this season and despite his horrific numbers against the Commodores, the California native has thrown for more than 33 hundred yards with 30 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions.  I wonder about his accuracy though because Bray has completed just 59% of his passes this season and has never finished a season with a completion percentage better than 59%.

In the three games prior to the Vandy contest(South Carolina, Troy, Missouri), Bray threw for more than 1300 yards, with 13 TD's and only 1 interception.

Since he is a junior, Bray can declare for the draft but he hasn't given any indication as to which way he is leaning.  Tennessee just fired its coach so that could play a role in his decision and perhaps he won't want to end his collegiate career on such a sour note since the 4-7 Vols are not headed to a bowl game.

The other quarterback I watched last weekend was Ryan Nassib from Syracuse who seems to be rising up the qb chart.  He had a much better night than Bray, leading the Orange to a come from behind win at Missouri enabling Syracuse to become bowl eligible. Nassib threw for 385 yards(272 in the 2nd half) and 2 touchdowns including a game winning 17 yard TD toss with 20 seconds left  to give SU the 31-27 victory.  

The senior from West Chester, Pennsylvania has played an integral role in the turnaround of the program which is 19-17 since he became the starting quarterback in 2010.  If Syracuse beats Temple in its regular season finale, the Orange will finish 5-2 in the Big East and record its highest number of conference wins since 2001.  

Nassib will leave Syracuse as the program's all time leader in passing yards.  He has more career yards and more completions than Donovan McNabb.  This season, Nassib and his offensive teammates rolled up more than 500 yards in six different games and they've set a school record for most total yards in a season.

As to the game with Missouri, Nassib showed a number of attributes including poise under pressure.  SU was down 17-3 in the first half but Nassib never panicked.  He calmly engineered touchdown drives and showed leadership.  He's big and strong although most of his throws were short to intermediate range.  I didn't see many deep throws in this game.  His accuracy was good but he needs to work on his touch.  His arm is so strong that he puts too much mustard on some of his short throws and they were too hot for the targets to handle. He has a pretty quick release and showed the ability to get the ball out on time.

As to leadership, Nassib was intercepted with the game tied at 24 and just over 4 1/2 minutes left but it wasn't his fault since his pass went off the receiver.  He went over to the receiver and tapped him on the helmet while giving him words of encouragement.  That turnover was cashed in by Missouri for the go ahead field goal but Nassib answered with the game winning drive.  A good leader doesn't let his teammates get down on themselves and  lose focus when he knows they can still win the  game.

Nassib operated the offense both under center and out of the shotgun and was effective in both. Nassib, who directs the top passing offense in the Big East, did run some no huddle.  He did a nice job of sliding around in the pocket to avoid the Tigers pass rush.  When he was forced out of the pocket, the 6-2,229 pound senior was very good  throwing on the run. 

Nassib's completion rate, passing yards and number of passing touchdowns have increased every season.  In this, his senior year, Nassib has completed 63% of his passes, thrown for more than 34 hundred yards, with 23 touchdowns and 9 interceptions.



 




 
Can Bills Make Push for Playoffs?
So, Bills Nation, do you think the Bills can make a push for the playoffs?  Where's Jim Mora when you need him. Playoffs! Playoffs?

Its still a long shot but perhaps the win over Miami and Sunday's matchup with an Indianapolis Colts team that is currently holding down one of the two wild card playoff spots in the AFC has you thinking what if?

Here's aloof at where the Bills stand and what lies ahead for them over the final six weeks of the season.

Pittsburgh(6-4) and Indianapolis(6-4) are currently in the wildcard spots.  Cincinnati(5-5) is the only team at .500 in the conference.

The Bills are one of five teams with a 4-6 record along with the Jets, Miami, Tennessee and San Diego.  One of the key tie breakers is record in conference games and the Bills 3-5 mark in AFC contests is tied for the worst among all of those teams. The Colts and Chargers have the best records in AFC match ups at 4-3.

As you well know, the Bills are now in the "favorable" portion of the schedule.  Their remaining opponents have a combined winning percentage of just .400(24-35-1):
Indianapolis (6-4)
Jacksonville (1-9)
St. Louis       (3-6-1)
Seattle          (6-4)
Miami           (4-6)
NY Jets        (4-6)

If you believe the Bills won't be able to win enough games to make a run at a playoff spot, despite that schedule, its probably based on the fact their defense is one of the worst in the NFL.  But keep in mind they will face some of the league's worst offenses the rest of the way.  Check out the rankings of their opponents, based on average points scored per game(these were the rankings going into week eleven):
Indianapolis  22nd
Jacksonville  32nd
St. Louis         28th
Seattle            23rd
Miami             25th
NY Jets          24th

Here are the Quarterbacks they will face and their respective ratings going into week eleven:
Andrew Luck          26th
Blaine Gabbert      28th
Sam Bradford        19th
Russell Wilson      12th
Ryan Tannehill      29th
Mark Sanchez       30th

Here are the rankings for the opposing defenses, again based on average points per game and also going into week eleven:
Indianapolis     15th
Jacksonville     26th
St. Louis            19th
Seattle                4th
Miami                  8th
NY Jets              24th






 




 
Enjoying Classic Sabres Games
With the NHL and NHLPA showing no regard for fans of their sport, I've had to find other ways to get my hockey fix.  I opted against watching a replay of game six from the 1999 Cup Finals as well as game five of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals on the NHL Network. I have been rolling the DVR on Monday nights to watch the Sabres classic games on MSG.  I thoroughly enjoyed the "May Day" game which I was fortunate to have covered and the four overtime playoff game with New Jersey won by Dave Hannan.
 
But I was really excited to watch the replay of the Sabres exhibition game against the Soviet Wings from January of 1976.  I was not living in Western New York at the time so I had never seen the game but over the years, I've talked to a number of Sabres who played that day.  To a man, they talked about how amazing it was to play in the game and how it was one of the top moments of their professional career.
 
I also wanted to see the French Connection since, by the time I arrived in Buffalo(September 1980 as a freshman at Buffalo State), Rene Robert was already gone.  Rick Martin would be traded later that season after suffering what was essentially a career ending knee injury. As it turned out, they didn't play together against the Wings. Martin was on a line with Brian Spencer and Peter McNabb.
 
I was also disappointed to find out that Jim Schoenfeld did not play because he was out of the lineup at the time due to an illness.  You never know.  Maybe he would have gotten in a brawl with a Wings player and crashed through the zamboni doors.  Here are some observations from the 12-6 Sabres victory:
 
* Protecting the players and keeping them safe is of the utmost importance but I miss the days of no helmets when you could actually see the players heads and faces.  There were some serious 1970's hair styles on display  with guys like Brian Spencer, Don Luce and Lee Fogolin sporting afro's.
 
* There were no ads on the Aud boards or on the ice.  No score or time remaining graphics on the TV  screen.  It was up to the announcers to tell you that information although from time to time on the telecast, they showed the Aud scoreboard so you knew what was going on.
 
* Jerry Korab was BIG and MEAN. He also looked bigger and meaner playing without a helmet.
 
* I loved hearing the booming voice of the late Milt Ellis announcing the goals and penalties over the public address system.
 
* It was great hearing the buzz from the crowd every time Gilbert Perreault got the puck in the Sabres end and started working his way up ice. Fans knew they could see something memorable any time number eleven was on the ice.
 
*Rick Martin had a goal dance! Was it just for that game? It was kind of like the Mike Foligno jump.
 
* I never get tired of hearing the fans chant for more goals. "One, two, three, four, we want five".
 
* The Sabres came out flying and swarmed all over the stunned Russians in the opening period.  They also played very physical, hitting anything wearing a Wings uniform.  Buffalo also got away with a number of penalties.  Actually the referee let A LOT of things go that would be called today from holding to tripping and cross checking.  Its okay though because more often than not, the Sabres were the team getting away with it.
 
* I was extremely happy when then Marine Midland Arena opened up in 1997 but every time I see an old game on TV, I really miss the Aud.
 
* It really was an entertaining game.  It had the high scoring part of the All Star Games but it also had the physical play those games never have.  In addition, there wasn't much dump and chase hockey as both teams preferred to carry the puck into the offensive zone.
 
* The angles/locations of some of the TV cameras were terrible because I kept seeing the heads of people leaving their seats and once again when they came back to sit down.  Then again, maybe you saw yourself at some point.
 
* I also enjoyed the commentary from Danny Gare who was interviewed by Brian Duff before, during and after the game telecast.  Gare talked about how this game was a jump start for the Sabres, who had just come off a run to the Cup Finals the previous season but were struggling halfway through the 75-76 campaign.  
 
* As to the significance of a dominating win over a team from the Soviet Union during the Cold War, Gare told a story about the Sabres next game after the exhibition match. It was the following Saturday at the Forum in Montreal and in warm ups that night, the Sabres received a standing ovation from the Canadiens fans.  
 
I miss hockey and when the lockout ends, I will return to watching the sport I love despite my anger with the two sides.  Until then, I will continue to get my fix by watching replays of old games while my wife wonders "why do you watch these games when you know the outcome?"
 
 
 
 
 




 
Scouting College Quarterbacks
Now that Buffalo Bills General Manager Buddy Nix has promised to address the quarterback of the future, who are the best guys that will be available in next April’s draft?

We posed that question to Rob Rang from NFLDraftScout.com/CBSSports.com  during Tuesday’s show.  First off, Rang said at this point there does not appear to be an Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III in the Class of 2013, perhaps not even a Ryan Tannehill. 

But Rang believes there are quarterbacks who can play and win in the NFL even if they aren’t good enough to start immediately.  In his latest mock draft, Rang has the Bills selecting Matt Barkley from the University of Southern California.

“The biggest knock on Matt Barkley is that he doesn’t have the elite physical size and arm strength that you’re looking for from a quarterback that typically is going to wind up being  a top ten pick” Rang said. 

“I do not necessarily believe he’s going to come in and wind up being one of those great Pro Bowl quarterbacks that can be the face of the franchise for a decade or more but I do believe he can come in and be a successful quarterback.” 

A four year starter for the Trojans, the 6’2”, 230 pound Barkley is on pace to throw the most interceptions in his career(he’s thrown 13 INT’s and his career high is 14 from his freshman season) but Rang says that is due in part to the graduation of his blind side pass protector in left tackle Matt Kallil, who was drafted by Minnesota in the first round last April. Rang said Barkley is making more aggressive throws he wouldn’t have made in the past.

Barkley’s stock may have dropped in the eyes of many talent evaluators this season but Rang was impressed with what he saw from Barkley when USC played its toughest opponent on the schedule, Oregon.

“I saw Matt Barkley step up and make some big time throws that an NFL quarterback has to be able to make” Rang told WGR.   “Plays where he had to adjust after the snap, where he was confused initially or his receivers didn’t make the correct adjustment and he was forced to do that.”  

Rang believes Barkley shows the most poise and is the safest pick in the quarterback class. He added Barkley is a perfect fit for the offense the Bills are currently running but if there’s a coaching change, Barkley’s pro style experience from college will allow him to adjust to a different offense and contribute significantly early in his NFL career.

In addition to Barkley, Rang has a round one projected grade for West Virginia’s Geno Smith and Tyler Wilson from Arkansas, although Wilson’s concussion issues could be an issue.  As for Smith, he came roaring out of the gate this season and the Mountaineers opened up 5-0 but his numbers have dropped during  the current four game losing streak.

Smith’s completion rate is 71% for the season but only 59% during the skid. He had not been intercepted at all in the 5-0 start but has now been picked off 3 times in the 4 losses. “In the college offense he’s using, it is very much a spread option offense that is not going to ask him to make the types of decisions with the ball post snap that he will have to against NFL schemes” Rang said of Smith. “ That’s one of the big knocks against him that while he does have the arm strength and the athleticism he is going to be a work in progress.”

You can listen to the entire interview with Rob Rang and find out what he thinks of Kansas State’s Colin Klein and hear which quarterbacks he thinks are rising up the draft charts and could be a good option in rounds two or three.
 
 




 
Bills Defense Fails Again
Shortly after the Bills 37-31 loss at New England on Sunday, Head Coach Chan Gailey was asked for his opinion on the play of the defense, which had just finished giving up more than 30 points to an opponent for the 5th time this season.
 
Gailey answered by saying “we can’t turn it over.” He didn’t mean the defense couldn’t force a turnover(which it did not), he meant the offense can’t turn the ball over as they did on three drives including the loss sealing interception on the Bills final possession.
 
Now, Gailey is correct with his answer as the three turnovers came back to haunt the Bills.  The first, a Ryan Fitzpatrick fumble, came in the first quarter and gave the Patriots a drive start at the Bills 13 yard line. Tom Brady turned that gift into a touchdown.
 
The second came in the fourth quarter and a Fred Jackson fumble at the Patriots one yard line prevented the Bills from cutting into a 34-24 deficit.
 
The third turnover which wrapped up the Bills 12th straight loss in Foxborough, came in the end zone when rookie wide receiver T.J. Graham ran the wrong route and Fitzpatrick’s pass wound up in the hands of New England safety Devin McCourty.
 
So while Gailey makes a valid point about turnovers, he completely absolved the defense and sounded like a man who is trying to protect Dave Wannstedt and to keep from going 0-2 on his defensive coordinators.
 
The Bills did not give up a 100 yard rusher. Actually they did but Stevan Ridley lost 2 yards on his final carry so he ended up with 98 yards for the game.
 
The defense did not give up a 100 yard receiver and did  a nice job on freakish tight end Rob Gronkowski. He recorded his 9th TD catch in 6 career games against the Bills but was held to 3 catches for 31 yards, thus ending his streak of 100 yard games against Buffalo at 3.
 
But the defense did not take the ball away at all.  The closest they came were missed opportunities by Bryan Scott and Leodis Mckelvin on the same drive in the first quarter.  Scott couldn’t hang on to what looked like an easy pick after Marcell Dareus deflected a Brady pass up into the air.  Mckelvin appeared to have his 2nd interception of the season after a pass bounced off Deion Branch and into his hands but Mckelvin lost the grasp although its possible Branch stripped it out.
 
The defense once again failed miserably on third down, allowing New England to convert 7 of 12 and they weren’t cheap ones.  The Pats succeeded on third and five(twice), third and six, third and seven and a third and ten(that came on a penalty).
 
They quite simply couldn’t get enough stops.  New England had 12 possessions in the game but you can throw out their final one since they knelt down with the game in hand.  You can also toss out the drive right before halftime when the Pats went conservative, trying two plays and then letting the clock run out.
 
With the remaining nine drives, the Bills gave up four touchdowns and three field goals.  They forced a punt just twice. 
 
For the record, in three division games this season(all losses), Buffalo has now been torched for 137 points.
 
Despite the three giveaways, Fitzpatrick and the offense had a very productive day, rolling up 481 yards, a franchise record 35 first downs and holding on to the ball for just under 34 minutes. 
 
But once again the Bills under utilized perhaps their best offensive weapon.  C.J Spiller had just 9 carries which he turned into 70 yards(a 7.7 yards per carry average) and he caught 4 balls for 61 yards.  That’s 13 total touches out of 71 offensive snaps for the Bills. 
 
Fred Jackson had a strong game as well with 16 carries for 80 yards and 4 catches for 35 yards. He did fumble twice but I’m willing to give him a break on the second one since it appeared he was knocked out cold by a Brandon Spikes elbow to his head.  Jackson averaged 5.7 yards per touch but Spiller averaged 10 yards.
 
Spiller is a more dynamic player and has the ability to make bigger plays.  He has to have the ball in his hands more often, especially in the running game. 
 
Add this to the list of NFL rules I don’t like.  Teams are charged a time out when a player is injured inside the final two minutes.  I know its in the book to prevent players from faking injuries to stop the clock but can’t there be a little common sense or judgement by the officials? I don’t think Donald Jones and Jackson were faking injuries on that final drive and having no time outs left certainly influenced Gailey’s play calling.
 
Of course the Bills would have had one time out remaining if they hadn’t blown their first one of the second half when the play clock was nearing zero following a Spiller run to the New England five yard line earlier in the fourth quarter.
 
Penalties, penalties,penalties.  Way too many of them for the Bills.  14 to be exact for 148 yards.  There were some dubious holding calls on Bills offensive linemen and some pass interference calls that were questionable.  One of those was called on Stephon Gilmore in the end zone when Brady’s pass came down somewhere in New Hampshire.  What happened to the ball was uncatchable?
 
The sad thing is that right before Fitzpatrick threw the pick, I actually believed, for the first time all day, the Bills were going to win.  I flashed back to last year’s victory over New England and was convinced I was about to feel the joy of watching them knock off the Pats at the end of the game again.
 
Knowing Miami was thrashed at home by Tennessee, I figured the Bills would beat the Dolphins on Thursday night to improve to 5-5, leading to meaningful games in December.  Then it all came crashing down as the Bills fell to 4-23 in AFC East games since 2008.
 
If you still want to believe they can make a run for a post season spot, Buffalo would probably need to go 6-1 the rest of the way and a perfect 5-0 in their AFC games.  The Bills are 2-5 in conference games which is one of the key tiebreakers.
 
 
 


 
Nix wants QB of future in next draft
Last week Bills General Manager Buddy Nix told WGR he didn’t want to leave the job without a franchise quarterback for the future in place.  On Friday, Nix was much more specific about a time frame for that plan, the very next draft.

“Let me be as honest as I can." Nix said during his weekly segment on WGR. "I think we really need to address it this year. The thing we can't do is you can't create one. You can't go out thinking I've got to make this guy a player. If you do then you're going to be in a bigger mess. We don't want to do that. We try to guard against that. But we do need another one and we need to do it this time."

Nix said he has been out scouting some of the quarterbacks who will be available next April and is trying to see all of the top guys.  Nix declined to name specific players but added it’s the top 10-15 guys everyone is talking about.

The Bills G-M said there isn’t as much hype with the current group of quarterbacks as there was the last two years but he cautioned  that doesn’t mean there isn’t an “Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady” out there.

"If you got a (Andrew)  Luck, an RG3 (Robert Griffin III), a Cam (Newton), those were the buzz guys every year and it proved to be accurate on those guys. But I don't see one of those yet in this draft. That may develop later on, but there is a lot of good players in the draft, a lot of good quarterbacks."

As far as what he’s looking for when scouting q-b’s, Nix mentioned physical qualities like a strong arm,  and being mobile enough to get out of trouble but he said the two most important things are accuracy and anticipation. 

Nix went on to say the intangibles are the hard part to determine with leadership, smarts and being a team guy included in that group.

The only quarterback the Bills have drafted since Nix took over as General Manager was Levi Brown in the 7th round in 2010.

You can listen to the entire interview with Nix and hear what he had to say about whether or not the Bills are closing the gap between themselves and the Patriots:
 




 
Give Spiller The Ball, Please!!!
During a recent segment on WGR, Bills General Manager Buddy Nix was asked by a caller if he would fire Head Coach Chan Gailey should the Bills fail to make the playoffs. 
 
Nix essentially said no when he explained the Bills usually fire their coach every three years to energize the fan base and  constantly starting over isn’t a good idea.
 
Two days after that comment, Gailey may have sealed his fate as far as most of Bills Nation is concerned with some very questionable play calling in a 21-9 loss to the Houston Texans.
 
Now there is some truth in Nix’s answer.  The Bills have been searching for the right coach since Marv Levy retired following the 1997 season. 
 
They’ve gone through Wade Phillips(3 years), Gregg Williams(3 years), Mike Mularkey(2 years), and Dick Jauron(fired in his 4th year).  Gailey  is 13-27 midway through his third season on the job.
 
While continually changing your head coach isn’t necessarily the right way to do business, you shouldn’t keep someone in the job if he isn’t getting it done and as each week passes, Gailey seems to be providing more reasons to put up a “Help Wanted” sign after the season.
 
For many Bills fans, the tipping point may have come last Sunday in Houston when Gailey basically did the same thing Wade Phillips(Texans Defensive Coordinator) was trying to do: take C.J. Spiller out of the game.
 
The most dynamic offensive weapon the Bills have, recorded a mere 6 carries out of the 57 offensive snaps.  But Gailey followed through on his plan of “sharing the load” as Fred Jackson managed just 6 carries too.
 
The last time a Bills running back had a carry came with 8:23 left in the third quarter in a 14-9 ballgame.  In the second half, the Bills had 24 pass plays and 3 runs. 
 
By looking at those numbers you might think the Bills were down by 20 points or so at halftime but the score was 7-6 Houston.  It was 14-6 Texans with 12 minutes left in the third quarter. The Bills made it 14-9 with just under 8 minutes left in the third and Houston pushed it to 21-9 with 11:25 remaining in the fourth.  Not exactly an “abandon the run” game in my opinion.
 
The lack of runs may have been enough to draw the wrath of Bills fans but Gailey made it worse with his explanation that Houston showed a look designed to prevent them from running so the Bills did exactly that.
 
“We went into the ball game assuming they would play the defense they’d been playing the previous seven ball games but they went in and changed and loaded up the box and wouldn’t allow us to run the football” Gailey said during his Monday show on WGR. “ I mean we could have run the football but it would have been one yard, minus one yard, one yard, beating our head against the wall so what we tried to do was throw the football to get them out of loading up the box and they never did.”
 
For the record, Spiller’s 6 rushes went for 3,0,3,5,6 and 22 yards.
 
Gailey was asked if he could have used different personnel groupings to counter the Texans defensive approach. “You can change that” Gailey told WGR “but what happens is you’ve worked on one game plan, a certain number of plays and a certain way to block it during the course of the week then you get to the ball game and they’ve got something totally different out there and you don’t have all the weapons at your disposal to go make those adjustments on the fly.  Then we got behind and it was a throw game.

As far as it being a throw game, remember the Bills largest deficit was twelve points and there was still 11:25 left in the fourth quarter when Houston went up 21-9.  The Bills ended up with three more possessions and certainly could have sprinkled in some runs.

The lack of involvement for Spiller is mind boggling and ironic when you consider he was the first draft pick for the Nix/Gailey regime and one they took considerable heat for, yet Spiller has turned into an electric player and one the Bills should lean on.  Even more so when you take into account the struggles of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The Bills go into the matchup in New England ranked 6th in the NFL in rushing yards a game and 2nd in yards per carry.  It is clearly the strength of the offense and the best part of the entire team.

Spiller has just 78 carries which is an average of just over 9 a game.  Even if you take out his injury shortened game in Cleveland when Spiller had just 4 carries before getting hurt, his carries per game average is still just 10. His season high for carries in a game is 15 against Kansas City.

His total of 78 for the season is the lowest number among the top 26 backs in rushing yards.  The next closest player in terms of carries is Frank Gore who has 41 more rushes than Spiller.

There are 14 backs ahead of Spiller in rush yards and the average number of carries for that group is 151, which is nearly twice as many as Spiller.

Since week 13 of the 2011 season, Spiller leads the league in yards per carry with 6.6.  The 4 players right behind him are Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice, Doug Martin and Reggie Bush.  All 4 have more carries than Spiller. Rice has 98 more, Bush has 60, Peterson has 45 and Martin has 9.  Keep in mind Martin wasn’t even in the league last season.

There have been way too many head scratching moments from the post Marv Levy Bills head coaches like Phillips saying they viewed punt returner Chris Watson as more of a “punt catcher.” 

How about Gregg Williams with 4th and stupid, punting from the New England 32 on 4th and 2 on the opening drive of the 3rd quarter with the Bills trailing 17-7. This despite the fact the Bills offense was among the best in the NFL at the time.

Then there’s Mike Mularkey who channeled his inner Hank Bullough after a loss to Denver where a number of plays went against the Bills on the Broncos first touchdown drive.  Mularkey explained “I think those type of plays take the sails out of your winds a little bit”.

Dick Jauron was…well…Dick Jauron.  Too many head scratching moments to pick from. 
 
Gailey felt trying to run the ball against the Texans would have been like “beating our heads against the wall”. If he doesn’t go with a heavy diet of Spiller and the ground game the rest of the season, I’ll be beating my head against the wall every game.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
College QB Watch
If you've decided to start scouting college quarterbacks, here's a rundown of who you can watch this weekend:
 
Tonight: 7:30 ESPN   EJ Manuel(Florida State) vs Logan Thomas(Virginia Tech)
 
Saturday:
12:00 Ch. 4  Tyler Wilson(Arkansas) at South Carolina
3:30   Ch. 4   Johnny Manziel(Texas A and M) at Alabama(he's only a freshman but fun to watch)
7:00   Ch. 29 Colin Klein(Kansas St.) at TCU(Klein's status is up in the air due to an injury)
7:00   ESPN 2 Aaron Murray(Georgia) at Auburn
 
If you are thinking about linebacker, watch Manti Te’o (Notre Dame) at Boston College at 8 pm on Ch. 7
 
If you'd like to watch a really entertaining offense, check out Oregon which plays at Cal on ESPN at 10:30pm
 




 
Puzzling Play Calling by Gailey...Again
Whenever Bills Head Coach Chan Gailey is asked about the rotation at running back, he always talks about how important it is to have two backs these days and how he doesn’t want to wear one guy out with too much work. 
 
That was not a problem during the Bills 21-9 loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday. In fact, Gailey didn’t wear out either back as C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson had very limited roles. Rather odd when you take into account the Bills were the fourth best running team in the NFL going into the contest.
 
Just add this to the list of questionable decisions from Gailey. It’s a list that is becoming quite long in Gailey’s third season on the job.
 
Of the many statistics I looked at in the moments following the end of the 27th loss in Gailey’s 40 games as Bills Head Coach, here is the most alarming one: The last time a Bills running back got a carry came with 8:23 left in the third quarter. 
 
If the Bills were getting blown out you might say Gailey had to give up on the run and go solely with the passing game.  The score was 14-6 when Spiller ran for six yards to the Houston 21 yard line. On the next play(third and two), Stevie Johnson dropped what would have been a first down pass and the Bills settled for a Rian Lindell field goal.
 
The Bills would run 17 plays on offense over the remaining quarter and a half and all 17 were called as pass plays.
 
Of the 27 plays run by the Bills in the second half(it was 7-6 Houston at halftime), 24 were called as pass plays and three were runs by a back.  Spiller, who entered the game leading the league with a 7.3 yards per carry average, had a grand total of two carries in that second half and just six for the entire game.
 
How is that possible? How can the most electric player on offense and a back who is in the top five in rushing yards going back to week thirteen last season, be handed the ball a mere six times?
 
Same story for Fred Jackson who also rushed a total of six times.  The fourth best running team in the NFL took its top two backs and gave them a combined 12 carries in a game where their deficit was never larger than 12 points.
 
After the game both Gailey and Ryan Fitzpatrick essentially said the Texans were doing things designed to take away the running game so the Bills passed the ball instead.
 
What happened to the whole idea of making a team react to what you do? Why take the strength of your offense and basically concede victory to the other team in that portion of the matchup?  How about the whole “imposing your will on someone” speech that we hear from coaches and players?
 
Gailey said the Texans had “seven big guys in the box”(base defense as opposed to nickel or dime)  versus the three receiver sets so the Bills opted to throw the ball to get them out of it.
 
How about trying some more “run friendly” personnel groupings like using the fullback that is on the roster or going with more two tight end sets in an effort to get more big guys of your own in the box although I thought one of the benefits of spreading the field on offense was having more room to run.
 
Not running the ball enough wasn’t the only part of Gailey’s day to second guess.  The red zone play calling was curious as well.
 
The Bills had three possessions that advanced inside the Texans twenty yard line and they ran a total of nine plays in the red zone.  Not once did Buffalo attempt a pass into the end zone. 
 
One of those red zone possessions came just before half time and ended up with a Lindell field goal to make it 7-6.  The Bills had called time out with nine seconds left and had a second down coming up at the Houston twenty yard line. 
 
Why not take a crack at the end zone there? If nothing is there, throw it out of the end zone and you still have time for the field goal attempt.  There is risk involved since the Bills were out of time outs and a sack(the Bills gave up a sack on the previous play) would have meant the clock would run out and they’d get no points but what have you got to lose? 
 
The same can be said for the decision to kick a field goal when the Bills faced a fourth and two at the Houston four yard line earlier in the half.  Just go for it and show some aggressiveness rather than take the safe, conservative route.
 
It wasted what was a better day for the defense.  A defense that gives up an average of 32 points a game held Houston to 21 points.  The Bills gave up 118 yards rushing, 58 below their season average and they held the Texans to a 36% conversion rate on third down, 11 points below the season average.
 
Another game and another frustrating Bills loss in yet another frustrating Bills season.  Here’s hoping the NHL lockout is settled very soon!
 
 
 




 
Nix Talks Franchise QB
We don't know how much longer Buddy Nix will be the General Manager of the Buffalo Bills but we do know what is on his list of things to do. Find a franchise quarterback. Nix publicly admitted that for the first time during his weekly segment on WGR.
 
Nix was asked by a caller if Chan Gailey would be fired should the Bills not make the playoffs.  He responded by saying he doesn't want to start over which is something the Bills have done in the past to energize the fan base. 
 
Nix was then asked by WGR's Jeremy White if he considered getting a new quarterback as starting over and the G-M answered "No, its not".
 
"Listen, we have said from day one, that we want to draft a good young quarterback" Nix said. "I don't want to leave here without a franchise guy for the future in place. I have not said that before but I'm saying it now because its fact."
 
The only time the Bills have used a draft pick on a quarterback during Nix's tenure as G-M was in 2010 when they took a flier on Levi Brown in the 7th round. "We had so many needs that we would have had to give up what Washington gave up to get there and the same with Carolina, that got there by losing" Nix told WGR.  "So its a deal here where that has to fall into place for us and hopefully it will."
 
Perhaps the Bills have come to the realization that Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't working out. Perhaps Nix feels he has filled a number of  needs the last three years so he can now afford to trade away draft picks to get the long term answer at quarterback.  Its more likely a combination of the two.
 
If you haven't been watching quarterbacks this season, here are some players to check out:
 
Matt Barkley- USC
Geno Smith- West Virginia
Colin Klein- Kansas State
Aaron Murray- Georgia
Tyler Bray-Tennessee
Tyler Wilson-Arkansas
Landry Jones-Oklahoma
EJ Manuel-Florida State
 
Nix also talked about the state of the franchise, the  troubles on defense, and the timing of the surgical procedure on Mario Williams.  Here is the entire interview:
 




 
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