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Howard Simon's Blog

Posts from December 2012


An Open Letter to Ralph Wilson
Dear Mr. Wilson,
 
Let the changes begin.  The Bills meaningless 28-9 triumph over a New York Jets team that is more pathetic than they are should not impact what you need to do. 
 
Don’t get sidetracked by a 19 point victory which was the largest margin of victory for your team this season. 
 
Don’t be fooled by the defense holding an opponent without a touchdown for the first time all season.
 
Don’t revel in the fact that Chan Gailey finally figured out how to beat a Rex Ryan coached Jets team(1st time in 6 tries) and won multiple division games in the same season for the first time in 3 years.
 
And by all means DO NOT think Gailey had an awakening and is a changed man after C.J. Spiller recorded a season high and career best 24 carries.
 
Please disregard the fact that Ryan Fitzpatrick is the only Bills quarterback other than Jim Kelly to throw for at least 3,000 yards in 3 straight seasons and don’t be influenced by the fact that Fitzpatrick threw 7 fewer interceptions than last season.
 
There is a 3 year body of work to consider here, Mr. Wilson.  Gailey’s record is 16-32 overall, one of the worst in the history of your franchise.  In a division with 2 other mediocre teams, the Jets and Miami Dolphins, Gailey managed just 4 AFC East victories in 18 division games.
 
Fitzpatrick’s record as the Bills starting quarterback improved to 19-31 with this win.  Since he became the starter, Fitzpatrick has a 59% completion rate with 80 touchdowns and 64 interceptions.  He and Gailey have combined to beat just 1 team that ended up with a winning record.  That, of course, was the triumph over New England last season.
 
The Gailey era will go down as the worst in the 50 year history of your franchise in terms of defense.  All 3 of Gailey’s teams ended up in the top 5 in terms of most points allowed in a single season.  This year’s total of 435 is behind only the 1984 club which yielded 454 points while going 2-14.
 
The 2012 defense gave up 5806 total yards which is the 4th worst single season total.  The 2011 team holds that dubious record and the 2010 club is 5th worst.
 
I know it will cost you some money to pay Gailey(who reportedly has 2 years left on his contract) for not working but it is the cost of doing business in this case.  You’ll actually save some money by cutting ties with Fitzpatrick who is due to receive a $3 million check from you at the beginning of the next league year in March.
 
As long as you will be handing out severance checks, you might want to give one to Buddy Nix although I won’t be angry if he stays on as General Manager.  I think Nix has improved the talent level on your roster and there have been fewer draft busts  but he did fail with one of the more important tasks for any G-M and that is to find the right head coach.  He also gets a failing grade for not drafting a legitimate quarterback of the future who could have been ready to take over next season with some NFL experience already on his resume.
 
It isn’t all doom and gloom, Mr. Wilson.  You should be able to find a quality coach because the roster is not in need of a total makeover as was the case when you put the Nix/Gailey regime in place in 2010.
 
There’s a dynamic running back in place.  In fact, when you interview coaches, make sure you show them a highlight reel of Spiller from this season.  The new coach will inherit one of the most electric offensive players in the NFL.  Despite being under utilized by Gailey, Spiller still ended up with 1,703 total yards from scrimmage which is the 9th best single season total in franchise history and 1 yard better than Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas’ 1702 yards for a Super Bowl runner up in 1993.
 
There is a number one receiver on the roster too.  Stevie Johnson extended his franchise record with a 3rd straight 1,000 yard season.  Imagine what he could do with a real quarterback.
 
If you believe in the adage that winning starts up front, any prospective head coach will be glad to know he will have a strong offensive line which saw its opening day lineup start just 4 games but the Bills still managed to finish in the top 10 in rushing and top 15 in sacks per pass play.
 
The defense will require more work but I think there is a good base of talent and depth up front, a strong cover corner in Stephon Gilmore and a play making safety in Jairus Byrd.
 
You certainly have a passionate fan base that will support the team in good and prolonged bad times.  The facilities from the field house to training camp to what will soon be a renovated (your name here) stadium are good enough.  The division you are in, even though it includes New England, is not an intimidating task because the Jets are awful and I’m not sold the Dolphins are headed for great days just because they have Ryan Tannehill.
 
The greatest challenge a new head coach faces will be finding a quarterback since you don’t have one on the roster at this point.  Maybe you can use that as a carrot to dangle.  Tell the new guy he gets to pick the quarterback he wants, to turn this program around.
 
 I have one final piece of advice for you sir.  Don’t spare any expense when it comes to the management side of things.  I know you have spent gobs of money on the roster but you need to spend what it takes to get the right coaching staff in place.  That’s correct, I wrote staff.  It isn’t just about waving a big check at a big name head coach.  You have to spend the money to find the best assistants out there too. 
 
Put any New Year’s plans on hold and get to work on this right away.  Bills fans are down in the dumps after this miserable season and they need something to pick their spirits up as they prepare to watch the playoffs with no rooting interest yet again.
 
Sincerely,
Howard Simon
 
 
 
 
 
 
 




 
Bills Season In Review
Quick show of hands.  How many of you are thrilled to see the 2012 Buffalo Bills season come to an end on Sunday?  One, two three, four….keep your hands up and I’ll count as you read.
 
The most disappointing of the 13 straight non playoff seasons will officially go into the record books when the Bills finish their game with the Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
 
But why wait for Sunday night or Monday morning to look back on the campaign.  I think I have everything I need to know for my slightly unconventional season in review. 
 
After randomly selecting categories to match up with moments I wanted to write about, here is what I have come up with,  in no particular order:
 
1.     Defining moment-  I’ll go with the 2nd half of the week 4 match up with the New England Patriots at RWS.  After a surprising(and foreboding) opening day blow out loss to the Jets, the Bills beat teams we figured they should have in weeks 2(Kansas City) and 3(Cleveland) setting up the showdown with the bullies of the AFC East.
 
Going for their 2nd straight home win over Brady, Bellichick and company, the Bills went up 21-7 with just over 11 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter when the game went kaboom!
 
The Pats basically did to the Bills what Ralphie did to the bully in “A Christmas Story” and it included a string of obscenities(from Bills fans watching).  New England scored 35 straight points over 12:41 of game time covering the 3rd and 4th quarters.
 
The Pats toyed with the Bills while putting up touchdowns on 6 consecutive offensive possessions.  Their 45 2nd half points were the most by an NFL team, that had been trailing at halftime, since 1950.  The bludgeoning saw the Bills defense give up two 100 yard rushers(Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden), two 100 yard receivers(Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski) and a total of 580 yards.  While Rome burned, Nero was playing the fiddle. Defensive Coordinator Dave Wannstedt stayed with his nickel package and 4 man rush even though neither was working.
 
2.     Rock Bottom- That came one week after the roof caved in against the Pats. 
The Bills headed out west to play San Francisco and actually looked worse than they did against New England.  When the firemen finally put out the five alarm blaze, all that was left was a 45-3 shellacking.  The Bills set a new franchise record by giving up 621 yards or 9.9 yards a play.  Buffalo became the first team in NFL history to give up 300 yards passing(310 to be exact) and 300 yards rushing(311) in the same game and the first team since 1950 to give up at least 550 yards in back to back games. The D had no sacks or interceptions.
 
       
3.     Craziest Chan Gailey decision- This was tough because there were so many
worthy nominees but you can only have 1 winner.  I’m going with the field goal attempt/timeout/punt in the game against St. Louis.  Earlier in the season Gailey explained he was not a fan of FGA’s from 50 or more yards but lo and behold here was Rian Lindell on the field, awaiting the snap on a 52 or 53 yard attempt.  The Bills were facing 4th and 7 at the Rams 34 yard line with 11:52 left in the 4th quarter and leading 12-7. 
 
Before the snap, the Bills call time(which they REALLY could have used on their last offensive drive of the game) to seemingly re-think the decision.  Gailey then sends out the punt team.  After the game, Gailey said he called time because he was afraid they’d try the kick.  He was told it was a 50 yarder but when he saw it was 52 or 53 he thought punting was the best approach.  Gailey said the 2 or 3 yards makes a big psychological difference(for a kicker who is 18-31 from 50 or more yards in his career).  The Head Coach actually  said he was afraid of a play where his team had a chance to score points and extend their lead in a critical game.
 
   
4.     Craziest Chan explanation-  As noted in the previous category, again there are 
many(way too many) worthy nominees  including the explanation I just mentioned from the Rams game but I’m going with a different one.  It was actually a recurring answer over the course of the season when Gailey was asked why C.J. Spiller wasn’t out on the field for a particular series.  His answer “it was Fred’s turn” will go down with the most infamous quotes in Bills history.
 
 
5.     Biggest Disappointment-  Of course there is the actual season itself but I’ll go    
with the play of the defense.  The improvement of that group was supposed to spearhead the Bills push for a playoff spot but it helped doom Buffalo to an 8th straight losing season.  Despite big free agent acquisitions, numerous high draft picks spent on that side of the ball and the presence of a veteran coordinator, the defense, in terms of on field production, is as bad as it was when Gailey arrived 3 years ago.  Compared to the woeful 2011 defense, the 2012 group has yielded almost as many points, more rush yards, has fewer takeaways and is worse on 3rd down and in the red zone.
 
 
6.     Bright spots- I didn’t want the whole column to be negative and there
were some bright spots in this mostly miserable year.  Spiller became one of the most dynamic backs in the NFL.  He is 15 yards from becoming the Bills 1st 1,200 yard rusher since Willis McGahee in 2005.  Spiller leads the league in average yards per carry(6.5), is 2nd in 20+ yard runs and tied for 2nd in 40+ yard runs.  He’s 9th in rushing but would be higher if he was given the ball more.  Spiller is 29th in average carries per game with 12.2.
 
A couple of rookies should give you reason to feel a little better.  Stephon Gilmore was the first rookie cornerback to start on opening day for the Bills since Nate Odomes in 1987.  Gilmore had a rocky first month of the season but played pretty consistently the rest of the way.  His 16 pass breakups are tied for 9th in the NFL and he hasn’t been beaten for a touchdown since the San Francisco game(5th of the season).  Gilmore has been targeted 86 times this season and gave up only 3 TD’s.  Of the 25 defenders targeted at least 85 times, the 3 TD’s are tied for the 4th fewest given up.
 
Cordy Glenn also started from day one and seems to have solidified a left tackle spot that had been shaky since the departure of Jason Peters.  Glenn struggled a bit in games against the Rams and Seattle but easily receives a passing grade for the year.  According to NFL stats, the Bills lead the league with an average of 7.13 yards per rush to the left tackle position(45 plays).
 
Jairus Byrd made a strong push for the Pro Bowl, tying for the AFC lead with 5 interceptions.  Byrd now has 18 picks since joining the league in 2009, tied for 3rd most in that time span with future Hall of Famer Ed Reed.  Byrd’s clutch INT’s were crucial in wins over Arizona and Miami.  He was also 3rd on the team in tackles and added 4 fumble recoveries.  Byrd will be an unrestricted free agent but don’t freak out.  The Bills can always place the franchise tag on him for the 2013 season at a cost of about $6.8 million.
 
Speaking of soon to be free agents, Leodis McKelvin had a tremendous season in the return game.  McKelvin led the NFL in punt returns with an average of 18.7 yards, some 4 yards better than the next best player.  He also added a league best 2 returns for touchdown.  McKelvin ended up 2 kick returns shy of the minimum needed to qualify in league stats but his 28.3 yard average would have been 5th best in the NFL.
 
I’ll even throw in the play of the offensive line which was pretty steady despite numerous injuries.  The starting group from opening day(Glenn, Andy Levitre, Eric Wood, Kraig Urbik and Erik Pears) ended up playing just 4 games together.  Glenn missed 3 games, Wood was out for 2, Urbik was sidelined for 3 and Pears went on injured reserve after the 4th game.  Still, the Bills go into the finale with the 6th best rushing attack in the NFL and 12th in sacks per pass play.
 
Join WGR for day long coverage of the final game of the season beginning at 7am Sunday with “Breakfast with the Bills”. 
 




 
Bills 2013 opponents set

Regardless of the outcome of Sunday's game, the Buffalo Bills are locked in for a 4th place finish in the AFC East and their 2013 opponents are all set.

 

Even if the 5-10 Bills beat the 6-9 New York Jets at Ralph Wilson Stadium, the Bills will lose out on the 3rd tiebreaker.  The two teams will have split their 2 head to head matchups(tie breaker #1) and they would both have a 2-4 record in division games(tie breaker #2).

 

The 3rd tiebreaker is record in common games and the Jets would have an edge with a 5-7 mark while the Bills would be 3-9.

 

Here are the Bills 2013 opponents:

 

Home- NY Jets, New England, Miami, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Atlanta, Carolina

 

Away- Ny Jets, New England, Miami, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, New Orleans

 




 
Scouting NC State QB Mike Glennon
As the Buffalo Bills get down to the business of finding their quarterback of the future, among other things, you can bet they’ll be spending a lot of time talking about Mike Glennon from North Carolina State.
 
Think back to last year’s draft when everyone knew about Andrew Luck and Roberth Griffin III but Texas A and M’s Ryan Tannehill came out of nowhere and not only did he end up in round 1, Tannehill was selected 8th overall by Miami.
 
I don’t know if he’ll go that high but Glennon seems to be this year’s Tannehill, in terms of a quarterback rising up the draft board and a player who wasn’t mentioned much before the season began.
 
I’m sure the Bills are very familiar with the 6-6, 232 pound Virginia native since they would have seen him going back to last season while scouting Wolfpack wide receiver T.J. Graham, who the Bills took in the 3rd round last April. My guess is they would have also spoken to former NC State Coach Tom O’Brien(he was fired after the regular season) who has compared Glennon to Matt Ryan.  O’Brien coached the Atlanta Falcons quarterback when the two were at Boston College.
 
Glennon started the last 2 seasons for NC State, taking over when Russell Wilson transferred to Wisconsin.  In 2011, Glennon completed 62% of his passes, while throwing for 3054 yards, 31 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. 
 
His completion rate dropped to 57% this season but that could be a product of a number of factors, including an inexperienced receiving corps, injuries along the offensive line( NC State used 7 different starting combinations on the line in 12 games) and a propensity for his receivers to drop the football(10 in the North Carolina game alone).
 
Even though his completion percentage went down, the yardage total went up to 3,648 as Glennon hit on numerous big plays thanks to a very strong arm.  He threw 30 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and leaves Raleigh ranked in the top 4 all time in almost every passing category, despite the fact he only started for 2 seasons.
 
He was very productive even though NC State was one dimensional on offense.  Due to an injury and a suspension, the Wolfack got down to their 3rd string running back this season, a true freshman.  NC State is ranked 106th in rushing in the FBS out of 120 teams.
 
I watched NC State’s game against Clemson from November 18th.  It was incredibly entertaining as Glennon and Clemson’s Tajh Boyd put on a show.  The Tigers won 62-48 in the highest scoring game in Atlantic Coast Conference history.
 
It started out badly for Glennon as the Pack went 3 and out on their first 2 possessions and were quickly in a 13-0 hole.  Then I watched in amazement as Glennon made me dream of big plays to be made by he and his former teammate, Graham while wearing a Bills uniform.
 
On the very first play of their third possession, Glennon threw a picture perfect deep ball for a 77 yard touchdown.  He also did it on the run, sprinting to his right then accurately placing the pass over a cornerback and into the hands of his wide receiver who scampered down the sideline for the score.
 
Since we have spent a good part of the Bills season talking about Ryan Fitzpatrick’s inability to make plays downfield, I went back on the DVR to see how far the ball traveled in terms of actual air yards.  Glennon let loose at his own 19 yard line and it came down at the Clemson 31 so the pass went 50 yards in the air.  Remember he did not stop, plant and throw.  Glennon made the play on the run.
 
On the next possession, in the fact the next offensive play for NC State, Glennon and the deep game struck again.  This time it was a post route and once again, Glennon threw a perfect pass, over the defensive back and he hit the receiver in stride at the Clemson 10 yard line.  The ball traveled 45 yards in the air and it was a strike.
 
Back to back touchdown passes of 77 yards and 49 yards put NC State in front. 
 
On the next possession, Glennon showed the ability to put together a long drive leading the Wolfpack on a 9 play, 81 yard drive that ended with another touchdown throw.  Glennon was hit as he threw but his pass was still on target over the middle of the field and into the end zone.  He finished the 1st quarter with 203 passing yards and 3 TD’s.
 
But the 2nd quarter was a different story for the ACC’s leader in passing yards this season.  With NC State now trailing 27-24, Glennon again put together another solid drive including a big gainer on a shovel pass where Glennon showed the ability to side step pressure and turn what looked like a negative play into a positive.
 
But he made 2 mistakes after that with the first coming on a pass that should have been intercepted.  Glennon made a bad decision and threw into double coverage.   2 plays later he made another bad decision, throwing the ball away when he still had time in the pocket.  Glennon was called for intentional grounding and the penalty took them out of field goal range.
 
Later in the half, Glennon under threw a fade pass into the end zone and it was picked off, again costing his team a chance at points.  On the next possession he was sacked and had the ball knocked out of his hands and Clemson recovered.  They converted the turnover into a touchdown.
 
Back to the good side of Glennon for one other moment from the game.  Faced with a heavy pass rush as Clemson opted to blitz more, Glennon threw a pass off his back foot and yet the ball still traveled 38 yards in the air and was on target.  You can tell he has a powerful arm.
 
Glennon showed the ability to make all of the throws on the field and while he is not a mobile quarterback, there were a number of times where he moved around in the pocket effectively, to buy himself some additional time. 
 
He showed good leadership, not getting down with the early deficit and remained even keeled while his team ripped off 21 points.  The game got away from NC State in the 3rd quarter as they fell behind by 24 points but Glennon kept plugging away and showed no signs of frustration on the handful of plays where his receivers dropped the pass.
 
Glennon, who leaves NC State with both an undergraduate degree in Business Finance and a masters degree in Liberal Studies, will be on display on New Year’s Eve as the Wolfpack play Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl.  It should be a good gauge game if you decide to watch since Vandy plays in the SEC which is a better conference than the ACC and the Commodores have the nation’s 17th ranked defense.  I watched Vandy against Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray and Bray had one of his worst games ever.
 
One other interesting note about Glennon.  Last summer he attended the Manning passing academy and along with other qb’s like Bray, Matt Barkley, Tyler Wilson, Geno Smith and Aaron Murray, got a chance to be coached by both Peyton and Eli Manning in 2 throwing sessions.
 
In addition to the Music City Bowl, Glennon has also been invited to take part in the Senior Bowl next month in Mobile, Alabama.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 




 
Bills In Giving Mood For Christmas
Earlier this week I wrote a column about the Bills considering the approach of “stay the course”.  I will now give credit where credit is due because the team is doing just that.  They keep losing as year three of the Chan Gailey era painfully inches its way to an end.
 
There is no “heroic run to 7-9”(Jerry Sullivan’s favorite phrase) coming. On the contrary, there is a complete collapse under way.  The Bills have lost 3 straight games since the season preserving victory over a pitiful Jacksonville club.  Since the spirit lifting overtime win in Arizona(which was also followed by a 3 game skid), Buffalo is 2-7 and too many times have looked like a club that has bailed on the coaching staff.
 
In trying to assess Gailey’s future with the team, you can’t even say it’s all on the defense.  Gailey’s offense has been coughing and wheezing more than I used to during asthma attacks but they don’t have a rescue inhaler like I did.
 
The Bills have averaged just 16 points over the last 6 games, scoring a total of 9 touchdowns.  The passing game has practically disappeared as Fitzpatrick has averaged 184 yards a game in that stretch.  Buffalo has been fairly impotent in the red zone, managing 7 touchdowns in 18 red zone possessions, a conversion rate of 38%.
 
Miami has a good defense but one thing they have not done well is create turnovers.  In fact, coming into this game, the Dolphins had just 1 takeaway in their previous 7 games.  They came up with 4 takes on Sunday. 
 
Maybe Gailey can say something to his squad about protecting the football.  The Bills lost 3 fumbles on Sunday bringing their season total to 16(among top 5 in NFL), an alarming increase over last season’s 5 fumbles lost.
 
I will give Gailey credit for getting the ball into the hands of C.J. Spiller.  The Bills didn’t abandon the run despite never having a lead and Spiller ended up equaling his season high(which came against Miami last month) of 22 carries. 
 
But Gailey gets a demerit for yet another instance of terrible play calling right before halftime.  The Bills had the ball at their own 20 with :33 left and 2 time outs.  The first play was a short pass to Dorin Dickerson for a whopping 5 yards.  What good is that going to do? The Bills burned their 2nd time out.  After a false start(the 4th of the half at a not so noisy Sun Life Stadium), there was an incompletion on a short pass over the middle for Spiller and then the obligatory “safe run” with Spiller.  For some reason the Dolphins let the clock run out rather than make the Bills punt and see if they could make something happen with the remaining seconds.
 
How about throwing downfield? How about trying to knock off big chunks of yardage so you can get in field goal range?  I now, they don’t have a quarterback who can do that but why not try? What have you got to lose?
 
The Bills are now a hideous 3-14 against the AFC East under Gailey.  The loss also officially eliminates the chance the Bills could actually improve on their best finish under Gailey, 6-10 last season.
 
The week began with players talking about how much they love playing for their embattled head coach.  Stevie Johnson said he didn’t want to talk about it too much because he would get emotional.  Stevie and company sure are doing their best to get Gailey fired.  Johnson had probably his worst game in the last 3 years.  He was targeted a team high 10 times but managed just 4 catches for 44 yards, leaving him 65 shy of a 3rd straight thousand yard season.
 
Johnson’s fumble after a catch in the first quarter wiped out a first down in the red zone(insert snide remark here about how they wouldn’t have scored a TD in the red zone anyway).
 
He dropped a pass later in that quarter that would have given the Bills a first down at their own 33 yard line.
 
In the 2nd quarter, Johnson was unable to hold on to a TD pass from Fitzpatrick with the ball coming out when he hit the ground in the end zone.  That would have tied the game at 7.
 
Which leads me to my final thought on this game.  I HATE THE NFL RULES!!!!!!  Who the heck knows what is a catch and what isn’t?  And why can someone running the ball have their body in mid air but over the out of bounds territory, but still get a TD if they extend the ball inside the pylon and over the goal line? And it doesn’t matter if a ball comes out after a rushing play has gone over the goal line but it does matter if a guy who catches the ball and runs it in loses control? How stupid is that?
 
I might be biased because the Bills came out on the short end of the stick but Johnson makes a catch, establishes possession/control and crosses the goal line with the ball secured.  How is that not a touchdown?
 
On Dickerson’s fumble after a catch in the 3rd quarter, it didn’t look like he had the ball secured as he turned to run. I thought you had to complete a football play and it sure looked he had not done that but as is the case many times, the NFL hides behind the excuse that video evidence wasn’t conclusive and the call on the field must stand. 
 
The reason replay review is in the game, in part, is because itncan be difficult to make the correct call in live action.  Plays happen so fast that you can’t see what might have actually occurred.  But the NFL hamstrings its own replay system by saying the live action, best guess call carries more weight than a video review with slow motion and multiple angles.
 
For example, I give you the Reggie Bush touchdown run in the 1st quarter.  When I looked at the replay going to commercial, I yelled at the TV set that his right foot was touching out of bounds.  It looked the same way upon further review but the play on the field by the official who is making a guess in a split second was TD so the heck with what your eyes are seeing, right?
 
Finally there was the Ryan Tannehill lateral in the 3rd quarter.  Again by NFL rules, the replay was inconclusive so the call on the field stood but that wasn’t the part that made me mad. 
 
How many times have you heard a referee explain an on field call or replay ruling and think they MUST be making this stuff up as they go.  I was laughing out loud(sorry LOL) as the referee basically told us even though a pass can be going backwards, its considered a forward pass whenever a defensive player makes contact with the passer.  WHAT? The NFL is now defying physics…a backwards pass is still a forward pass!  God bless them.
 
By the way, if that is a rule, why did they still review the play?  And why would Gailey lose a timeout if the challenge should not have been allowed because the rules state it was a forward pass?  Just wondering.
 
Another miserable Bills game day is in the record books and another miserable Bills season is slowly but surely coming to an end.  Here’s hoping Ralph Wilson spent three hours on Sunday watching his excuse for a football franchise and will order changes right after the Bills end yet another life sucking year. 
 
Merry Christmas all!
 
 
 
 
 
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Bills Shouldn't Stay The Course
When I drive to Ralph Wilson Stadium for the season finale on December 30th, I’m half expecting to see the phrase “Stay The Course” in big, bold letters on the back of the Jumbotron.
 
That seems to be the general message emanating from One Bills Drive these days as if the organization is preparing its fans for a fourth season of the Buddy Nix/Chan Gailey era.
 
But the 2012 season has been all about the Bills veering off course which is why these last 2 games should be the final games in the Nix/Gailey regime. 
 
In interviews on WGR, we heard the General Manager say you can’t fire the head coach every 3 years to energize the fan base.  Less than 24 hours after the blowout in Toronto, the Head Coach said he didn’t think he’d ever see another game like that, believing the Bills had “turned the corner”.  On Wednesday, Bills CEO Russ Brandon said you can’t make changes to “appease the March crowd or the off season crowd”.
 
There is merit in the argument that teams need continuity but that doesn’t mean changes shouldn’t be made when warranted.
 
Chan Gailey enters Sunday’s game at Miami with a 15-31 record as Bills Head Coach.  To put things into a scary perspective, Gailey needs to win the remaining 2 games just to move into a tie with Gregg Williams who had a 17-31 record in his 3 uninspiring seasons in Orchard Park.  If Gailey wins the last 2 games, he’d still be 4 games behind the even more uninspiring Dick Jauron.
 
Actually Gailey is keeping with the fine tradition of the franchise having below average coaches.  The Bills have had 16 coaches in their history and only 4  left with a winning record: Lou Saban, Chuck Knox, Marv Levy and Wade Phillips.
 
Gailey’s winning percentage of .326 is currently the 6th worst in franchise history.  In addition to the 15-31 overall record, low lights of the Gailey era include a 3-13 record against the AFC East and a grand total of 1 win over a team that ended up with a winning record(New England, 2011).
 
When you break down this season, some will point out that Gailey’s 5 wins have come over teams with a combined record of 20-50 but this is the NFL and plenty of teams “fatten” their record against mediocre competition.  The more damning statistic is the Bills record against teams that currently have a winning record.  It is 0-6 and in those defeats, the Bills have been outscored 225-101.  They’re good enough to beat the bad teams but not nearly ready for prime time.
 
Take a look at the defense and how it performed based on the level of the opposing offense.  In games where the Bills faced an offense that is currently ranked anywhere from 21st to 32nd, they gave up an average of just 19 points a game and were 5-3.  In games versus offenses that were 11th-20th, Buffalo went 0-2 and yielded an average of 28 points.  Finally, in matchups against offenses ranked 1st-10th, the defense was ripped to the tune of 38 points a game and the Bills lost all 4 contests.
 
Gailey has had 2 defensive coordinators in his 3 years and neither has been effective.  In fact, all 3 Gailey years are in the Bills record book, listed among the top 5 worst single season performances in terms of points allowed and total yards allowed.
 
It shouldn’t take this long to turn things around in a league designed to promote parity and keep teams from being down for an extended amount of time.  Look at the team that just kicked the Bills butts, the Seattle Seahawks.
 
Pete Carroll was hired the same off season the Bills brought in Gailey.  Carroll inherited a team that had gone 9-23 the previous 2 seasons.  Carroll went 7-9 in 2010(Gailey was 4-12) and 7-9 again in 2011(Gailey was 6-10). Now Seattle is 9-5 and in a playoff spot.  They also appear to have found their franchise quarterback, Russell Wilson, who Nix and Gailey liked but  felt drafting him in the 3rd round would have been too high.
 
You shouldn’t make change for the sake of making change and Russ Brandon is partially correct that change shouldn’t be made to “appease the March crowd” but isn’t that how the Bills have been selling hope for most of the last 13 years?
 
You make change because it’s the right thing to do and the time has come.  I think the Bills do have more talent on the roster than they did 3 years ago when Nix/Gailey were given control of the football operations at One Bills Drive but  the results aren’t showing up in the won-loss record.  That goes on the coach and his staff.
 
As far as I’m concerned, the Bills need new direction(again), so here’s my advice for Mr. Wilson.  Thank Buddy Nix for the job he’s done and for upgrading the roster in some areas. Then tell him its time to step aside and give the  job to Doug Whaley who is considered an up and coming GM candidate around the league.
 
Whaley can then be allowed to make the coaching change and find the 17th Head Coach in Buffalo Bills history.  The duo can also cut ties with Ryan Fitzpatrick, identify the best quarterback available in the draft and move heaven and earth, if that’s what it takes, to get that guy. 
 
If the Bills instead opt to “stay the course” expect fans to “stay away” from their games in 2013.  
 




 
Sabres Prospects in World Juniors

If you need a hockey fix and you'd like to watch a couple of players who should figure prominently in the future of the Buffalo Sabres, make sure you check out the World Junior Championships which begin Wednesday in Russia.

 

The Sabres actually will have four prospects who will be competing for their respective countries.  The top prospect is 2012 first round pick Mikhail Grigorenko who is on Team Russia.  Grigorenko has been tearing up the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League scoring 29 goals and adding 21 assists in 30 games for the Quebec Remparts.  According to a recent report in Canada, the Sabres have decided to keep Grigorenko in juniors for the rest of the season even if the lockout is settled.

 

Team Russia goalie Andrey Makarov is also Sabres property.  Makarov, who went undrafted, is on loan to Saskatoon of the Western Hockey League.  He's 15-13 for the Blades this season with a 2.84 goals against average and a .908 save percentage.

 

Another highly rated prospect is Joel Armia and he'll be playing for Finland.  The Sabres first round pick in the 2011 draft is currently playing for Assat Pori in Finland and has recorded 10 goals, 4 assists in 25 games.

 

Another member of the Sabres Class of 2012 will be representing his country as Jake McCabe patrols the blue line for Team USA.  McCabe, who was selected in the 2nd round last June, is playing for the University of Wisconsin.  He has 2 goals and 7 assists in 16 games for the Badgers.

 

You can see these players on the NHL Network.  Here are the dates and broadcast times:

 

December 26  Russia vs Slovakia  9:00 am/ 8:00 pm

December 27  USA vs Germany    8:00 pm

December 28  USA vs Russia       8:00 pm

December 29  Russia vs Germany 9:00 am/ 5:30 pm

December 30  USA vs Canada      8:00 pm

December 31  USA vs Slovakia     8:00 pm

December 31  Canada vs Russia   9:00 am/ 5:30 pm

 
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Luke Adam Searching For His Game

When the 2011-2012 NHL season began, not only was Luke Adam with the Buffalo Sabres, the rookie was also getting time centering the top line.  A little over a year later, Adam is trying to find his game in the American Hockey League with the Rochester Americans.

After winning  the AHL Rookie of the Year award in 2011, Adam got off to a great start with the Sabres recording 6 points in his first 4 games and was still averaging a point a game through 11 contests.  His production began to tail off as did his ice time as Adam dropped down the depth chart.

Frozen solid with not a single point in 20 straight games , Adam was sent down to Rochester and finished out the season with the Amerks.  His final totals:  10 goals and 20 points in 52 games in Buffalo and 4 goals, 13 points in 27 games for the Amerks.

Adam,who was a potent scorer in junior hockey, was a guest on the WGR Morning Show on Tuesday and said last season certainly took a toll on him. “Obviously that was very disappointing for myself and I’ve never been in a place like that before” Adam said.  “ The start of this year I was getting chances but they weren’t going in. Now that they’re finally going back in, it’s a pretty nice feeling.”

Adam  has 6 goals and 11 points in 21 games but his play has picked up the last half dozen games since he returned from an injury.  Despite the demotion last season, Adam looks back at his initial NHL experience as eye opening and beneficial. “Actually playing in the game you see its much faster, and guys are bigger and stronger” Adam said.  “ At the beginning of last year, I thought I was ready to play in the NHL and there were little things you(fans and media) don’t see that needed to be worked on and that’s the things Darcy(Regier) and Lindy(Ruff) have been preaching to me.”

While Adam attempts to regain his offensive touch, the 22 year old is also wondering what position he’ll play.  As was the case with the Sabres, the Amerks have used Adam at both center and left wing. “I’ve always said I’m comfortable with both positions” Adam told WGR.  “ Center is my natural position.  You’re a little bit more involved defensively as a centerman, it’s a little tougher in your own end.  Once you get comfortable in both positions, its important to have that diversity especially to make the jump to the NHL.  Wherever the coaching staff sees is the best fit is where I’m going to be playing.”

Adam and the rest of the Amerks will play a second game of the season at the First Niagara Center on December 28th against the Lake Erie Monsters.

Here is the entire interview with Luke Adam:

 
 
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Gailey: "I thought we'd turned the corner"
Chan Gailey’s record as Bills Head Coach dropped to 15-31 after Sunday’s 50-17 thrashing at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks and it increased the intensity of the heat on his seat.
 
During his weekly segment on WGR on Monday, Gailey addressed a number of topics including whether or not he thought his team gave up during the game.  “I don’t question our effort at all.  I think the effort was there.  I never question our guys character or effort.  I question our execution but I don’t question our effort.  When you play bad, it looks like you aren’t playing hard.”
 
If the effort is still there according to the Head Coach, is it possible the players have stopped listening to him?  Gailey said he doesn’t feel that is the case.  “I’ve been fortunate in my career that wherever we went to turn something around or to keep it going, we’ve always been able to do that.  This is new territory for me too, going this long without winning.  This is hard for me too.  I’m not used to it.  No, I don’t think the message is falling on deaf ears and I think they understand what we are trying to get done, we’re just not getting it done.”
 
 
Gailey, who is under contract beyond the 2012 season, was asked if the pressure on him grows after each loss.  “You coach the best you can coach every day.  You can’t worry about that stuff.  If you worry about that then you take your mind away from the task at hand.”
 
Both Gailey and General Manager Buddy Nix have maintained they are making progress despite the record.  Gailey was asked if a sound defeat like Sunday’s is a major setback for them.  “ It hurts me because to be honest with you, I didn’t see anything like that ever happening to us again.  I thought we turned the corner on that.”
 
Among the many problems for the Bills, as they fell to 1-4 in games played in Toronto during the 5 year series, the screen game was ineffective.  C.J. Spiller had 3 catches for minus 2 yards with a long of 6.  Gailey told WGR teams have become wise to the screen passes and are taking them away. “They’re starting to play it.   Two weeks ago(St. Louis) they assigned a defensive lineman to play it and this past week(Seattle) they kept linebackers hanging around a bit.  Its getting harder and harder because its been so successful and they know we’re trying to get it to our backs.”
 
Here is the entire interview with Chan Gailey:
 
 
 
 
 
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Bills 2012: Where did it go wrong?
We were supposed to be talking about the wildcard playoff race right now and not the 2013 draft or whether or not the Bills should make a coaching change for the 5th time in 13 years.
 
But the 2012 season will likely go down in the record books as the 13th consecutive non-playoff year and perhaps the most disappointing season over that long stretch.
 
What happened?  Where did it all go so wrong?
 
In my opinion it all starts on the defensive side of the ball.  That’s where the Bills spent a lot of time and Ralph Wilson’s money this past off season to improve a unit that was one of the worst in the NFL last season.
 
It took the defense half a season to get their collective game together.  In hindsight, maybe we should have seen opening day as a bad omen.  The defense got off on the proverbial wrong foot when it was thrashed by a New York Jets offense that would turn out to be one of the worst in the league.
 
There was the second half collapse against the Patriots, followed by a game in San Francisco where they were torched for 45 points and gave up a franchise record 680 yards. 
 
But the dagger to the heart may have been the loss to Tennessee where the defense gave up 35 points to what had been a struggling Titans offense and couldn’t protect a lead at the end of the game.
 
You can start up front in terms of diagnosing what went wrong on defense.  The Bills scheme is predicated on the four linemen setting the tone but that group really struggled over the first two months.
 
Big ticket free agent Mario Williams was close to invisible on way too many game days.  Perhaps it was a wrist injury he sustained in the pre-season because Williams has looked like a different player since having surgery during the bye week.
 
Mark Anderson, the other free agent pickup brought in to bolster the D-line, looked only slightly better than Williams before suffering an injury in the fourth game of the season.
 
Second year Bill Marcell Dareus was dealing with an off field tragedy as his younger brother was shot to death in a robbery/homicide back home in Alabama.  Dareus played like someone whose mind was elsewhere but his game, like Mario Williams, has come around since the mid point of the season.
 
The linebacking corps was a huge question mark coming into the season and remains so.  The play of Nick Barnett seemed to slip in the first half of the season, compared to his performance in 2011.
 
The Bills hoped middle linebacker Kelvin Sheppard would make a significant jump in his second season but that hasn’t happened and three different players have taken a crack at the third LB spot with Kirk Morrison losing the job in training camp to Arthur Moats and then Moats losing the job to rookie Nigel Bradham.
 
Outside of Jairus Byrd and Stephon Gilmore, the secondary has been a mess.  Gilmore himself struggled as he got his feet wet but the other starter, Aaron Williams probably would have lost the job based on performance if he hadn’t been injured.
 
Veteran Terrence McGee would have provided a boost at that spot but couldn’t stay on the field for more than 20 snaps a game and was eventually placed on injured reserve.
 
Leodis McKelvin began the season as the nickel back but couldn’t hang on to the job and was replaced by second year pro Justin Rogers.   Rogers has gone backwards with his low point coming in that loss to Tennessee when he was beaten on the game winning TD pass.
 
Veteran safety George Wilson had a chance to seal the win but couldn’t hold on to an interception and that play in a nutshell describes his season.  Wilson, who went from undrafted free agent receiver to safety, has usually been good for a handful of big plays over the course of the season but they just haven’t been there in 2012.  He’s even lost some playing time to Da’Norris Searcy.
 
Lets not leave out the man in charge of the defense, Dave Wannstedt.  His flawed game plans in the opener against the Jets and the home game with the Patriots are partly to blame for those losses.  At times, Wannstedt’s inability to adjust or inflexibility when it comes to his game plan has been a liability.
 
The high expectations of 2012 didn’t pan out due to the regression of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick too.  He’ll never be confused with a franchise quarterback but the Bills appeared to have put together a good enough team around him so they could, at the very, least contend for a playoff spot.
 
Perhaps the decision to bring in a quarterbacks coach and overhaul Fitzpatrick’s mechanics turned out to be a detriment because the passing game for the Bills has suffered.  Fitzpatrick has been hesitant to throw the ball downfield and the most effective plays are screen passes and dump offs.
 
Interestingly enough, the numbers won’t necessarily tell the story, except for average yards per game, when you compare Fitzpatrick’s stats from 2012 to his 2011 numbers.  His completion percentage is 61% and it was 62% last season.  He’s thrown 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and his 2011 totals were 24 TD’s and 23 INTs.  His quarterback rating is actually better, standing at 85 with 3 games to go.  Last season he finished with a 79 rating.
 
As I said the big change comes in yards.  Fitzpatrick is averaging just 170 passing yards a game(those are Trent Edwards numbers) as opposed to 2011 when he averaged 239 yards a game.
 
The Bills inability to play complete games has been a problem as well.  The Kansas City and Jacksonville games are the only two all season where the Bills were solid across the board with offense, defense and special teams.
 
While the defense has improved over the second half of the season, the offense has gone in the opposite direction.  After averaging 24 points game through the first 8 games, Buffalo has averaged 19 points over the last 5 games.
 
What else went wrong this season?  Chan Gailey has taken a big step back as Head Coach.  I thought Gailey did a tremendous job in his first 2 years of getting production from an offense that didn’t boast a great level of talent at the skill positions.
 
But Gailey seems to have run out of answers and certainly seems to be coaching very conservatively.  The loss to St. Louis may have been the breaking point for many Bills fans but going back to the Arizona victory, Gailey has made numerous questionable decisions including the running back rotation, the lack of touches for C.J. Spiller, not kicking 50+ yard field goals, clock management and play calling.   
 
It looks like the defense is headed in the right direction but the performance of the Head Coach and the quarterback are now huge problems for the franchise and it remains to be seen if they change one or both or neither.  That decision will go a long way in determining whether we are right back in this spot, one year from now, wondering why the Bills will miss the playoffs for a 14th straight season.
 




 
Another Dark Day for Bills
Its games like this that make me wonder. Will the Bills  ever have another winning season?  Will they ever make the playoffs again?  Will they ever get a quarterback who wins a game like this rather than lose it?  Will they ever have a competent Head Coach again?
 
On Sunday, by the way, the answer was “no” to all of those questions.  On yet another day where you walk away thinking “how do the Bills manage to lose that game?” they clinched a 12th non winning record over the last 13 seasons.
 
They are still mathematically alive in the AFC wild card race thanks to the out of town scoreboard.  Both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals lost on Sunday.  Of course that also means the Bills would have been 1 game out of a playoff spot had they held on and beaten the Rams. Man, those football gods have a severely twisted sense of humor.
 
As was the case in the Tennessee game, Ryan Fitzpatrick played well up until crunch time and the offense needed to win the game.  Fiztpatrick outplayed Sam Bradford for most of the game but at with the game on the line, Bradford guided the Rams to a 14 play, 84 yard go ahead TD drive.
 
Down 15-12, Fitzpatrick and the offense got the ball at their own 23 yard line with 42 seconds left and 2 time outs.  The first play was a 19 yard pass to Scott Chandler, giving Bills fans a reason to hope but it went down hill from there.  First there was the not even close deep pass for T.J. Graham, then a sack and  then the game ending interception. 
 
Staying with the “haven’t we seen this before” theme, it was another horrible day at the office for Chan Gailey. 
 
C.J. Spiller, who leads the NFL in yards per carry and is 7th in total yards from scrimmage, had a mere 8 touches(7 rushes and 1 catch) out of 58 offensive plays.  It was the lowest number of touches for Spiller, who was averaging 7.3 yards per touch coming into the game, since the week 5 matchup in San Francisco.
 
Spiller’s last carry came with 9:05 left in the 4th quarter.  Actually that was his last touch for the game.  The Bills ran 9 offensive plays the rest of the game and none went to Spiller.
 
Yet again the best job of shutting down Spiller is turned in by  Gailey and not an opposing defense.  Spiller was the spark on the Bills lone TD drive of the day, ripping off 13 yard runs on the 1st and 3rd plays of their initial possession in the 3rd quarter. He never touched the ball again on that drive although the Bills did go on for the touchdown which put them in front 12-7.
 
During his post game press conference, Gailey said Spiller got winded after those 2 runs so they put Fred Jackson in the game.  When asked why Spiller got just 8 touches, Gailey, whose record with the Bills is now  15-30, said they were trying to run the ball and “when it was Fred’s turn, it was Fred’s turn to be in there”. 
 
I absolutely love Fred Jackson but I never want to hear about it being Fred’s turn, ever again.  Especially on a day when Jackson managed a total of 14 yards on 9 carries and had a critical lost fumble in the red zone.
 
Gailey also had many scratching their heads with an early 4th quarter decision.  Leading 12-7 and facing a 4th and 7 at the Rams 34 yard line, Gailey sent out the field goal team for what would have been a 52 yard  attempt.  Gailey then called  time and sent the punt team out after the break.
 
Gailey, who has publicly stated he is not a fan of field goal attempts from 50 and beyond, said he was told it was a 50 yarder but when he saw it was 52 or 53, he opted for the punt.  As to the time out, Gailey said he was “scared they were going to snap it” so he called time.  That was a critical time out wasted that they could have used on that last drive.
 
The head coach said he was “scared” on a play where his team could have put points on the scoreboard.  This has to be a new low for a franchise that has experienced way too many in this century.
 
If the Bills attempt the field goal and hit it, they are up 15-7 and no worse than tied when the Rams come back.  If Lindell misses, the Rams get the ball at their own 42 which is not the end of the world since the defense had been playing well up to that point.  And even with the miss, the Bills still would have had a 5 point lead.  Either way he blew an important time out.
 
Questionable play calling also reared its considerably ugly head just before half time.  Fitzpatrick had hit 4 straight passes to move the Bills from the Rams 49 yard line to their 23 with about 30 seconds left.  Gailey then called for a Fred Jackson run up the middle which lost a yard and forced the Bills to call their 2nd time out. 
 
After a 2 yard pass to Jackson, the Bills called their final time out with 11 seconds to go and had Lindell kick a field goal.  Ironic, isn’t it? As we yell and scream for Gailey to run the ball more, we wonder why he’d run at that point after his QB hit 4 passes in a row.  In addition, the Bills didn’t take a single crack at the end zone in that red zone possession but we’ve seen that before this season(a lot).
 
When all was said and done Fitzpatrick threw 33 passes and Spiller/Jackson combined for 16 runs.  Jackson also had his 4th fumble of the season which equals a career high.
 
Another game, another loss, another season soon to be officially down the drain and yet another day where you want to pull your hair out(unless you are like me and have none left to pull out).  When will this ever end?
 


 
Why Would NHL Players Decertify?
If this week’s talks between the NHL and NHLPA don’t produce a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, lawyers for the respective sides might assume the key roles.  The players could opt to dissolve the union in an effort to beat the NHL in the courts.

The NHLPA  could go in one of two directions for their next step.  They can file a disclaimer of interest which basically says the union is walking away from the players.  The other option is to decertify which means the players have decided to essentially blow up the union.

Either way, it allows the players to then sue the NHL in an effort to lift the lockout and force the games to be played.  Eric Macramalla is a sports attorney based in Ottawa and joined the WGR Morning show on Tuesday to explain all of this in easy terms. 

“Things like a salary cap, restrictions on free agency, rookie pay, the draft, all these things are anti- trust or competition law violations” Macramalla said. “ They’re actually unlawful but they’re inside the four corners of the CBA and the CBA acts as a protective bubble for the NHL.  Decertification is the pin that blows up that protective bubble. The players can go ahead and sue the NHL for all these anti-trust violations. “

Decertification is a much longer process than the disclaimer of interest.  Decertification requires collecting signatures through a petition and eventually a vote by the players.  The process could take a minimum of two months which would severely diminish the chances of a season being played unless the threat of decertification by the NHLPA scares the owners into settling.

The disclaimer of interest is instantaneous meaning the players could sue the NHL the very next day after filing. “Disclaiming interest will give the players leverage” Macramalla told WGR. “ It may work in the short term and help get something done but if anybody who tells you that  anti-trust litigation with a sports league is going to end a certain way, they’re just making it up because no one knows.  These things are entirely complex and go in any number of  ways.”

So if there’s no guarantee dissolving the union will mean victory for the players, why would they even attempt it?  “If the NHL players feel like there’s no more room to compromise, that nothing can be gained by talking and they are completely out of reasonable options, then they have no choice but to turn to the nuclear and dramatic option that is decertification” Macramalla said. “There’s no doubt that if the union blows itself up, it makes getting hockey in the short term more unlikely.”

You can follow Eric Macramalla on twitter:  @ericonsportslaw.  Here is the entire interview:
 
 


 
Bills Go Ground and Pound?
Don't read too much into the Buffalo Bills 34-18 triumph over the Jacksonville Jaguars before 53,971 rain soaked fans at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday. The  Bills did exactly what they should have done.  They beat a really bad football team.  They utilized their biggest edge in the matchup, the run game, and leaned on it heavily while upping their record to 5-7.  I don't think this signals any philosophical shift in Chan Gailey's play calling and this victory won't  get me to check out remaining schedules of teams in the chase for wildcard playoff spots.

If anything, this win made me hate that loss to Tennessee even more.  As far as the season high 46 rushes for the Bills(previous high was 36 against Kansas City), I think that was a product of the weather and not some awakening by Gailey.  The weather was not conducive to passing the football and Gailey had the NFL's 7th best rushing attack in his arsenal going up against a defense ranked 29th against the run.

Fred Jackson, who this past week sounded resigned to his fate as a number two back behind CJ Spiller, had his best day of the season, topping 100 yards for the first time.  Jackson ended up with 109 yards on 25 carries while Spiller had a fairly quiet day until an explosive 44 yard touchdown dash in the 4th quarter.  Spiller finished with 77 yards on 14 carries.

While the Bills ran the ball 46 times, Ryan Fitzpatrick attempted just 17 passes in the miserable weather.  Coming out of the halftime break with a  17-10 lead, the Bills  opened the game up in the second half and would have made Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan proud by going "ground and pound."  Jackson and Spiller combined for 23 runs in the second half and Fitzpatrick had just 5 passes.

But the Bills decision to leave Spiller out of red zone packages remains puzzling.  As Buffalo's first drive of the third quarter moved into the red zone, Spiller, knowing he wouldn't be needed, walked all the way back to the Bills 47 yard line and showed his frustration as he watched with his hands on his hips.

Its too bad the game was blacked out because Bills fans missed the rare deep pass by Fitzpatrick.  He aired it out on their first drive of the game and connected with rookie T.J. Graham on a 51 yard pass that set the Bills up at the Jags one yard line, giving life to the water logged crowd.. It was Graham's longest play of the season topping a 24 yard play at Indianapolis last week.

This was the most complete performance by the Bills(offense,defense, special teams) since the week two victory over Kansas City.  The defense held the Jaguars running game to 50 yards on 18 carries.  Before you get too excited, the Jags were down to their third string running back in Rashad Jennings and lost him in the first half, leading to someone named Montell Owens getting the carries.

Chad Henne completed just 18 of 41 passes, was sacked 4 times and picked off by Jairus Byrd late in the 4th quarter.  First round draft pick Justin Blackmon was targeted 6 times but held to 1 catch as Stephon Gilmore continues to impress with his coverage and ability to break up passes.  Jacksonville converted just 1 of 10 on third down and they went 0-3 on fourth down.

Mario Williams came up with one of the nicer plays in a game that lacked pizazz.  Just after the Bills took a 14-10 lead late in the second quarter, Williams cleanly beat the Jaguars right tackle, knocked the ball out of Henne's hands and fell on it to give the Bills a drive start at Jacksonville's 14 yard line.  The Bills were held to a field goal but it was part of a serious momentum swing.  Jacksonville took a 10-7 lead on a Henne 1 yard run with 3:47 to go in the first half.  Buffalo would score the next 27 points in the game going TD/FG/TD/FG/TD on their next 5 possessions.

Rookie cornerback Ron Brooks got the start and produced mixed results.  On the Jags initial drive, he did a nice job in coverage and broke up a pass but in the second quarter, he was called for pass interference and gave up a 24 yard pass to Cecil Shorts on the very next play.  Brooks was beaten by Shorts in the third quarter but Henne's pass was off target.  Brooks did record a pass breakup in the fourth quarter.

There was a Marcus Easley sighting in the game too.  In his first ever touch during a regular season game, Easley ripped off a 55 yard kick return to set up a drive that produced a touchdown.  He also contributed a nice tackle in kick coverage.

Elsewhere from the department of "you're kidding me!", the Bills ran two wildcat plays that succeeded.  Brad Smith recorded runs of 11 and 17 yards.

And how about Chan Gailey, "The Riverboat Gambler"?  He decided to go for it on fourth and five at the Jaguars 37 yard line in the second quarter with the Bills up 7-3.  They didn't convert but at least he didn't call for a punt.  Gailey also let Rian Lindell attempt a 50 yard field goal, which Lindell hit.

The Bills won the game but the most impressive part of the day was the fans who sat through steady rain which at times increased to pouring and late in the game went to "coming down in sheets".  Now that is dedication to your team.





 




 
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