I understand the theory behind not activating TJ Graham, but it backfired. My best guest as to why he was not on the active roster (since we haven’t heard Chan Gailey’s reasoning as of yet and may not) is Gailey figured the Jets were going to blitz from different places and force quick throws by the offense, so having a guy whose sole purpose is to stretch the field wouldn’t matter in this game. Essentially, if Ryan Fitzpatrick has to get rid of the ball quickly because of the oncoming pass rush, Graham’s running down the field is useless. So he decided to use that roster spot on a player needed in another area in what he figured would be a more conservative, field position game. But the plan backfired, ironically, because the Bills were actually really, really good at protecting Fitzpatrick. He actually would have had the time to drop back, set his feet, and launch a couple deep balls down the field to the speedy rookie. I’d be shocked if Graham wasn’t on the field in uniform next week, especially with the injury to David Nelson now. But it’s a shame we didn’t get to see if he could have made a difference early in the game Sunday now that we know the opportunities would have been there to find out.
3rd down anything but charming:
The Jets were 10/14 (71%) on 3rd downs against the Bills. That’s atrocious from a defensive standpoint. The pass rush was non-existent. Receivers were wide open. Tight ends killed linebackers….again. Pick your reasoning, they’ll all be appropriate and accurate. Corners and safeties were playing way too soft against receivers. They just allowed them to get to the 1st down marker and make catches. I’ve heard several criticisms about this already and they are all absolutely valid. But you also saw the reason they played that way. Two balls thrown over the top of cornerbacks’ heads for touchdowns. First Leodis McKelvin, then Stephon Gilmore. Dave Wannstedt was obviously worried about that happening and it did. So he often elected, on 3rd down, to eliminate that possibility. Obviously, neither strategy worked very well Sunday. So the best solution: find a way to get the quarterback to the ground before he can throw it at all. They have to do that next week or Matt Cassel and the Chiefs will be doing the exact same thing Mark Sanchez did Sunday -- whatever he wants.
Unwelcome special delivery:
The best part about this team in the preseason was part of the problem in the regular season opener. And going back to the last preseason game, it’s getting a bit concerning. The first and only punt of the entire season returned against the Bills went 68 yards back the other way for a touchdown. Not getting down the field quick enough, not getting off blocks, and missed opportunities for tackles all contributed to the return. Add that to the only punt that was returned in the final preseason game which went for 30 yards against the Bills (early in the game at Detroit when many of the regulars were still playing including Brian Moorman punting), and that equals the last two returns going for a total of 98 yards and a touchdown against a unit that was looking like the only group you could have complete confidence in after the first few preseason contests. Now, it just gets lumped in with the offense and defense as another big question mark heading into week two.
Don’t blame the receivers:
I thought the wideouts had a good game, all things considered. When the ball was delivered on time and on target, there were no real drops. When they caught it, they made things happen. There were also several good runs after the catch, including one each by Donald Jones and Stevie Johnson that both went for touchdowns. Fans like to point out the deficiencies of that group and the lack of a true #2 opposite Stevie Johnson. That sentiment may be true as a whole, but don’t use Sunday’s game as an example, because the wideouts weren’t the issue with the passing game. The group also blocked very well downfield and helped spring CJ Spiller on a couple of his runs.
Speaking of CJ:
What a day for Spiller individually. And I don’t just mean on the stat sheet. But let’s start there. 194 total yards from scrimmage. 169 yards rushing and several long gains. Last season, filling in for Fred Jackson, Spiller showed he could play in this league given a regular opportunity. Sunday he showed exactly what the Bills saw in him when they drafted him #9 overall in the 2010 draft. Several times he had the ball in his hands, he was simply the best player on the field. He made Jets defenders look foolish. It was enough to make one wonder, even when Fred Jackson does come back healthy, how often does Chan Gailey really want to take Spiller off the field?
But with CJ there’s always seemed to be one issue that’s popped up too often and at critical moments. Ball security. That problem reared its head again when he caught a long pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick towards the end of the first half. Not tucking the ball away quickly enough once he got his hands on it cost him the football - and cost the Bills an opportunity to cut the lead to 10 at halftime. Instead, the Jets scored again off that turnover and essentially put the game away after only one half. It could have been a much different game had Spiller hung on and the Bills converted, or if Spiller had actually scored there. That’s because it’s worth pointing out that particular pass was underthrown by Fitzpatrick. CJ had his man beat. If the ball were thrown to the right spot, leading Spiller, he most likely would have scored himself.
That brings me to…..
Ryan Fitzpatrick’s day. At this point, I’m not sure anyone is, nor should anyone be, surprised if Fitz has a 400-yard, 4 touchdown performance and leads the Bills to a big win…..or…..if he has a 3 interception afternoon, including a pick-6, which helps put the Bills down by 20 at the half and the same deficit at the final buzzer. We’ve seen both of these Fitzpatrick’s show up. Sometimes we see one of them in one game and the other in the next. Other times we see both of these types of performances separated by only a halftime show. It’s been said many times and repeated over and over: “The 2012 Bills will go as Ryan Fitzpatrick goes.” He’s certainly not the only one to lay blame to for Sunday’s loss. Plenty of that to go around. But that particular saying was on display with bright lights and flashing bulbs at MetLife Stadium. His mistakes early in the game were vital to the outcome at the end.
Don’t be surprised if the same mistakes by the same QB doom the Bills again next week. But also don’t be shocked if he slings the ball all around Ralph Wilson Stadium for a bunch of yards, a few touchdowns and a win, either. That’s who the Bills quarterback is and who he’ll continue to be.
The good news is Rex Ryan doesn’t coach the Chiefs, and the Chiefs defense is certainly not the Jets defense. As a QB for the Bills, Fitz has never beaten Ryan’s Jets as a starter, and overall through six games as a starter or backup, his stat line is 50.8%, 10 TD, 7 INT. Welcome to Tim Tebow statistical territory.
Looking ahead, the Chiefs didn’t have a pick this week against the Falcons. Atlanta QB Matt Ryan threw for 299 yards and 3 touchdowns against them.
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