Where to start in this one? So many areas I can cover and not many, if any, positive for he Bills. But that said here are my Hot Reads for the Bills big collapse and loss to the Patriots.....
Groundhog Day: This game was far too similar to so many Patriots games over the recent past. It was supposed to be different. But just like we've seen over and over and over again, these Bills had no answer for Wes Welker or Rob Gronkowski. Justin Rogers on Welker. Bryan Scott on Gronk. It doesn't matter. It never has. Lets face reality: the Bills don't have anyone on their roster who can cover either of them one-on-one. Not with Tom Brady throwing the ball. The solution to the Gronk problem Sunday was to keep Scott on the field as the nickel linebacker instead of having Kelvin Sheppard in his normal Mike spot in order to focus more on the pass than the run. Brady had the answer. He always does. And it was an easy answer. Just keep throwing to those guys because it doesn't matter. It never has.
He is who we thought he is! What we saw from Ryan Fitzpatrick Sunday is the epitome of exactly who he is, and who it appears he always will be. And that is a QB who has the ability to put up very good offensive numbers when given the chance, but at the same time one who can kill drives with costly interceptions and have just as big of numbers on the negative side of the stat sheet. Maybe the really good and the horribly bad Fitz show up in the same sixty-minute game (see: NY Jets and New England). Maybe one or the other Fitz takes a week or two off and only the other shows up (see: Kansas City and Cleveland, good Fitz). But it’s never good when every single time your QB goes behind center to start a drive, you feel like you’re blindfolded on a roller coaster that just started up the first climb, never knowing what great thrills or massive stomach churning you’re in for over the next five minutes. And that five minutes is ultimately, really, what we’re getting for sixteen games. A lot of fans want Fitz to be a “game manager.” I hate to break the news to those fans, but that’s not who he is or what Chan Gailey even wants him to be. What we saw Sunday is exactly who he is. Four touchdowns. Beautiful throws to Scott Chandler, Fred Jackson, and Brad Smith. Four interceptions. An awful underthrow to a wide-open TJ Graham. Bad decisions. So far, two wins. Two losses.
Run, boys, run: Hard to find anything really positive about this one, but there is a trend through the first four games that really stands out for the Bills and has helped them a lot, and should continue to do so. Pass catchers running after the catch. I write “pass catchers” because it’s everyone. Wide receivers. Tight ends (well, Scott Chandler), and running backs. Maybe especially running backs. Make no mistake, all of this is part of the offensive design of Chan Gailey. He likes to spread the field horizontally and have Fitz get the ball to guys with space around them, and hopefully, moving forward or down a line. He also expects his receivers to block downfield in both the run and pass game. Fitz has to get credit for getting the ball in those spots to allow for the run after the catch. The offensive line has done a tremendous job out front of CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson on screen passes. But the guys with ball in their hands after catching it deserve the most credit here. Spiller, Jackson, Stevie Johnson, we saw what Donald Jones can do Sunday, even Scott Chandler a few times this season has had long gains after the catch. These guys are good at getting upfield after securing the ball and blocking for each other when someone else does.
Defensive Line Disappointment: Other than a few plays from Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus, the Bills defensive line was dominated by the Patriots offensive line. That part is stating the obvious considering the offensive stats from New England’s side. The really bothersome part, though, was this was the one area the Bills seemed to have a clear advantage going into the game. They already had an edge, and then once it was announced Logan Mankins wasn’t playing for the Pats, it became an even bigger advantage. But the Bills certainly didn’t do with it what was expected. Just the opposite. I read and listen to fans screaming for blitzes and stunts. Those are things you do to help out and can get you into a better position if they work, but also take time to develop. Not the greatest strategy against a guy like Brady who sees things so well and gets the ball out so quickly. I don’t need blitzes and stunts. Not with this group. They shouldn’t have to do that. They should, individually, just be better than the men across from them. This isn’t the 2010 Bills. This team has players that are supposed to be better than the men lined up opposite them. Sunday, they were losing the one-on-one battles across the board and all day. That’s a problem. That’s unexpected. That’s disappointing. This group is better than that. They’ll play better than that. We all know they can and are expecting it. And that better start next week at San Francisco, because the Niners are one of the most physical teams in the league and are going to try and smash their run game (245 yards against the Jets Sunday) down the Bills throats.
Mario Watch: Of course, as much as the entire D-Line was basically dominated Sunday, it’s Mario Williams who will get most of the scrutiny and a lot of the criticism. His contract puts a bull’s-eye square on his back all season and beyond. Another game where he didn’t stand out. Not even noticed. He did force Brady to step up into the one Bills sack, so that was a nice play. But beyond that, he did nothing to effect or change the game in his team’s favor. By my count and own assessment, through four games in a Bills uniform, Williams has had one good game (Cleveland), one average game (Kansas City), and two disappointments (NY Jets, New England). We all know he was brought into Buffalo to help stop Brady and the Pats offense. But, really, he was brought in to make plays that help change games, no matter the opponent. Those plays need to start happening soon or nothing’s going to change with this Bills season.
Looking ahead: The 49ers did have that tremendous game on the ground against the Jets. They can – and will – pound the football. But they don’t have Tom Brady. Alex Smith isn’t the guy Dave Wannstedt will design his game-plan around stopping. That means more base defensive personnel and formations and less nickel on 1st and 2nd down. The linebackers better come to play, because San Fran is going to run the ball right at them. Offensively, the Bills really need to have a fully (or as close to it as possible) healthy CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson. It’s already going to be tough enough on this team facing (before Monday Night’s game) the #4 ranked defense in both yards allowed and points allowed per game in the NFL without Cordy Glenn and Kraig Urbik.
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