The Bills loss in Indianapolis was yet another blow to the team's playoff hopes. While Indy is off and running at 7-4, the Bills appear to be stuck once more in the middle of a losing season. Are the Colts much better? Not really. WGR's Jeremy White takes you to the All-22 film to breakdown how Buffalo should have beaten Indy.
It might as well be a season recap rather than a game recap. Actually that might be unfair. The defense did its job, pressuring Andrew Luck and effectively giving up 13 points in the loss. The offense was plagued, once again, by the same problems.
If you think the CJ Spiller deep throw looked familiar, that's because the Bills tried it in the San Francisco game. The result was the same. It's been a season long pattern. The Bills get good looks at downfield throws, and just don't hit them enough.
CJ Spiller is the Bills best weapon. There is no disputing this. Think about how much of a weapon he would be if the Bills could hit this play. It's the first quarter. The Bills set up with an empty backfield as they often do. Indianapolis opens with one safety high, and cover the bunch of WRs on the bottom of the frame by backing off a bit.
Pre-snap this looks very good. It looks a bit like...THIS
We see Spiller in the slot to the top of the screen here in San Francisco. The Bills are in a different formation but the idea is the same. Send Spiller deep. In the SF game they get a matchup against a LB as he's motioned out of the backfield. The Saftey marked with the X walks down to about the 45 yard line pre-snap leaving just one safety back. This miss is much much worse than the Indy miss you're about to see. I'm pointing this out to show you the one-safety deep balls the Bills tend to miss. It's happened all year.
Ok...back to Indy.
Both Colts DEs jump offside, leaving the Bills with a free play. In this spot it can be difficult for a QB to KNOW that it's a free play but it shouldn't matter. Spiller beats his man clean off the line. Fitzpatrick has protection. There's one safety over the top and he simply doesn't have a chance on this play with a good throw. Watch as Spiller breaks away...
The ball is still in the air at the time of this photo. Spiller can already see that it's too deep a throw. This is a touchdown on a good throw. As has been the case all to often this year - points left on the field. Big play points. Throws, and plays that would open your short passing game.
Just in case you were wondering if the safety could have made a play. He's not even close...but as has been the case all year - neither is the throw. This is why the Bills are dared to throw deep.
I've used the term a lot - DARE. Teams DARE the Bills. Remember the Donald Jones play? What looks familiar?
Watch what happens as the Bills motion Scott Chandler across the formation. The safety at the top of the screen...
...moves from outside the hashmarks, to the center of the field. At the snap, he's moving to his left - AWAY from Donald Jones. Jones is singled up on a stop-and-go route on the outside.
After evading a rush from the right, Fitzpatrick sets his feet and throws. Jones is SMOKING his man on the stop-and-go route (something it would appear the Bills gameplanned for the Colts as you'll see later. The ONE safety, daring the Bills to throw deep is on the other hashmark. Jones is open. Touchdown. Again.
Could Jones have made the catch? Maybe. Could a better or bigger receiver have made the catch? Maybe. To me that's just not worth talking about. The black arrow below is the path the ball took. Low flight, on him fast, a fastball delivered up the sideline. The white arrows represent a thousand other trajectories that would have increased the likelihood that this ball gets completed.
While watching on the broadcast we knew that this was a bad miss. Knowing that the safety can't even get into the screen is just that much more frustrating. Say what you will about Chan Gailey and his playcalling. At this point in the game he has dialed up a pair of touchdown passes, that simply didn't come to pass.
Is it possible to know which plays Stevie Johnson is talking about when it comes to audibles? It'd be tough to figure out, but I've got one that I think represents it better than any. The Bills are just outside the 20 yard line on a 2nd down play. The intended receiver is TJ Graham on a quick screen. One problem - no one would throw this, right? You're playing Madden at home...do you make this throw?
You can't quite see Graham at the start of this play but you soon will. He'll be the player that is draped in a Colts defender.
There he is right on the 20 yard line. This play is a designed throw. The play-fake goes to the RB and then Fitz slings it. This play is Dead On Arrival. It's a waste.
See what's happening at the top of the screen? A one-on-one matchup with no safety help. Anyone want an audible called on this play? Food for thought.
What about Stevie himself? The 63 yard catch-and-run for the Bills was the biggest play of the game. It led to questions about Stevie's speed. Here's a quick look at it.
Johnson burns his man on a stop-and-go route and is in the clear once again. The throw from Fitzpatrick isn't perfect, but it's more than good enough. Johnson slows a bit, almost a cruise control speed to wait on the ball, and breaks for the endzone.
At this look I'd bet on Johnson to score.
It's the DB closing on him from behind that causes the cutback (in my opinion of course). The safety is there to help and essentially cut off the play, but it looks like while Johnson is looking at the safety, he's thinking about the heat that's catching him. The DB closed from 5 yards off, to one yard back in the span of 20-30 yards.
Next topic - 14 carries for CJ Spiller. Ugh. The 41 yard run probably led many Bills fans and observers to scream at the tv. There was the joy of watching him run, and the "That's bleeping right of COURSE he'd succeed if you give it to him" sentiment. Spiller's big gain was about good blocking, but more about his vision and escapability.
At the handoff Spiller sees the LB on the left side filling the hole. Andy Levitre slides over and picks up the LB, but Spiller is already on to a different route.
As Spiller often does, here he makes a move to set up his move.
Spiller gets caught up and it appears as though there's a lot of daylight. This closes up quickly, but Spiller leaks out.
Off to the races, for 41 yards. He should get the ball more.
How would the game have gone with one more run? A 15th touch. A pass completed on one of those fly routes? We can only wonder.
So...do with this what you will. I tend to write conclusions at the end of these pieces but we all know what the conclusion is. It's clear. Everyone knows it. The film doesn't lie.
The real question is...should we be mad at a play-caller that can so consistently dial up these plays? I'm not so sure really. The plays are there. The plays are there every week. Some should be as easy as they come. They're just not hit.
This Bills team could be 7-4. They're 4-7...and there's no hiding why.