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Posted: Tuesday, 10 December 2013 4:48PM

Upon Further Review: Bills at Buccaneers



(WGR 550) -- Warning: What you are about to read is not for the faint of heart. The Buffalo Bills went down to Tampa Bay and came back licking their wounds, with their most embarrassing loss of the season.

The players will want to move on to next weekend as quickly as possible. But before they get started on their preparations for Jacksonville, first is a look back at the individual performances of every single Bills player that took a snap on offense or defense.

Every week, with the help of the All-22 film available through NFL.com's Game Rewind package, WGR will provide the standouts, the duds and everything in between from the game that was.

For each player that appeared in the game on offense or defense, you'll see their name in bold, with a set of numbers after it. Example: Derek Huff (54, -2, 2.7). The first number (54) represents the snap count of that game, the second (-2) represents the individual players plus-minus of positive plays to negative plays in that game. The third number (2.7) represents the weighted Grade Point Average assigned to that player by the author.

OFFENSE (67 total plays)

Quarterback
Three weeks ago at Ralph Wilson Stadium it was the best of times, this past weekend at Raymond James Stadium provided the worst. Of course, this is in reference to the performance of the Bills' rookie quarterback EJ Manuel (67, -8, 1.0). To put it lightly, Manuel didn't exactly inspire confidence with how he ran the offense against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Last week against Atlanta, the rookie's biggest problem was a switch back to his risk aversion ways of quarterbacking. While that was still an issue in Tampa Bay, the new concern of hanging on to the ball too long popped up. Perhaps the two can be linked.

It wasn't the finest day for the offensive line (more on that later), but Manuel didn't do himself any favors by hesitating in his decision making. There were some times where it was just a matter of a simple blocking breakdowns that resulted in him scrambling to keep the play alive. But there were also other times where he could have unloaded a ball to an open receiver, declined to do so, and instead took a sack or was hurried to make a poor throw.

To that point, Manuel took a sack on a third down in the first quarter that forced the Bills to punt because he held on to the ball too long. Down the field, there were three players open and accessible with an NFL caliber throw, but Manuel declined to take the chance. The first quarter also provided a wounded duck on a third down -- that wasn't tipped at the line of scrimmage -- that fell incomplete. There was some sort of miscommunication with Marquise Goodwin on another play that resulted in a sack and then he missed an open Stevie Johnson over the middle of the field with a throw that was behind the receiver.

The first quarter also provided half of his glimpses of positivity. Early in the game a breakdown of the offensive line required him to spin out of a sack, enabling him to tuck the ball and run for an eight-yard gain. He also hit Scott Chandler in stride with the play ending up in a 15-yard gain.

The second quarter is where the turnovers started and doubled as when Manuel's day really went downhill. Some will blame the receiver Johnson for the quarterback's first interception, and while it's true that he deserves some of the blame, Manuel also teed him up for safety Mark Barron to deliver a crushing blow if he had held on to the pass. Perhaps that could have been avoided had the throw not been high, allowing Johnson to catch the ball and get down before taking a vicious hit.

His second interception was just an absolute misfire. He had T.J. Graham coming open after beating rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks. Manuel spotted it, and threw it behind Graham which allowed Banks to undercut the pass and pick it off.

The negative plays didn't stop for Manuel in the second quarter, taking a sack on a third down play when he had open receivers down the field, coming nowhere close to Graham on a separate third down throw and then calling an audible at the line of scrimmage into perhaps the worst offensive play of the season. On that play the two receivers seemed to be blocking as Manuel dropped back to pass. The offensive line and running back all stayed back to protect Manuel and fullback Evan Rodriguez attempted to get out to the flat but was tripped up. Predictably, the Buccaneers quickly broke through and forced Manuel to throw it away. It was just an odd play call and there had to be mass confusion once the rookie changed things up.

In the third quarter Manuel once again showed his ability to scramble for a first down and then followed it up with his first tight-window throw in weeks. With a linebacker dropping back into the deep middle, the rookie quarterback hit Johnson over the middle of the field, feeding the ball to the wideout where only he could catch it. That play resulted in 33 yards and the Bills got their second field goal. After that, Manuel missed a wide open Rodriguez who had at least 20 yards of running room because Tampa Bay failed to pick him up, and then threw his third interception that was nowhere close to the intended receiver. He also chipped in one more interception for good measure, failing to recognize and throwing the ball to Robert Woods who was streaming across the field for a while, Manuel instead got it to him a half second later and Darrelle Revis knocked the ball loose.

All in all, the rookie quarterback struggled with his accuracy and his overall decision making process. Tampa Bay's defense is a very young, talented and aggressive unit when they are firing on all cylinders. Some will blame the offensive line and others will do the same with the receivers, but in the NFL there is one truth: A great quarterback can mask all. 

Manuel will need to bounce back against what could be the worst defense he faces all season long. Against that team and with his specific skill-set, the matchup looks ideal for the young quarterback.

If he comes out and does the same things as he has been, making the same mistakes and preventing the Bills from collecting a victory over Jacksonville, it could make for a very interesting week at One Bills Drive.

Running Back
The running game wasn't much to speak of for the Bills because of how effective the Tampa Bay front four were playing all game long. Fred Jackson (37, 1, 2.7) did most of his damage receiving a few passes from Manuel. He picked up a first down after breaking a tackle and gaining an additional 10 yards during one play in the third quarter. C.J. Spiller (26, 0, 2.3) broke out against Atlanta, but was stifled the following week. He did hit one home run for the Bills, an 83-yard touchdown reception… that was called back on a holding penalty. Ronnie Wingo (4, 0, 2.3) caught a pass and had the final carry of the contest, while Evan Rodriguez (5, 0, 2.3) got his first taste of action as well. The fullback could have had a big gain had Manuel recognized him in the flat with no one on him.

Wide Receiver
As the quarterback goes so do the wide receivers, and when the signal caller is having his roughest day of the season, there won't be much production coming from the pass-catchers on the team. Stevie Johnson (59, 1, 2.3) was the most effective between the quintet of players that got time on the field at wideout. He certainly deserves some fault for Manuel's first interception of the game for shying away from the big hit and not bringing in the reception, but the quarterback needed to put him in a much better position than that with a high throw. He had the top offensive play of the day though, a 33-yard reception that featured a tight-window throw and a broken tackle. Rookie Robert Woods (66, -2, 1.7) also had a ball hit his hands and then it found its way into the arms of a Buccaneers defender. He was open for a while over the middle of the field, and Manuel didn't get him the ball until the last moment when Darrelle Revis was ready to jar the it loose. Woods also had a holding call that negated Spiller's 83-yard touchdown. T.J. Graham (46, 0, 2.3) and Marquise Goodwin (26, -2, 2.0) both did not have a catch. While Graham was mostly quiet, Goodwin took a holding penalty that negated a 14-yard Spiller rushing attempt. Chris Hogan (8, 1, 2.3) chipped in one catch on a 2nd-and-18 for 12 yards.

Tight End
Collectively, the tight ends were seeing less of the field than they have been in all other games this season. Scott Chandler (38, 1, 2.3) received only three targets and converted on two of those chances for 24 yards. The Bills also employed a dual tight end set that had both Lee Smith (12, 0, 2.3) and rookie Chris Gragg (8, 0, 2.3) on the field at the same time. Whether it had to do with the matchup or if the current tight end group has fallen out of favor with the Bills, it's a storyline that's worth watching.

Offensive Line
Collectively, the performance of Buffalo's offensive line was the worst in the two years that Upon Further Review has been going strong. If you add the plus-minus totals of the Bills' starting five players, it comes out to a whopping minus-28. Left guard Doug Legursky (67, -8, 1.0) was predictably the weakest link. In every single game he has played, Legursky has not been a plus-player, and he's been in the negative for seven straight games. Gerald McCoy tore through Legursky multiple times, showing that the smaller guard doesn't have enough length or strength to keep top flight defenders like that from making an impact. The rest of the front seven also found success going against the left guard. With head coach Doug Marrone declaring that J.J. 'Unga (7, 0, 2.3) would get more time on the field at right guard, perhaps it would be smart to see how Kraig Urbik (60, -6, 1.3) fares on the left side, despite how badly he played against Tampa Bay as well. Urbik is the bigger and more athletic of the two between he and Legursky, but was taken advantage of by McCoy and his teammates on a consistent basis. Right tackle Erik Pears (67, -6, 1.3) had a pair of penalties to go along with allowing two pressures that resulted in EJ Manuel being sacked. It was easily his worst performance of the season to date. The same goes for center Eric Wood (67, -5, 1.7) who tried to overcompensate for Legursky a pair of times and ended up getting burned for a big defensive play, too. He also took a pair of penalties and even had a low snap in the shotgun formation. Left guard Cordy Glenn (67, -3, 2.0) was the best of the bunch, but it still was a below average day for him as well. Each of the team's starting five offensive lineman had their worst individual outing of the entire season. It's no wonder why Marrone has repeatedly brought up their woes following the contest.

DEFENSE (66 total plays)

Defensive Line
Almost surprisingly the defense had a pretty efficient day, besides the 80-yard touchdown run by Bobby Rainey. By no means can you discount that because it showed the Bills weren't ready to play right away, but they adjusted well after that and it started up front with the defensive line. Left guard Jamon Meredith couldn't do anything with Kyle Williams (53, 6, 3.7), with the defender being in the backfield constantly and forcing plays to go away from their intended locations. Marcell Dareus (59, 3, 3.0) had a sack but was more effective in limiting the run. There was even one play in the second quarter where he stood his ground against two offensive linemen, plugged the rushing lane and allowed for a teammate to get the tackle from the backside. Alan Branch (47, 2, 2.7) didn't have quite the impact as he had against Atlanta and it started out poorly. Branch was sealed off by his blocker which paved the way for Rainey's 80-yard touchdown. After that, Branch chipped in a few times to limit rushers to minimal gains by whipping the blocker off of him. Stefan Charles (10, 3, 3.3) once again stood out in limited action. On three separate plays in the first half, Charles was a direct contributor to stopping a rushing attempt for zero yards or less. As the season winds down, he could be one player that gets his playing time raised. Corbin Bryant (18, 1, 2.3) fought through the offensive line and tackled Rainey for a one-yard gain in the second quarter, but that was the extent of his effectiveness.

Pass Rushers
Most of the positive plays for both Mario Williams (52, 2, 2.7) and Jerry Hughes (25, 0, 2.3) came in the category of stopping the run. Williams had two separate tackles for loss while Hughes crashed down and interrupted two rushing plays at the line of scrimmage as well. In pass rushing, Williams' best attempt happened at the beginning of the game when he beat right tackle Demar Dotson cleanly, and the offensive lineman reached around Williams' neck and grabbed his shoulder. It was an obvious holding penalty but was not called by the officiating staff. Hughes forced a throwaway in the first quarter with his strongest rush of the game, in which he bounced off fullback Evan Lorig and made Mike Glennon panic. Ty Powell (7, 1, 2.7) got his first action on defense of the season and had one 'wow' play in the first quarter. He knocked tight end Timothy Wright back at the line of scrimmage, occupied fullback Evan Lorig and then combined with Kiko Alonso for a tackle for loss of Bobby Rainey. Marrone was very complimentary of Powell, so expect to see him on the field in spots throughout the remainder of the season.

Inside Linebacker
Perhaps having a bit of a hangover from the Atlanta game which was his worst of the season, Kiko Alonso (66, 3, 3.0) started off slowly in Tampa Bay. It was his missed tackle that enabled Rainey to go 80-yards for the touchdown on just the second play of the game. Then on the next series, Alonso allowed himself to be covered up by the fullback and Rainey had an additional eight-yard carry. After that, though, the rookie linebacker returned to form. He followed his instincts and it helped lead him to plugging rushing lanes, a screen break up and tackles for loss. After playing very poorly for many weeks in a row, Arthur Moats (2, 0, 2.3) had his snap count diminished almost entirely. He is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

Outside Linebacker
Easily getting his most time in a single game this season, Nigel Bradham (47, 1, 2.7) was a much more effective player than Arthur Moats has been. He was also sealed off on Rainey's 80-yard touchdown run, but followed it up with diverting a handful of running attempts into the arms of awaiting Bills defenders. Manny Lawson (49, 1, 2.3) was mostly quiet playing along the edge for the majority of the day, but collected a three-yard loss in doing so on a third quarter rushing attempt by Rainey.

Cornerback
Many fans have started to grow impatient with second-year player Stephon Gilmore (64, 4, 3.3) in recent weeks, but he didn't give them much to complain about against Tampa Bay. In fact, Gilmore had his strongest performance of 2013 and showed textbook coverage skills on a few separate occasions. He was at his best in the second quarter when Mike Glennon tried to test Gilmore deep down the left sideline. On the first attempt the cornerback turned and ran with Vincent Jackson, watched the receiver's head to see when he looked back and once he did, Gilmore quickly flipped his head around with him. He finished that play by tracking the ball, high pointing it, and coming down with an interception against a jump-ball specialist in Jackson. Later in the quarter, Glennon tried it again on Gilmore but with the speedier Skye Dawson this time around. Gilmore stayed stride-for-stride after his turn, waited for Dawson to look back and then broke up the pass. He was also very good in run support. Leodis McKelvin (66, 1, 2.7) didn't get tested all that often, but offered up a few solid coverages throughout the game. The only notable plays that went against him was a 22-yard reception by Jackson and a questionable pass interference call assigned to him in the third quarter. Nickell Robey (19, 0, 2.3) was a strong tackler against Tampa Bay, but found himself in a ginormous mismatch in the first quarter against the 6-foot-4 Jackson. Glennon recognized the difference in height and threw a jump ball to the end zone. With the nine inch advantage, Jackson won that battle.

Safety
Like most of the defense, it started off poorly for Jairus Byrd (66, 1, 3.0). Tampa Bay had been showing a wide receiver reverse on film, and they called Tiquan Underwood into motion on the second play of the game. Byrd thought the wideout was going to get the ball and ran towards the line of scrimmage, only to find out that the handoff went to Bobby Rainey and he scored an 80-yard touchdown. Had Byrd not bitten on that fake, that run likely is limited to under 30 yards. After that, though, Byrd's day improved dramatically starting with his second quarter interception. He also showed keen instincts in run support throughout the remainder of the game and even sniffed out the wide receiver reverse pass attempt by covering up Vincent Jackson down the field. Aaron Williams (64, 0, 2.3) had an up and down day. The good? His growing instincts in run defense, along with a diving effort to break up a surefire touchdown to Tiquan Underwood in the second quarter. The bad? He slipped in coverage late in the second quarter which resulted in a Timothy Wright touchdown reception, and he was fooled by play action in the first quarter that left Underwood wide open in the end zone. Luckily for him, Mike Glennon didn't spot the wideout and checked it down. With Tampa Bay utilizing a more traditional offense, Da'Norris Searcy (12, 0, 2.3) didn't get much time on the field this week.

Year to date grades, ranked by aggregate GPA (Last week's overall rank)
  1. DL Kyle Williams - 3.24 (1)
  2. DL Marcell Dareus - 3.12 (2)
  3. ILB Kiko Alonso - 3.02 (3)
  4. SLB Manny Lawson - 2.93 (4)
  5. HB Fred Jackson - 2.91 (6)
  6. RLB Jerry Hughes - 2.90 (5)
  7. DE Mario Williams - 2.89 (8)
  8. S Jairus Byrd - 2.83 (9)
  9. WR Marquise Goodwin - 2.83 (7)
  10. DL Alan Branch - 2.76 (11)
  11. LT Cordy Glenn - 2.72 (10)
  12. CB Nickell Robey - 2.72 (13)
  13. WR Stevie Johnson - 2.71 (12)
  14. CB Leodis McKelvin - 2.67 (15)
  15. C Eric Wood - 2.64 (14)
  16. HB C.J. Spiller - 2.62 (17)
  17. S Aaron Williams - 2.59 (18)
  18. WR Robert Woods - 2.58 (16)
  19. DL Alex Carrington - 2.56 (20)
  20. DL Corbin Bryant - 2.55 (19)
  21. WLB Nigel Bradham - 2.50 (25)
  22. TE Scott Chandler - 2.49 (22)
  23. CB Stephon Gilmore - 2.46 (32)
  24. WR Chris Hogan - 2.44 (24)
  25. RG Kraig Urbik - 2.42 (21)
  26. S Da'Norris Searcy - 2.42 (26)
  27. WR T.J. Graham - 2.41 (27)
  28. TE Lee Smith - 2.40 (28)
  29. RT Erik Pears - 2.38 (23)
  30. HB Tashard Choice - 2.34 (29)
  31. FB Frank Summers - 2.33 (30)
  32. S Jim Leonhard - 2.33 (31)
  33. ILB Arthur Moats - 2.26 (34)
  34. QB E.J. Manuel - 2.17 (33)
  35. QB Thad Lewis - 1.90 (36)
  36. LG Doug Legursky - 1.83 (35)
  37. CB Justin Rogers - 1.74 (37)
  38. QB Jeff Tuel - 1.64 (38)
  39. LG Colin Brown - 1.30 (39)
*Minimum 100 plays
**Those with (NR) beside their names just eclipsed the minimum plays on the season


Previous Installments:
Week 1 - New England 23, Buffalo 21
Week 2 - Buffalo 24, Carolina 23
Week 3 - New York Jets 27, Buffalo 20
Week 4 - Buffalo 23, Baltimore 20
Week 5 - Cleveland 37, Buffalo 24
Week 6 - Cincinnati 27, Buffalo 24
Week 7 - Buffalo 23 Miami 21
Week 8 - New Orleans 35, Buffalo 17
Week 9 - Kansas City 23, Buffalo 13
Week 10 - Pittsburgh 23, Buffalo 10
Week 11 - Buffalo 37, New York Jets 14
Week 12 - BYE
Week 13 - Atlanta 34, Buffalo 31

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

All photos courtesy of AP
How many games would you give EJ Manuel to prove himself this season?
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