Through the first few breakdowns we’ve taken a look at Mario Williams, Cordy Glenn, Tom Brady and Ryan Fitzpatrick. We’re going big picture this time. How in the world can a team lose by 42 points and still have had it’s chances to compete in a game? Turns out it’s just a few plays.
In their 45-3 loss to the Buffalo Bills we were shown once again something that each and every day is more glaringly obvious; it’s a passing league.
YES the 49ers ran for 300 yards.
YES the Patriots rushed for 247 (but our film study showed how the pass created that)
The Bills were pretty much toast at halftime in San Francisco because of their inability to hit big plays, and San Fran’s ability to hit theirs. It was an absolute blowout at QB, at CB, at scheming, and execution. There’s a reason the 49ers were one win from the Superbowl and the Bills are...well...where they are.
Alex Smith had his best first half as a pro in the NFL. He could have finished with 500 yards passing if the 49ers chose to keep throwing the ball.
This game was about the difference in QB and the differences at DB. It was about the differences in preparation. You watch the 49ers ISO Aaron Williams multiple times. This Bills defense has massive problems in the secondary. 49ers TEs and WRs run free with lots of space. In times where there are tight throws to make (few) Smith answers the call.
You’ll see the 49ers safeties swagger into the box knowing that there is NO threat to the deep ball. It’s a recurrent theme for this offense. As Bills players run free in space, the ball simply doesn’t arrive. In one three hour 45-3 blowout it featured all the horrors you’d expect.
On San Francisco’s 2nd possession of the game they push down the field for 3 points to take the lead. It all comes from one big play. Alex Smith finds Vernon Davis running alone in the Bills secondary for a 53 yard gain.
Davis isn’t exactly a secret weapon. He gets open in large part because of NO pass rush on this play. Smith executes a play fake that sucks in both Bills LBs as well as safety George Wilson (albeit not nearly as much).
Smith has tons of time to throw the ball and Davis breaks into the open field leaving George Wilson in the dust.
Aaron Williams is locked on to the other TE streaking up the field leaving Davis open on the sideline as Wilson attempts to chase him down. Davis has a full 6-7 yards of separation as the ball comes in. It's a 53 yard gain on a busted coverage from the Bills. Too much time to pass for Smith. He makes the Bills pay for 53 yards on this play. It leads to a SF field goal to make it 3-0.
First points go to SF courtesy of one big play. The Bills offense can answer.
Stevie Johnson runs a fly route along the far sideline and right from the start it is open. Johnson (from what I've seen this season) is very effective at setting up DBs with the jab step to create space. His speed up the sideline is good enough and the separation that he gains is likely why he has good games against Darrelle Revis. The Jets frequently play with no safety help for Revis and Johnson can beat most DBs in the league in this spot. He does it here as well. Watch the 49ers and what they do with their safeties.
Safety Dashon Goldson starts the play standing on the 22 yard line. As the play develops he stays there. Johnson is by his man and it's clear at this point there is no safety help. Goldson even takes a few steps toward the line of scrimmage and away from Johnson.
Former Bill Donte Whitner is the safety to the left in this shot. He's on his way to help out as Ryan Fitzpatrick sets to make his throw. Whitner has no prayer. Goldson isn't helping. It's Johnson one-on-one open in the endzone.
The throw is off target. The Bills punt (24 yards) and come away with no points. On the next drive the Bills would settle for a field goal after a failure to convert in the red zone. The throw to Donald Jones at the 2 yard line stops the drive and it's 3-3. Obviously you're not going to hit on every play but already in the game the offense has left points on the board.
With the 49ers getting the ball back...The big play strikes twice. Alex Smith works over the Bills young CBs.
1st and 15 from their own 21 yard line, the 49ers complete a pass over the middle to Michael Crabtree. It's a 10 yard pass over the middle on a soft zone and the Bills are in position to make the tackle short of a first down.
Crabtree catches the ball between the hashes as Jairus Byrd and Stephon Gilmore close in. Byrd squares him but Gilmore overpursues and lets Crabtree out the back door.
The YAC is approximately 26 yards - on simply a bad angle. The next play Alex Smith goes to work on the other side. Smith comes to the line and appears to make a quick change. The Bills have Aaron Williams to the top of the screen in man coverage on Kyle Williams.
Watch as Williams and Williams go into their own world, while the Bills key on Vernon Davis.
From the endzone...
Back shoulder throw to Kyle Williams and he walks into the endzone. Touchdown 49ers. The score is 10-3.
The Bills next possession features another opportunity for a big play. The Bills get the matchup that they want. CJ Spiller motions out into the slot, and the LB Navarro follows him. It’s man coverage.
Here’s the bold move. Watch the safety.
Spiller runs the deep route matched up with a linebacker. There is AGAIN no help.
Ball falls at the 30 yard line. Any completion here puts the Bills in field goal range.
The Bills punt. Remember. It is 10-3 late in the first half. A forced fumble on Kaepernick and the Bills look to be headed to the half down only 3 despite getting knocked around pretty well. This is “bend-but-don’t-break”, right? Enter the Chandler fumble...and the first play that follows. It’s Gilmore that gets picked on.
Gilmore gets caught looking in the backfield and Crabtree blows by him and into the endzone. There are :29 seconds remaining in the half when this play runs. Could Gilmore have been thinking the 49ers would be conservative? Bradham has the back covered and Gilmore (if this is straight assignment based) would have Crabtree. He lets him go and Alex Smith makes the Bills play.
This isn't the easiest throw you'll see. Smith fits it between two defenders and the sideline and gives Crabtree a chance to make a play on the ball. Touchdown.
This makes the score 17-3. It’s STILL not a total blowout. The 49ers are hitting big plays and the Bills simply aren’t. Assignment based defense is what we hear...and it’s not the kind of thing I can know but it looks like Gilmore got sucked in by the back who the LB had. Even so...Smith makes the throw. DBs get beat. It’s on QBs to make them pay.
At 24-3 the 49ers appear to be safe. The Bills have had their opportunities, but they’re just not converting. The nail in the coffin for so many fans was likely Ryan Fitzpatrick’s interception while looking for Donald Jones.
It’s the same story.
WGR’s Joe Buscaglia and others have said that the wind in this spot is something to be considered so I think we should consider that. The way the defense lines up shows you what they think of the Bills passing game. It’s like a carbon copy.
Empty backfield and Jones runs the streak pattern on the far sideline. The safety to that side, AGAIN, is not helping deep.
He takes two steps forward before the snap.
Jones is available for the throw immediately. There is pressure on Fitzpatrick from his right.
As he prepares to make the throw he leans back, and back, and back...and it becomes a back foot throw.
You can see both safeties. You can see a defense that is daring the Bills to beat them deep. Jones beats his man. The throw needs to be deeper. The throw likely needs to go sooner. You can't see in this article but the video shows that Fitzpatrick hitched right before the throw. The throw sails due to the wind, the throw, the angle, the pressure (which at the last moment was worth noting), and a host of other factors. Another big play that’s available is missed. 24-3. Interception. For all intents and purposes it is "Game over" if it wasn't already over.
The 49ers would tack on three more TDs. The easiest on an isolation of rookie CB Aaron Williams. They overload the left side and the Bills matchup accordingly.
Crabtree comes in motion and Gilmore follows him. George Wilson rushes to the line to matchup with Davis and both follow their man into coverage.
This leaves Aaron Williams on his own and he gets turned around.
Smith makes the easy throw.
Another TD. Weakness exposed.
Offensively plays are there. Defensively the assignments are being missed or the players are showing that they’re just not UP to those assignments.
5 weeks in - the same problems are showing up week to week. This is not to say the Bills should have defeated the San Francisco 49ers. Not at all. CRIPES not at all. I'd say draw your own conclusions as you will.
What do I think?
I think the Bills QB is killing the offense.
I think the Bills pass rush is supposed to be better and the corners are young an inexperienced. The defense to me appears to be fixable. The QB can play better. We are 5 weeks in. Something has to change. I wouldn't expect too many more 45-3 games...but I would expect more losses than anyone is comfortable with if they don't tackle both issues.
They need big plays on offense. They need to eliminate them on defense.
That's the big difference between these teams. The game was decided through the air.
Do the Bills have a fix?