Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27, Buffalo Bills 6
How did the Bills lose this game? Who had the largest impact? Here are my thoughts.
I walked into work Sunday afternoon around 6pm and said to a friend “Wow, it was work to watch that game.” He replied, “You could have turned that game off after the first half and still written an article about it.” Sadly, he could not have been more correct. The game that the Bills played in Tampa was by far their worst effort of the season. It was worse than the Jets game in New Jersey, and worse than the effort against Pittsburgh; not necessarily because of the score, but because how the score got to what it eventually was. Mistakes everywhere, untimely penalties, and a seeming total lack of effort on the part of the offense, which led to the most devastating and unwatchable game of the 2013 season.
What were the worst parts of the game for the Bills?
There were 5 of them committed by the Bills in Sunday’s game, 4 credited to EJ Manuel, but they were not all his fault. The one that hurt the most was also the one that could have been prevented, and yes I’m referencing the one that went directly off of the raised hands of Stevie Johnson. The Bills fell behind by a score of 14-3 by the end of the first quarter, but as the teams switched sides of the field, the Bills held the ball and were looking to pull within a score. On third down, Manuel fired a mid-range pass over the middle to a closely covered, yet still open Stevie Johnson. Stevie appeared to close his hands before the ball was actually in them, the ball popped high into the air, and into the hands of a waiting Tampa Bay defender.
A play like this is fine, it’s not something to burn a player for, but it was the context in which it happened that is the problem here. This “drop” that was picked-off occurred on the drive following a drive in which Stevie dropped an easy first down pass on a second and long. Credit to Manuel for showing confidence in going right back to Stevie on the next drive, it’s just a shame that this confidence was not rewarded.
The pass that went off Stevie’s hands also impacted the Bills on their next possession. Manuel on third down forced a bad pass into a tightly covered T.J. Graham that was also picked off. How is this related to the interception on the previous possession? Stevie Johnson was wide open on the left sideline on the play that was forced to Graham. Perhaps he just didn’t get to that point in his progression and didn’t see Johnson wide open, or perhaps his confidence was shaken in him after the result of the previous two drives. We might never know, and the players certainly won’t say, but it certainly is open to both interpretations.
The third interception was again on Manuel, a bad pass into tight coverage that simply should not have been thrown, those are the types of mistakes that are okay to expect from a rookie and the kind that are easier to live with. The final interception by Lavonte David cannot be credited to anything other than a good defensive play, the hit on Robert Woods was an excellent football play, and it was just unfortunate that a Tampa Bay player was right there to catch the ball.
I’ll just stick with calling it this because I don’t want to unnecessarily kick this team while it’s down, but there were so many other areas where they were lacking today.
Firstly, the offensive line was not very good — and that is a bit of an understatement. Four of the five linemen were called for holding penalties, the most crucial coming on an apparent 80 yard touchdown run by C.J. Spiller. The hold that was called on Eric Wood was not a glaring hold, and what makes it even worse is the fact that it occurred once Spiller was already past the man he was blocking.
Besides this run, the line was unable to open up any holes for the running backs and Spiller finished the day with only 22 yards on 11 carries, and Jackson only added 12 on 5 rushes. In all, the Bills totaled only 67 yards on 22 carries. Manuel was the team’s leading rusher, and only because his yards came after pressure forced him out of the pocket. Speaking of the pocket, the line also had a very rough day in pass protection. Manuel was sacked a season high 7 times, which may help to explain why some of his interceptions came on forced/rushed throws.
- Leodis McKelvin fumbled two punts, luckily only one of which was recovered by the Bucs.
- The run defense had another rough day allowing 165 yards on 36 carries. It is something that Mike Pettine still needs to adjust.
Stephon Gilmore is back. He recorded his first interception of the season in Sunday’s game, and had two pass breakups. Hopefully this is the start of a turnaround for the first round corner that up to this point had seemingly still been limited by his injury from earlier in the season.
The defense, for all of its mistakes in this game, were still good in one area: they only allowed 6 points off of the 5 Bills turnovers, even though most resulted in good field position.
This is the time that the players on this Bills team need to take a good look at the banner that hangs in the Field House. The one that reads, “Do not confuse effort with results.” This game was hard to watch, and although most fans will agree that the organization has taken many strides in the right direction this season, this game certainly will have more than a few scratching their heads and wondering.