I suppose I can live with a 15-1 regular season record. I’m kidding of course, but after that game I felt the need to lighten the mood. Buffalo fell to 2-1 after the Chargers defeated the Bills 22-10 on Sunday. After the loss, here are 10 things I “Billieve.”
1. The Bills Were Outplayed in All 3 Phases of the Game
Buffalo’s 2-0 start had a lot to do with their offense, defensive and special teams playing on par, or outplaying their opposition. Today, the Bills lost in all three phases of the game. On offense, San Diego controlled the clock when it mattered. On the first series of the 2nd half, the Chargers took over 7 minutes off the clock. Towards the end of the game, Buffalo forced a lot more three and outs, but by then it was too little, too late.
In the first two games, Buffalo also had better field position than their opposition. This wasn’t the case today. Colton Schmidt hit his punts well but San Diego’s punter did the same and most of their kickoffs could not be returned.
Defensively, Buffalo’s pass defense was gashed by Philip Rivers. Early in the game, Rivers made converting third downs look easy. Rivers is one of the top quarterbacks in the league, but it’s still worrisome.
Offensively, Buffalo couldn’t seem to get anything going until their first series in the 2nd half. However, after making solid adjustments and scoring a touchdown, the team struggled to put more points on the board.
2. You Won’t Win Many Games with Over 100 Yards in Penalties
There isn’t much to discuss here. Eleven penalties for 101 yards is brutal. Giving up 101 yards in penalties is simply a losing formula.
3. The Run Defense Played Very Well
You can argue that the Bills were successful because the Chargers were simply trying to run time off the clock, but you still need to make tackles. San Diego rushed the ball 37 times for 85 yards (2.29 YPC). That’s a positive that the Bills can use moving forward to the Texans.
4. We Saw “Bad” EJ Today
EJ Manuel is 6-7 in his first 13 starts after today. Essentially, this is still his rookie season in terms of games played. Today, Manuel seemed to have happy feet throughout the game. Sometimes it was out of necessity (we’ll talk more about this next), but there were times where Manuel threw the ball quicker than he had to. If he had a bit more patience in the pocket, he would have had receivers come open. One play that comes to mind was the 4th and 3 play where he threw it quickly in the direction of Sammy Watkins. The rookie wasn’t ready for the pass and it sailed by him. Watkins and Chandler appeared open on the play, but Mike Williams was WIDE OPEN. There was no one near him on the play and if Manuel had held the ball one second longer, he would have seen this.
Besides that play, Manuel overthrow many passes, threw a few passes too high and threw some passes behind his receivers. Late in the game, Manuel threw a short pass behind Marquise Goodwin that led to him taking a brutal shot from Eric Weddle. Exposing your wide receivers to shots like that won’t endear you to anyone in the locker room. Perhaps the worst throw of Manuel’s game was when he faced pressure, dropped back into the end zone and threw the ball towards no Buffalo Bills. The play resulted in an intentional grounding and safety. That put the final touches on San Diego’s victory.
Against Houston, we need to see the efficient version of Manuel. That means the Bills can’t fall too far behind.
5. The Offensive Line Was Awful
Manuel was bad, but I kind of understand why. It felt like the Chargers were getting pressure on just about every play. This was with and without San Diego sending pressure. When Chris Williams went out with a back injury, I had hoped that we’d see improved play at left guard. Unfortunately, Kraig Urbik wasn’t much better. He wasn’t the only guy who struggled on the line today though. I think it was a game to forget across the board from left tackle to right tackle. Heading into next week, the Bills need to consider giving Cyril Richardson a shot at left guard. Could his play be any worse than what we’ve seen?
6. The Wide Receivers are Struggling
Manuel’s erratic passing doesn’t help, but Buffalo’s wide outs haven’t played up to the hype surrounding them. Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and Mike Williams combined for 7 receptions and 49 yards on 20 targets. Woof.
Fred Jackson, Scott Chandler, and C.J. Spiller all had better outings in terms of yardage. Yes, Manuel likes to dump passes off but he still looked towards his top three receivers 20 times. Watkins gets a pass from me after his terrific Week 2 outing, but Woods and Williams need to step up starting next week.
7. Chris Gragg Deserves to Play
I’m a big Chris Gragg fan. Have been since his days at Arkansas. If you looked at his stat line after the first two weeks it wouldn’t jump off the page, but he’s been solid. Pro Football Focus had him as the 4th best run blocking tight end in the league after two weeks. He’s also got straight-line speed and receiver-like hands.
Doug Whaley went on WGR this week and mentioned that Gragg’s play has warranted him some more playing time but he was inactive against the Chargers. Lee Smith, one of the best blocking tight ends in the league, was back and the team probably thought he was a better play. Personally I didn’t see it. Smith can block, but he lacks athleticism and isn’t much of a threat in the passing game. I could argue that Gragg has the most playmaking ability at the position, but for whatever reason the Bills didn’t see it that way on Sunday. I’m hoping to see Gragg active next week against the Texans, but I won’t hold my breath.
8. Brandon Spikes Needs to Be A Leader
Brandon Spikes was named as one of Buffalo’s captains and his play on the field has been strong. However, Spikes was called for his second personal foul penalty of the season after headbutting San Diego’s center. The Chargers were stopped for no gain on 1st and goal on the play but the penalty advanced the ball five yards and helped lead to the Chargers’ first touchdown.
Yes, it was just one play in a one-sided game, but two personal fouls in three games is not a good look from one of our captains.
9. The AFC East is Wide Open
Buffalo has already defeated the Dolphins. The Jets look like they’ll be competitive after two weeks, but we’ll know more after their MNF football game against the Bears, and then there’s the Patriots. New England is the cream of the crop in the AFC East and they’ve dominated the division. After three weeks, the Patriots sit at 2-1 but have looked very vulnerable. The Dolphins ran the ball all over the Patriots with success in their Week 1 loss. In Week 2, the Patriots defeated a Vikings team who will likely finish in last in their division and this week they just edged out the Raiders 16-9. Maybe the Patriots are just starting slow but they don’t look anything like a top team in the NFL. Buffalo matches up pretty well with the Patriots and after three weeks, it appears that the division is wide open. Today was not a great game for Buffalo, but San Diego is one of the top teams in the AFC through the first three weeks. There’s no reason to think that the Bills can’t win the division after three weeks.
10. The Bills Will Move to 3-1
You’re predicting a Bills win next week after this week’s outing?
I sure am! I’m also apparently making up pretend conversations as seen above.
The Bills were bad. You know who else was bad today? The Texans.
We all know and remember the Fitzmagic era. He’s a likable guy, and did you know he went to Harvard? Of course you do. Announcers reference his college at least once per week. He’s not Philip Rivers. He won’t pick the Bills apart and he’s not the most accurate passer. He also doesn’t have the arm that Rivers does. Simply put, the Texans don’t have an elite quarterback. For that reason alone, I think the game will be close.
Stopping the run will be the key. I expect Arian Foster to be back next week and through two weeks, he’s played really well. Stopping Foster and the other Texans backs will be the key.
Defensively, the Texans are strong. The thought of J.J. Watt terrifies me, but he’s one guy that the Bills can game plan against. Besides Watt, the Texans looked great through two weeks. However, against the Giants, they were exposed.
Rashad Jennings rushed the ball today 34 times for 176 yards and a touchdown. Eli Manning, who had struggled with accuracy, completed 21 of 28 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns. Buffalo has 4 solid running backs. Run with the same three you’ve used all year or activate Brown and have all four play. POUND THE ROCK!
On offense, Manuel needs to be a game manager like he was in his first two weeks. This game isn’t likely to be a shootout by any means and it’s likely Manuel won’t be asked to do too much. Keep Manuel at about 25 pass attempts and Buffalo can move to 2-0 on the road this season.
Buffalo will need improved play from their line, quarterback, receivers and pass defense, but I’m very confident about next week. I guess you could say that I Billieve in this team.