“Snap back to reality, oh there goes gravity.” There’s a 0% chance Eminem wrote those lyrics to talk about the Buffalo Bills, but that’s how I’m using them today. The Bills and by extension Bills fans, were snapped back to reality after a great 2-0 start, suffering the first loss of the 2014 season to the San Diego Chargers by a score of 22-10.
That means for the first time this season, I’m going to have to grade the Bills with that awful taste of defeat in my mouth. Granted I didn’t actually lose anything, but as fans we still feel the bitterness that comes with losing a game. I’ll try not to be too harsh because of it. This week, I’m going to begin the grading process with the defense.
I’m giving the Bills defense a B- in this game. They gave up too many yards to Philip Rivers on too few passes, about 14 yards per completion, and couldn’t get much pressure on him, finishing with just one sack. If you give Rivers time, he typically won’t make mistakes and will pick you apart and that’s pretty much what happened Sunday. The corners did an okay job keeping their receivers in check, even breaking up passes early in the fourth quarter to force three and outs (thank you Corey Graham). Those plays gave the offense golden opportunities to start a comeback as it was still just a two score game, but they couldn’t and SD was then content to run the ball every down they had it. Even with this strategy deployed, the defense still held the Chargers to under 100 yards rushing. What we ultimately learned is that if the Bills defense can’t get pressure, they won’t force turnovers and this team will have a hard time winning games.
Speaking of the offense, they grade out at a C- vs. the Chargers. The offense looked like the unit Bills fans saw all preseason, unfortunately, and not at all like the one that was able to win two games to start the season. EJ Manuel’s numbers look okay, but don’t let them fool you. His critics will have a field day with his inability to consistently make plays in this game, especially when the team needed them most. The offensive line didn’t do him any favors, giving up three sacks for -33 yards and forcing him to throw under pressure too much, but there were other times when he had plenty of room to operate that he would miss open receivers or make simple throws difficult. I will give kudos to the offense for not having any turnovers, but Manuel’s timing with the receivers will need to get better for the team to win. Sammy Watkins shouldn’t have been held to two catches for 19 yards against this secondary. The Bills passing struggles deserve a lot of the blame, but the run game was almost non-existent. Maybe the Chargers game plan made stopping the run the number one priority, but the team still needs to find ways to get C.J. Spiller touches in space or open up running lanes despite blitzes.
The worst part about this game though, has to be the mental mistakes. I can’t imagine very many teams in the NFL have ever won football games in which they have over 100 penalty yards and 57 more penalty yards than their opponents. Also I avoided talking about Manuel’s safety in the offensive section so I could put it here. I had already been down on the offense enough in that section anyway. As a QB you have to be more aware of your surroundings. A mistake like that just can’t happen. I understand not wanting to take a sack or throw an INT, but you can’t cost your team points and possession when you’re trying to come back. Those types of errors drive fans crazy and coaches even crazier. Let’s hope that next week they are better in this department.
Samuelson Slant Grade: C-
This one is pretty straight forward, the team wasn’t horrific, but they certainly never looked good enough to win. What do you think Bills Mafia? How would you grade the Bills in their first loss of the 2014 season?