The Buffalo Bills suffered their first loss of the 2014 NFL Season on Sunday to the San Diego Chargers. The Bills were outplayed on both offense and defense, but while quarterback EJ Manuel has received the majority of criticism following the loss, the offensive line appeared to play a bigger role in defeat than the second-year QB.
With the Chargers getting on the scoreboard early, the Bills’ offense that controlled the game on the ground throughout the first two weeks of the season, turned to the pass in an attempt to cut the deficit. In Manuel’s 44 dropbacks, he was sacked five times, pressured 11 more times, hit three times and scrambled five times.
Pass protection was not the only area in which the Bills’ offensive line failed. Against a front seven that was without edge defenders Melvin Ingram and Jeremiah Attaouchu, Buffalo’s running backs carried the ball 22 times for just 70 yards, an average of 4.0 yards-per-carry. While this number appears decent on the surface, if you remove Fred Jackson’s 17-yard rush, that average drops to 3.3 yards-per-carry, a number that highlights how the Bills struggled to move the ball.
Seantrel Henderson held his own at right tackle, where he primarily saw Dwight Freeney on the edge, but it was the interior that was destroyed early and often. Erik Pears has looked totally out of place at right guard, where he’s not mobile enough to make an impact when pulling, while Chris Williams was a liability, until he suffered an injury that ended his afternoon.
Pears, Williams and Kraig Urbik, who replaced Williams after the first half, combined to surrender eight pressures, while running backs averaged 3.0 yards-per-carry when running behind them.
Did EJ Manuel make a handful of questionable throws/decisions with the ball? Absolutely. But when you’re being pressured once every 2.7 times you drop back to pass, it’s difficult to get into a rhythm, which is why he shouldn’t hold the majority of criticism for Sunday’s loss.
With Chris Williams’ medical status up-in-the-air for Sunday’s contest against the Houston Texans, there’s a possibility that rookie fifth-round draft pick Cyril Richardson, who impressed with the first-team offense throughout the preseason could see his first career start.
Erik Pears is still a head-scratcher at the right guard position, but if the Bills’ offense wants to get back into the sync it was during the first two games of the season, Doug Marrone, a former offensive lineman, needs to solve the issues at both guard spots, and quickly.