Another Sunday, another crushing loss. The Buffalo Bills found a new way to lose yet again in Toronto, losing to the Falcons in overtime, 34-31. Where do we begin?
Before I go on a rant about all the things Buffalo did wrong, I’ll start with the positives.
C.J. Spiller came out of the bye week looking as healthy as he has been all season. Spiller ran for 149 yards on 15 carries. Spiller had really high expectations coming into the season, but has been hampered with injuries. The rest over the bye week really benefited Buffalo’s feature back.
The defensive line asserted its dominance yet again. The Bills were all over Matt Ryan all game, sacking him 6 times. Buffalo now leads the league in sacks. Jerry Hughes led the charge with 2, while Marcel Darius, Mario Williams, Corbin Bryan, and Manny Lawson added one of their own. This defensive front has been a high point for this Buffalo defense, and they showed it on Sunday.
Quick side-track before I get into the negatives. When can we end this “tradition” of playing in Toronto? The Bills are now 1-5 across the boarder. The stadium was only 3 quarters of the way full, and there was more Falcon red in the stands than Bills blue. This is taking away a home game from the Bills.
This team plays great at Ralph Wilson Stadium, and the crowd is just as rowdy as some of the best NFL stadiums in league. It also takes away the weather element because it’s in a dome. You can’t tell me that a dome team like Atlanta wasn’t counting it’s blessings when they saw on the schedule that they didn’t have to play the Bills at The Ralph in 30 degree weather. It’s a built in advantage that the Bills have, and they surrender it to play in half capacity dome that is filled with opposing fans. Nothing against Canada, but I think Buffalo should keep all 8 of their home games.
Now, some of the more frustrating facets to Sunday’s game.
Quarterback E.J. Manuel is playing to not lose as opposed to playing to win. I don’t know if this is Coach Doug Marrone’s fault or Manuel’s, but to win in the NFL nowadays, you have to throw the ball down field.
Manuel is constantly checking the ball down to a back for 3 yards or throwing quick slants for 5. When is Buffalo going to let Manuel take 7-step dropbacks and throw the ball for more than 10 yards? I understand that he is a rookie, but they need to let him learn to read a defense and go through his progressions. He will never get better if Marrone keeps the training wheels on. If Manuel were to have 300 yards passing along with 2 picks because he’s taking shots, I would be okay with that. It’s just getting irritating to watch them run the ball on 1st and 2nd down, then throw a pass well short of the first down marker and bring out the punting unit.
When are the Bills going to start utilizing the play action? If you’ve watched the Bills for the majority of the season, you probably have picked up on the pattern. Run on 1st down, run on 2nd, and pass on 3rd. Other teams are recognizing this too. Fake the hand off on 1st down and get the linebackers biting on the play action to free up some space for the receivers over the middle.
Do you know why faking the handoff would work? Because we have one of the best running back tandem in the NFL. Sunday, C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson combined for 195 yards on the ground. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that Buffalo uses their run game, but look at what’s happening to Adrian Peterson in Minnesota. Teams are expecting the run, so they are stacking the box. Buffalo needs to throw the ball more to open up lanes for their backs.
On defense, Buffalo’s inability to stop the run again came back to haunt them. Buffalo allowed an Atlanta Falcons team that came into the game ranked 31st in rushing yards per game to run for 151 yards. Buffalo simply can’t allow teams to run all over them like this.
Another reoccurring theme, stupid penalties. On the last Atlanta scoring drive, the Bills had 3 drive sustaining penalties, the last being a pass interference in the end zone that gave Atlanta the ball on the 1-yard line. In tight games, a few ill-timed penalties can be the difference between winning and losing.
The main thing that led to this loss is Buffalo’s inability to sustain drives. In the 4th quarter when Buffalo was up by a touchdown, all the Bills needed to do was kill some clock and maybe, while they were killing clock, put some points on the board. In Buffalo’s 2 possessions after their touchdown drive, they went 3-and-out both times and killed absolutely no time.
In the first 3-and-out, the Bills ran off a total of 40 seconds, and the 2nd they ran off a 1:30. I know the Bills like to run an up-tempo offense, but in the 4th quarter when you’re up by a touchdown, scrap that idea. You can’t give the other team good field position and plenty of time to mount a comeback. That’s what happened in week 1 against the Patriots. Buffalo can’t ask their defense to keep getting stops after only resting for 5 minutes real time.
This game was a culmination of everything the Bills have been doing wrong all season: Inability to throw the ball down field, inability to stop the run, inability to sustain drives that kill time in the 4th quarter, and committing stupid penalties that swing the game.
With this loss, the Bills have all but eliminated themselves from the playoff hunt, which is a shame considering that the teams that Buffalo needed to lose actually lost. Now, it would take nothing short of a miracle for the Bills to squeak into the playoffs. I don’t see it. Then again, I’m a Bills fan…never getting hopes to high because, inevitably, the Bills let me down. Sunday was just another Sunday in my eyes. Hope you all had a good Thanksgiving.
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