DEFENSIVE LINE: It was a good night from this unit. If you took away Joe Banyard’s 38-yard carry late in the fourth quarter, they would have held the Vikings to just 67 yards on 24 carries. The defensive line had excellent run fits all night.
Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus looked explosive and powerful off the ball on his sack. Alan Branch had a few nice moments as well. Alex Carrington and Kyle Williams were very sound. The pressure on the quarterback was continuous all night long from the group as a whole.
GRADE: A- They were great in run defense and applied consistent pressure on the quarterback.
LINEBACKERS: This was the best group on the field Friday night, led by Jerry Hughes. Hughes pressured the quarterback all night and finished with two sacks and a forced fumble. He beat Pro Bowl left tackle Matt Kalil off the edge on one sack, and the other was a well-executed blitz.
Marcus Dowtin also excelled in pressuring the quarterback. Arthur Moats was solid with his gap discipline and dissecting plays. Moats perfectly stopped a screen pass with excellent play recognition skills, and also pressured the quarterback leading to a third down stop.
Manny Lawson was excellent setting the edge and in coverage. Nigel Bradham led the team in tackles with 6.
GRADE: A- The best unit on the field Friday night. They excelled in pressure packages and run defense.
SECONDARY: This was the worst unit on the field Friday. The depth of this unit was exposed.
Stephon Gilmore was the bright spot, including a terrific pass breakup in a one-on-one situation. Nickell Roby got the start at the other corner spot and held his own. Robey was called for a debatable pass interference penalty, but played well overall.
That is where the positives end. Safety Da’Norris Searcy struggled in pass coverage and lost tight end Kyle Rudolph a few times. The group wasn’t out of position as a whole, but just didn’t break on balls and gave up several easy completions. This is especially concerning given the amount of pressure on the quarterback the front seven was able to generate.
GRADE: D- Not a good day for this group and the lack of depth is very concerning.
SPECIALISTS: Dustin Hopkins had a solid night on kickoffs and made both of his field goal attempts with ease. Rian Lindell did not get the depth on his kickoffs that Hopkins was able to get, and did not get a chance to attempt a field goal.
Shawn Powell struggled Friday night with his consistency. He had a 19-yard shank punt along with two touchbacks. The Bills continuously lost the field position battle.
GRADE: C- B for Lindell/Hopkins, D for Powell.
RETURNERS: Robert Woods had a great day returning punts, averaging 12.8 yards on five returns. The Bills were only able to return one kickoff, a 17-yard return from Marquise Goodwin.
GRADE: B- Very respectable night from the returners.
COVERAGE UNITS: The Bills’ kickoff and punt coverage units have me concerned. They were inconsistent and seemed to give up large chunks of yards regularly, including a 32-yard kickoff return and 37-yard punt return. One return also went 102 yards for a touchdown, but was called back due to a hold by the Vikings. Nonetheless, these units don’t look very good right now.
GRADE: D- They need to be tightened up.