Negatives: Why the Bills Ultimately Came Up Short
The Bills made an inexcusably high amount of mistakes in this game.
Penalties were a killer for the Bills in this game. They were flagged for 10 penalties for 75 combined yards.
The most costly penalties included a 15-yard facemask penalty committed by linebacker Arthur Moats on a punt return, which set the Patriots up at midfield to start what was ultimately a field goal drive. There were also two costly illegal hands to the face penalties: one against left tackle Cordy Glenn which nullified a 19-yard pass from Manuel to Woods and led to that drive stalling, and one against right guard Kraig Urbik which took away an outstanding catch in front of the body and run after catch for 15 yards by running back Fred Jackson.
Having 10 penalties in a game is simply unacceptable, and is typically a recipe for defeat. Penalties were a problem for the Bills throughout the preseason, and must cease to be an issue soon if the Bills are to win football games.
The Bills also had two costly fumbles which set up both of the Patriots’ touchdown drives. On their first offensive series of the game, running back C.J. Spiller — who only gained 55 yards on 22 touches on a disappointing day — was stripped by Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington, setting the Patriots up at the 16-yard line for a quick touchdown drive. In the second quarter, Arrington forced another fumble on a Marquise Goodwin catch, setting the Patriots up at the 32-yard line for another touchdown series.
Drops were another problem for the Bills in the opener. There were two drops in the game that really stood out.
On the opening play of the Bills’ fifth drive, EJ Manuel made a 20-yard touch throw to a wide-open Scott Chandler that went right off of Chandler’s hands. The most costly, however, came on a crucial fourth-quarter offensive possession from Stevie Johnson. Johnson was wide open on the left side of the field to convert 3rd and 1, but he simply lost his concentration and let a pass go right off his fingertips. While neither of those passes were perfectly placed, they were both plays that the receivers should have made and that came back to bite the Bills.
Lack of Sustained Offense
The Bills had all the momentum and a four-point lead going into the fourth quarter of the game. The offense’s inability to add to that lead, or even stay on the field, ultimately cost the Bills what would have been a season-opening victory.
Including a drive that carried over from the end of the third quarter, the Bills gained just 41 yards and two first downs in the fourth quarter, with a 15-yard first down coming on a late hit penalty by Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo. While some may put the loss on the defense for giving up some crucial plays late in the game, the offense hung them out to dry with their inability to kill time off the clock or add to the scoreboard.
Sustaining offense proved to be problematic throughout the day, with the exception of the opening drive of the second half. While Manuel had a solid debut, he never got into a consistent rhythm with any of his receivers. Jackson had a strong performance (108 yards on 17 touches), but Spiller’s disappointing day took away the Bills’ most reliable and dynamic option. As previously mentioned, key penalties and drops played a huge role in killing offensive drives.
The Bills’ defense showed definite improvement on Sunday, but the offense has to improve going forward. The Bills managed just 15 first downs on 14 total drives.