BBD Staff Writer: Glenn Gifford
After the euphoria of a late comeback victory over the Carolina Panthers last week, the Buffalo Bills were dealt a dose of reality Sunday with a crushing 27-20 loss to the New York Jets.
This loss was particularly upsetting in that many Buffalo fans felt this was a very winnable game. New York did everything in their power to give Buffalo this game, committing 20 penalties and 168 yards and turning the ball over twice, but the Bills were unable to capitalize on the Jets’ lack of discipline.
The hope that existed for the Bills after the Carolina game has vanished, and Bills fans are left wondering what direction this team is headed. After only three games into the season, Buffalo finds themselves with two divisional losses and is two full games out of first place in the AFC East.
This installment of “First Downs and Flags” was easy from a flags perspective.
Let’s be honest, Justin Rogers is horrible. He is regularly targeted when an opponent is in a third-and-long situation. He regularly gave up huge gains on Sunday. His coverage skills are laughable at the NFL level. The Bills have a depleted secondary, but Rogers has shown that he is a sub-standard NFL cornerback.
When Buffalo is unable to generate a pass rush, Rogers has proven to be a sitting duck. What is particularly alarming is that if Rogers gives his man a five-yard cushion, he will allow a receiver that same five-yard cushion down the field. He seems so preoccupied with not getting beat deep — something that also happens — that he just allows opponents to catch the ball.
Blitzing to cover up Buffalo’s weaknesses in the secondary will sting the Bills when they play more skilled opponents. Stephen Hill’s 51-yard touchdown in the second quarter and Santonio Holmes’ 69-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter were prime examples of Rogers’ lack of coverage skills. (Safety Da’Norris Searcy’s tackling angles didn’t help.)
The Bills should stop using the no-huddle offense. It fools nobody and when ineffective, keeps Buffalo’s tired defense on the field longer than they need to be. Not to compare to Bills’ teams of the past, but this year’s entire offense has been stale, predictable and ineffective. It shows little creativity and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett appears to be in way over his head.
The offense’s lack of production falls on Hackett’s shoulders. The over-used shotgun handoff to CJ Spiller is ineffective. Quarterback EJ Manuel was under duress most of the day from the stingy Jets defense and Hackett offered little play calling creativity to offset the Jets’ pass-rush.
Former Bills coach Chan Gailey seemed to make the most out of what little talent he had on offense. I feel the opposite with Hackett. He has more weapons and a better quarterback and he is not getting nearly the results. Is T.J. Graham in the game plan? Why wait until the fourthquarter to utilize tight end Scott Chandler? How about a screen pass?
I am left with a sick feeling about Buffalo’s ability to game plan for an opponent if Sunday’s offensive effort was reflective of a week’s worth of preparation. Shame on you coach Hackett, that was a poor effort. You will have nobody to side bump after this game.
The Bills’ rookie quarterback looked like a rookie Sunday. His timing was off and he struggled throughout the game. Personally, I blame the play calling of Hackett for some of Manuel’s struggles, as well as a depleted offensive line, but make no mistake, EJ struggled mightily.
His statistics show that he struggled. Manuel completed just 19 of 42 passing attempts for 243 yards with one touchdown. Manuel was also sacked a whopping 8 times, including two sacks in three plays after a Stevie Johnson 23-yard reception put the Bills in opposing territory late in the third quarter.
That was an important juncture in the game, as the Buffalo defense had just come up big and stopped the Jets on a fourth down. The subsequent Johnson reception was a pivotal point in the game and the Bills needed Manuel to be better.
Hackett’s playbook did not resemble anything quarterback-friendly and the offensive line was horrible, but Manuel made some ridiculous throws. Manuel’s final pass to Robert Woods, an overthrown deep ball up the right sideline for an incompletion on 4th-and-7, was evidence enough Manuel needs some additional work.
It appears that the injury bug has come to nest in Buffalo after Sunday’s game. Throughout the course of the day the Bills saw Marcell Dareus (ankle), C.J. Spiller (knee), Leodis McKelvin (hamstring) and Alex Carrington (knee) all go down with injuries. On a team that is already plagued with injuries, Sunday may prove costly in the long run. With the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens coming to town next Sunday, it is crucial that the Bills get healthy.
Second-string running back Fred Jackson is a gamer. With 72 rushing yards on seven carries and 37 receiving yards on four receptions, he was one of the only bright spots in an otherwise anemic offense. I find myself less concerned about C.J. Spiller’s injury because Jackson should prove to be a more-than-capable replacement.
Kiko had another productive day on defense for the Bills. He again had an interception that led to Buffalo putting points on the board, and finished the game with eight total tackles.
Alonso was applauded coming out of college for his ability to make big plays. For the second week in a row, he made big plays.
Alonso is very good in coverage and has demonstrated that he should be the answer in the middle of the Bills’ defense for a long time to come.
Despite a typical Stevie Johnson-type taunting penalty that cost the Bills a first down on a Kyle Wilson penalty in the fourth quarter (before Wilson bailed him out with another penalty on the next play), Johnson had another productive day, catching six passes for 86 yards.
Johnson was one of the few Bills receivers who was able to get open with any type of regularity. I predict other teams will realize this and try to eliminate Johnson from the Bills offense. They have nothing to worry about unless Hackett adapts his offense accordingly.
Rarely in the NFL will a team be able to overcome 20 penalties and still be able to come away with a victory. That is, apparently, unless you are playing the Buffalo Bills. Sunday saw an undisciplined Jets team make every effort to give Buffalo a victory, but Buffalo failed to oblige.
Sunday’s loss by the Bills was a huge step backward for a team struggling to find an identity. Buffalo’s play calling and porous offensive line was a recipe for disaster for rookie quarterback EJ Manuel, making him appear to be every bit the rookie that he is.
The play of cornerback Justin Rogers also highlights the glaring need for Buffalo to get healthy at cornerback. While I rarely like to pin a loss on a single play or player, Rogers did his best to make me question my beliefs. I am left wondering if the Bills would have lost on Sunday if cornerback Stephon Gilmore and free safety Jairus Byrd were both healthy and playing.
Sadly, the Bills may not have been able to move the ball offensively regardless of who was healthy on defense. Hackett and his unit need to raise their game.