Making the Grade: Which Bills Players Rumbled and Stumbled vs. the Bengals in Week 6?

Jerry Hughes’ impressive play versus the Bengals was noticed by Pro Football Focus. (Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig — USA Today Sports)

BBD Assistant Editor: Ryan Talbot

The Buffalo Bills lost another close game on Sunday to the Cincinnati Bengals, 27-24 in overtime. The Bills currently sit at 2-4, but they’ve been in every game they’ve played this season. A big reason for Buffalo’s competitiveness is the talent on their team.

Starting this week, Making the Grade will take a look at Pro Football Focus‘ weekly ratings of Buffalo Bills players. If you aren’t familiar with Pro Football Focus (PFF for short) the site uses analytics to grade players (subscription required to access the database). A 0.0 weekly grade is considered average, regardless of position. When discussing each player’s performance, a breakdown will be given of the individual categories that make up the player’s overall grade.

Here’s a look at some Bills players who rumbled, or played well, against the Bengals, followed by some who stumbled, or didn’t play well.

Bills That Rumbled

Brian Moorman (+3.7): I generally won’t spend much time discussing special teams players, but Moorman had one heck of a return to Buffalo. PFF graded Moorman as the NFL’s best punter in Week 5 with a +3.7 overall rating.

He had five punts on the day that traveled a total of 244 yards. Moorman also led all punters in maximum hang time with one punt that stayed in the air for a whopping 5.5 seconds. He had one punt go out of bounds at the one yard line and one that was fair caught, while two of Moorman’s five punts pinned the Bengals inside their own 5-yard line and his net punting average was 42 yards.

All in all, a great return for Moorman.

Jerry Hughes (+3.5) and Nigel Bradham (+2.0): Buffalo’s top two defensive grades went to linebackers Jerry Hughes and Nigel Bradham. After Manny Lawson left Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury, both players saw significant increases in their total snaps. While Lawson has been an outstanding addition to the Bills, Hughes and Bradham stepped up in his absence.

Hughes played a total of 76 snaps and scored the team’s highest pass-rush grade with a +1.3. Hughes also had a +1.2 in run defense, a +0.7 in coverage and +0.3 in penalties. He finished the Bengals game with 11 total tackles (five solo). PFF credited Hughes with three quarterback hurries, one batted pass and three stops (offensive plays that result in failure).

Sunday was Hughes’ best game yet as a Bill.

Bradham’s +2.0 rating came on 41 defensive snaps. The majority of Bradham’s grade came in run support where he was given a +1.8. Bradham had a +0.3 in coverage, a +0.1 in penalties and -0.3 in pass rush. For the game, Bradham had one solo tackle and three assists. Like Hughes, Bradham was also credited with three defensive stops.

It’s great that both players stepped up, but it seems as though Lawson will be ready to go for the Dolphins game.

Erik Pears (+2.5): Erik Pears, Buffalo’s right tackle, achieved the highest offensive grade of the day for the Bills. Against the Bengals, Pears played all 70 offensive snaps and thrived in pass protection. PFF gave Pears a +1.9 in pass blocking, tied for the third-highest grade given out among NFL offensive tackles for the week. He also added a +0.1 in run blocking and a +0.5 in penalties.

Pears only allowed one quarterback hit on the day, with no sacks or additional quarterback hurries. This was Pears’ best game of the season by far, a nice rebound after a game against the Cleveland Browns where he received a -6.7 grade, though he has been consistent for the most part this season.

Tashard Choice (+1.7): Choice only saw 13 snaps for the Bills on Sunday, but he took full advantage of his limited reps, running for 24 yards on four carries and catching two passes for nine yards. The majority of Choice’s +1.7 came in the rushing category, where he was awarded a +1.2. He also received a +0.4 in the pass game and +0.1 in pass blocking. Choice may not see the field often, but against the Bengals, he proved to be a solid third running back behind C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.

Rookie middle linebacker and fan favorite Kiko Alonso was among the Buffalo Bills who struggled in Sunday’s loss. (Photo: Timothy T. Ludwig — USA Today Sports)

Bills That Stumbled

Kiko Alonso (-3.1): The rookie middle linebacker finished Sunday’s game with 22 total tackles (9 solo, 13 assists), so it’s hard to bash him too much. That said, he received the worst grade of any player on the Bills defense for the game,

Alonso mostly struggled in pass coverage (-2.3) during his 88 snaps, but he also received a -0.4 in run defense and -0.5 in pass rush, with a +0.1 in penalties.

Alonso was thrown against four times on Sunday and gave up four receptions. According to PFF, a total of 37 yards were gained against Alonso’s coverage along with 49 yards after the catch. Sunday’s game was the first time Alonso was directly responsible for any receptions, according to PFF, since Week 2 against the Panthers.

Colin Brown (-2.0): Colin Brown, who began the season as Buffalo’s left guard, only played 12 offensive snaps against the Bengals and well, it was a disaster. Of the 12 snaps, Brown was in on three rushing plays and nine passing plays. During those snaps, Brown was responsible for one quarterback hurry and one quarterback sack, and earned a -1.6 in pass blocking, a -0.5 in run blocking and a +0.1 in penalties.

The left guard competition was sealed on Sunday as Brown was given the hook quickly in the game and Doug Legursky, who received a more respectable -0.3 grade, ended up playing 58 snaps.

Stephon Gilmore (-1.6): Cornerback Stephon Gilmore made his season debut after missing the first five games with a fractured wrist on Sunday, but was limited to 28 snaps. Gilmore’s negative rating came mostly from pass coverage where he was given a -1.8 grade.

Andy Dalton targeted Gilmore three times, according to PFF, and Gilmore gave up completions on all three targets. A total of 78 yards were gained against Gilmore’s coverage, and 67 yards were given up after the catch in his coverage area.

Gilmore was given a +0.1 in run defense and a +0.1 in penalties, while he collected two solo tackles and one assist. The cast that Gilmore wore on his hand clearly affected his game Sunday, but he needs to find a way to improve with it on until it’s gone.

Robert Woods (-1.3): There’s a few reasons rookie wide receiver Robert Woods may have struggled on Sunday. First, his chemistry with Thad Lewis, who was starting his first game of the season at quarterback in place of injured starter EJ Manuel, was a bit off. Woods wasn’t credited with any drops versus the Bengals, but there were a few targets that he should have caught even if Lewis’ passes were off a bit. Stevie Johnson’s absence may have also affected Woods. With teams not having to account for Johnson, the Bills’ No. 1 wide receiver, Woods was likely the primary focus of the Bills defense.

Woods finished the game with two catches for only nine yards on five targets. Woods was given a -0.9 in pass receiving, -0.6 in run blocking and a +0.2 in penalties. It was a rough game for Woods, but overall, he’s been one of the better rookie wide receivers in the league this year.

Looking for more analysis of Sunday’s game?

Dan Hope’s postgame column

John Maher’s “First Downs and Flags”



Tags: Brian Moorman, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Colin Brown, Erik Pears, Game Reviews, Jerry Hughes, Kiko Alonso, Making the Grade, Nigel Bradham, Robert Woods, Stephon Gilmore, Tashard Choice, Week 6

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