Byrne’s Sunday report card for the Bills

By Connor Byrne  |   Tuesday, November 01, 2005  |  Comments( 0 )

Buffalo Bills
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Sunday night, the Buffalo Bills managed to post a really good effort against the two-time defending champion Patriots. However, they came up just a bit short and lost 21-16 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Here is my report card for the Bills...

Offense:

Quarterback = B+. Since the Patriots game ended, many have criticized Kelly Holcomb for his performance on Sunday. My question is this, how can you criticize a guy who goes into New England, shows no fear, and throws for 263 yards? It seems that Bills fans have forgotten that their former quarterback, Drew Bledsoe, was a train wreck in his three trips to Massachusetts. Holcomb did throw an interception, but it didn't cost the team anything. He also had a key fumble late in the game but that was more the fault of the left tackle than him. Since Holcomb took the quarterback job on October 9th, this was arguably his best performance.

Running game = A-. Willis McGahee played the best road game of his young career as he rushed for 136 yards on 31 carries. Tedy Bruschi was the big story of the night but to be honest, McGahee made him look pretty bad. He ran right at Bruschi and the other Patriots linebackers for his third-highest rushing total of the year. The Buffalo Bills are lucky they have McGahee because their other rushers ran for just 11 yards on 8 carries.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends = C+. Receiver Eric Moulds played a game that made the people remember why he has been thought of so highly throughout his career. He caught 9 passes for 125 yards, including a 55-yard score. However, outside of Moulds, the other receivers really didn't show up. Lee Evans continues his sophomore struggles as he caught one pass for 14 yards. Slot receiver Josh Reed didn't do much except come up with a crucial third-down drop in the second half. Rookie Roscoe Parrish caught one pass for 17 yards. The tight ends continue to be non-existent as Mark Campbell was on the receiving end of just one pass.

Offensive Line = B+. This group did a terrific job all night as they cleared the way for 147 rushing yards and 247 net passing yards. Kelly Holcomb was sacked only twice in this game. However, the big mistake that they made came from left tackle Mike Gandy. With 6:20 left in the game and Buffalo leading 16-14, he allowed Patriot linebacker Rosevelt Colvin to blow by him and knock the ball out of Holcomb's hand. Colvin recovered and the Pats went on to win. The MVP of the line on Sunday was undoubtedly second-year renaissance man Jason Peters. He has lined up for the Bills at tight end, left tackle, and special teams this year but he stepped in at right tackle in this game and didn't miss a beat. Buffalo's highly-paid right tackle, Mike Williams, continues to show a lack of toughness as he missed yet another game. Peters should get the start again in two weeks (after the bye) and Buffalo ought to move Williams to left guard if he feels like playing.

Overall Offensive grade = B. It was the best they've moved the ball all year but they just didn't convert their lengthy drives into enough points. As Holcomb said after the game, you can't just keep kicking field goals and expect to win. The offense could have scored multiple touchdowns in this game but they only managed one. At some point, this group needs to get over the hump and start finding the end zone.

Defense:

Defensive Line = B+. Defensive end Aaron Schobel was absolutely brilliant in this game. He had two sacks and forced a fumble as he now holds the honor of current NFL defensive player with the most sacks on Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady. The rest of the group did pretty well pressuring Brady and they held the Pats to 93 rushing yards. Defensive tackle Justin Bannan deserves some props as he played with a high-motor in this game and really gave an admirable effort. Nose tackle Sam Adams took two undisciplined penalties and that's unacceptable for a veteran like himself.

Linebackers = B. The outside linebacker duo of Angelo Crowell and Jeff Posey both looked good as they combined for 13 tackles. They also contributed to the Bills feat of giving up only one catch to the Pats' tight end trio. Usually the tight ends for the Patriots have their way with the Bills. Middle linebacker London Fletcher, usually a tackling machine, only made two tackles and was relatively silent all game. However, he didn't make any mistakes and that's a positive. It would have been nice to see the group force a turnover but they were unable to do so.

Secondary = C. They allowed Tom Brady 199 yards on only 14 completions. They never forced a turnover either. The Bills' starting corner, Nate Clements, did a lousy job of stopping Pats' receiver Deion Branch. He caught 3 passes for 93 yards and a score. It was the second straight week that the secondary has looked average. Through the first six games of the year, they looked great. That magic has now faded away. Strong safety Lawyer Milloy has clearly lost more than a step as he was faked out of his cleats on multiple occasions. Free safety Troy Vincent left the game late in the fourth quarter with what appeared to be an arm injury.

Overall Defensive grade = B-. They did a good job of bending but not breaking. They managed to force a fumble and recover another. The defense was able to amass three sacks on Brady and they did a nice job of pressuring him throughout the night. However, they failed to rise up when the game was on the line. Although, it's not really fair to come down on them since Brady always picks teams apart in the fourth quarter. There's not a better clutch quarterback in the game. He's essentially the Joe Montana of modern times.

Special teams:

Kicker Rian Lindell looked solid as he was 3 of 4 on field goals. Punter Brian Moorman had a 49-yard punt on one punt, and on his other one, he pinned the Pats inside their own ten-yard line. Kick returner Terrence McGee made no impact as he averaged only 11.0 yards on his two returns. In fairness to him, the Patriots avoided kicking it to him throughout the game. Bill Belichick seems to be the only opposing coach smart enough to avoid the leading kick-return man in the NFL. As for the coverage unit for the Bills, they were pretty good. They only allowed the Patriots 21.2 yards per kick return. Special teams grade = B.

Coaching:

It seemed like offensive coordinator Tom Clements finally got the message in this game. That message of course, is to run the ball with Willis McGahee. Buffalo gave it to Willis 31 times and he had his way with the Patriots. Buffalo also had a number of pass plays over 15 yards, with 55 being the longest. However, Clements and head coach Mike Mularkey blew it late. On Buffalo's last meaningful offensive play of the game, they had Eric Moulds run a route that was nowhere close to a first down. He was stuffed and the Bills lost the game. Offensive line coach Jim McNally did a really good job molding his group for this game. Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray is still blitzing too much but his defense finally showed some improvement. Defensive line coach Tim Krumrie did a really good job of motivating his guys for the game as they tallied all three of Buffalo's sacks. The rest of the coaches really aren't worth mentioning since their groups did nothing worth noting. Coaching grade = B-.

Overall, the Buffalo Bills gave a terrific effort in this game. They easily could have won but they didn't have certain things go their way. They need to learn how to toughen up late in games and win. Until they do that, they won't be anything close to a contender in the AFC. They are 3-5 and now have their bye week. With the heartbreaking loss to the Patriots, any hope of a playoff run looks bleak.
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