Estimated reading time: 8 minute(s)
This is a team certifiably in trouble. Trouble is everywhere.
1. As I watched Lindell’s kick, I had none of my usual excitement, enthusiasm, anticipation. For me, the game already was over. The outcome didn’t matter – the Bills were lost. The game wasn’t, but the Bills were.
To be the team I thought the Bills could be, they needed to own this game. A last-second win wasn’t what they needed. What they needed was a game where Trent was taking kneel downs before the two-minute warning. That didn’t happen. That wasn’t even a possibility.
At least for now, the naysayers were right. The Bills need a quarterback. The Bills need a leader. The Bills need a coach.
We aren’t watching a slump. We’re watching a bad football team. Good football teams, even average football teams, don’t lose four in a row. Not in this league. This hasn’t been four weeks of bad breaks, bad calls, untimely injuries. This has been four weeks of bad football.
Of course, now there is virtually no hope of making the playoffs. Mathematics aside, it’s simply laughable to think that a team playing like that could even think about the playoffs.
2. Maybe I need to write a separate 10 Things I Think about the coaching. I don’t even know where to start. Try these:
a. I understand the thinking, but it was a mistake to run the ball three times before Lindell’s miss. I thought so at the time, and it’s completely obvious now. The Bills needed one more first down to run out the clock, to get Lindell within gimme range (kicking at that end of the field is always tough – I’m not sure why the Bills weren’t going the other way in the fourth quarter), and to send a message to Trent that they trusted him. Sitting on the ball said “We’re afraid. We’re afraid we won’t get the first down. We’re afraid we’ll turn it over.” Teams that play scared lose.
b. I don’t know the medical report, but I thought all week it was a mistake to play Whitner. Foolish. That’s not a decision that should be based on emotion; it should be based on what’s right for the season. The Bills needed more than one game to make the playoffs; if they couldn’t win this one with Whitner, they weren’t good enough to go anywhere anyway.
c. The Bills abandoned the cover two so they could blitz more. McGee was on an island all night long; so were Greer and McKelvin. The whole game. The coaches completely changed up the defense. Fine – things aren’t going right, change up. So how do you give up a 70-yard touchdown run with your safeties freed up from double coverage assignments?
d. One play the Bills were in the crawl, or whatever they call that defense when you can’t tell who the down linemen are or who’s coming. Ball’s snapped, several guys rush, the back 7 were COMPLETELY unable to get back into their zones – 17 yards to Braylon Edwards. If they can’t play the defense, don’t use it.
e. We can’t the ball to Evans one time? One time? Some time in that game, with the Bills on defense, the coaches have to talk to Lee and Trent and say, okay, next time we have the ball, this is the play we run. Trent, your keys are a,b,c. Look for a, take the snap, look for b, and then, if Lee hasn’t fallen down, THROW HIM THE BALL. No decent coach lets his stars get taken out of the game all together.
I’ll stop. BUT – I seriously question whether these people know how to make a football team win.
3. I thought McGee was outstanding. He had no help all night against a really good receiver, and against a quarterback who didn’t know how to look for anyone else. McGee gave him nothing deep, and he broke up several of the short balls. Yes, he gave up some catches underneath, but he stopped several too. He took on the task and he delivered exactly what the Bills wanted from him.
4. McKelvin looked pretty good, too. I watched him some of the time, and he looked comfortable. I think it was in part because the Bills were playing so much man, it played to his strength. He didn’t have to worry about his zone assignments. He also got the benefit of playing against an inexperienced QB who seems to think he has only one receiver on the team.
The scouting reports were that Leodis has bad hands. Unfortunately, it may be true – he couldn’t handle the diving interception. Still, he played well.
Kick returns, of course, were spectacular.
5. Lindell had what may have been his worst game as a Bill. He has to make that kick. Almost as bad was the 27-yard kickoff out of bounds. Couple that with Mitchell’s unnecessary roughness penalty, and right there the Bills gave up the field goal that probably cost them the game.
The problem with being a kicker is that you don’t get a lot of chances to make plays. When you do, you MUST deliver. Ryan didn’t.
6. There was a new addition to the “fan experience” at the Stadium that actually helped nullify the home-field advantage. Bills’ management understands that excitement means the stadium is noisy. Against Cleveland, they seemed to think that noise meant excitement; they thought that if they piped in noise, there would be more excitement. During TV timeouts, rock ‘n roll was blaring from the loudspeakers. Really loud. Pretty good music, actually.
The problem was that the Bills often were on defense during those timeouts. The music was so loud that the fans couldn’t make noise. Then ESPN would come back from the commercial, and the Browns were out of the huddle and ready to start the play before the music stopped. So the fans had no opportunity to build the pre-snap noise level while the Browns were in the huddle. The fans had no opportunity to shake up a young quarterback.
Put that together with the fact that general poor play dampened everyone’s enthusiasm, and I’d say that from start to finish the fans were loud for less of this game than any other this season.
7. Trent, of course, was awful. Hasn’t anyone told him that he cannot throw a pass eight feet off the ground directly over the head of a 6’5” defensive lineman? Every defensive lineman is taught to get a hand up, and they deflect or knock down those balls. Is he not looking for those guys? He has to. Otherwise, he gets what he got against the Browns – interceptions and incompletions.
What is really disturbing is that he lost his confidence. Again, I put part of the blame on the coaches – if they have a guy on the field who doesn’t have the courage to make the plays, you have to get him off the field. Simple as that. Maybe it’s only for a game, maybe a season, maybe a career. If the guy is afraid to make the throws, what’s the point of playing him?
You could see it. After the first quarter, he more or less didn’t look downfield.
One time in the fourth quarter, Lee had coverage underneath and on top. He ran 8-10 yards upfield and cut over the middle. The underneath guy was beat. The on-top guy wasn’t going to be able break up a 15 yard completion. He looked like he was open; maybe there was someone else in a shallow zone that I didn’t see. The crowd – get this – the CROWD, including me, yelled “LEE!” You could actually hear what must have been 15,000 people yell “LEE!” Trent didn’t throw it.
Easily his worst performance as a pro. He has regressed badly.
People have begun speculating that the concussion continues to be a factor. Maybe. Whatever; his isn’t playing nearly well enough to win.
8. Among the bad tendencies this defense has:
a. Give up one really long touchdown drive, more or less every game.
b. Give up just enough yards for the opponent to get into field goal range, over and over.
c. Give up a big play.
9. Special teams (except for Lindell) were special. When we really needed, when they finally kicked one to Roscoe – bang! – a big return. As great a McKelvin’s returns were, a lot of the credit goes to the rest of the receiving team. McKelvin was simply a talented return man taking advantage of the opportunities the team continued to present to him. I’m not putting him down, not at all. He did a great job. But mostly what he did was use his speed and ability to change direction to use the space the blockers created for him.
The really cool play was the Browns’ final kickoff. They weren’t going to kick deep to McKelvin – he’d hurt them too badly and they just couldn’t chance it again. April knew it. So what did he do? He had McKelvin deep, Jackson at the 20 and Roscoe at the 40. The Browns did the squib kick. It looked like Roscoe would get it, but it bounced over his head, right into Fred’s arms. Fred took it back for great field position to start the final drive. April knew they wouldn’t take a chance kicking toward the sideline – they had to go up the middle – to Roscoe, Fred or Leodis. Great move.
Special teams delivered great field position all night long.
10. I went to the game with an old friend, a great football fan who hasn’t seen the Bills play much the last two seasons. Early in the game, he asked me if Marshawn was any good. I told him yes. By the end of the game, he was sold.
What a performance! Simply magnificent. The run to set up the last touchdown was one of the best runs I’ve even seen on a football field. Not flashy, not necessarily highlight reel material, but he just kept making something out of nothing, for 30 yards.
And the touchdown run off the short pass! How he knew to cut back into the flow the defense, I do not know. He ran right into harm’s way, but he knew he could get in.
The Bills have been wasting that man’s skills for the better part of one and a half seasons. It was great to see them block well enough to get him going. It was absolutely terrible to watch the Bills waste that performance.
Is the only way the Bills can run the ball is to have the crummiest passing game in the league? Seems like they can only do one thing well per game.
This team needs help. Where they need it is on the sidelines. These are good players, and they should be winning.
See you here next week.
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