Bills 3 – 49ers 10 – 10 Things I Think

Estimated reading time: 9 minute(s)

1. Why don’t we start by honoring a great football team in Orchard Park, NY? That would be the Orchard Park High School Quakers, who scored 21 unanswered points in the second half to win the New York State Championship in Syracuse on Sunday. 21-17 final. (Meanwhile, the other team in Orchard Park managed 3 unanswered points in a stirring 10-3 loss to one of the worst teams in the NFL.)

Congratulations to Section VI, which won FOUR state football championships over the weekend. No Section had won more than two in any previous year.

2. This week’s 10 Things requires more creativity than in past weeks, so be kind to me. Creativity is required because (a) there’s no point in savagely bashing the team and coaches for a couple of pages, and (b) NOTHING HAPPENED IN THE GAME. That was about the most boring football game I’ve ever seen. The level of futility reached a new high (or is it low?) for the NFL.

The LA Times captured it best: “San Francisco 10, Buffalo 3 – Can you imagine saving your money to go see one game all year, and this is the game you chose?”

Leaving the stadium, I overheard one fan say “nothing exciting happened in the whole game.” And he was nearly correct. Marshawn’s long run and a couple of other runs were exciting. Leodis’s kick return made the grade, as did one Roscoe punt return. That was about it.

3. McKelvin is really growing on me. He was schooled a couple of times by Isaac Bruce (including on the touchdown), but that would leave Leodis in pretty good company. Isaac Bruce has taught a lot of lessons in his career.

I was at the game and didn’t see good replays, but the interference call against Leodis seemed pretty weak. He also missed a couple of tackles in run support, but he was there to make the play – he’ll learn to finish. He looks decent now, and his potential is obvious.

And Leodis certainly has figured out how to return kicks. He’s downright scary back there.

In the second half, I actually found myself thinking the Bills had a better chance of scoring when they were on defense, because Leodis might get a pick. (Of course, I believed Marshawn could score, but the Bills weren’t going to give him the ball inside the 10. More about that later.)

I wasn’t thrilled with the draft pick at the time, but it clearly was a good move.

4. I entered the Stadium early on Sunday, and I walked right up to the security officer – no waiting. That was completely different from the Monday night game, when 45 minutes before there game there was a big (and dangerous) crowd, pushing people from behind and creating a frightening environment. People were getting injured and feared for their lives. I understand that as game time approached for the 49ers game, the backup grew again.

No need to worry about the crowds at the security lines for the New England game. All three BIlls fans ought to be able to get into the game without incident, unless 75,000 Patriots fans show up.

5. The Ball Burglar had an okay day – one takeaway. The Bills “forced” several fumbles, but they really deserve little credit for some. The one they recovered was, for the second week in a row, an unforced fumble – the ball carrier went to the ground without having been touched and fumbled on his own. Another “forced” fumble was a mishandled snap. Denney did force one nicely on his sack.

The Bills definitely need to do better taking the ball away, but it’s hard to do when the defense plays so passively. Against the 49ers, they didn’t seem to be in attack mode. There wasn’t much pass rush, there wasn’t a lot of blitzing, and there looked to be a lot of cover two again, with the linebackers dropping. The defense worked fine to keep the score down, but it didn’t produce any opportunities for the offense. In other words, the defense really played well, but it put me to sleep. The offense, of course, did nothing to rouse me from my slumber.

6. The defense gets high praise and a question mark at the same time. The question mark is the opening drive. The Bills are making it a habit, giving up a touchdown on the opening drive. I like deferring to the second half – the second half is the time to win games, and you want the ball to open the second half. However, it’s maddening to be down seven without even having had the ball.

Sunday was really bad – that was a 14-play, eight minute drive in which the defense let the 49ers convert four consecutive third downs. That’s absolutely horrible. It was passive defense at its worst.

(All season long the Bills have seemed to be unprepared to play at the beginning of the game. It’s one of many problems that lead me to believe that these coaches may be good teachers but not good game coaches.)

After that, the defense did what a good defense is supposed to do against a lousy offense: shut it down. For the remaining 52 minutes of the game, the 49ers gained 123 yards (77 passing and 46 rushing), were 3 for 11 on third down conversions and got only 7 first downs. At least one first down came on a Bills penalty. The 49ers couldn’t run and they couldn’t pass. Was it the Bills defense or were the 49ers just bad? I’ll give the nod to the defense, just to be positive.

7. Congratulations also to UB, in line for the second bowl bid in the history of the school – and first bowl appearance. They play exciting, watchable football. OBD, are you listening?

If you’re looking for an interesting article about how times have changed, read this article about UB’s first bowl bid, 50 years ago.

I lived a few blocks from the UB field and used to go to some of those games.

8. Everyone fell down against the 49ers, even the special teams. Two missed field goals, an ugly punt, and Roscoe getting himself tackled deep on a punt. One time the players on the kick receiving team had to run to the sideline to remind Ryan Denney that he was supposed to be on the field. And didn’t the Bills call a timeout to get organized on special teams one time? (I’ve forgotten.)

Still, Bobby April is the only coach on this team who week after week shows that he knows how to make things happen. Year after year he takes whoever is available and turns them into top kick return and kick coverage teams. Currently 4th in kick returns, second in punt returns, second in kick coverage and 26th (!) in punt coverage. It isn’t an accident.

The guy knows how to organize his teams, and he knows how to game plan for his opponents. I honestly don’t know that any of the other coaches know how to do it.

9. Hard to know what we have in Trent now. All of the negative comments from months ago certainly look like they’re being borne out: can’t play in bad weather, injury prone, mediocre arm, etc. It’s really hard to know if yesterday was weather, the injury, his confidence, what. It’s pretty discouraging. I’m still confident that he’s a quality QB in the making. Sunday was not his finest hour.

The Bills got the same old same old from JP. Great arm – man, he really can deliver the ball. Not-so-good decision making. On one sack, they showed an isolated view of Hardy on the Jumbo Tron – Hardy was running a streak with man coverage, and he had at least seven inches on the guy Instead of taking the sack, why not throw it out there and let the big guy make the play? (Is that JP’s fault, or the coaches? I don’t know; but it was a better choice than a sack.)

I don’t think quarterbacking lost this game. I think coaching did.

10. Something is seriously wrong within the team (coaches and players). There were several questions after the game about why the Bills are late getting to the line of scrimmage. JP isn’t diplomatic enough to know how to avoid the issue in public – he said he’s a team guy and he’s going to keep team issues in-house. He said they can ask all they want; he will not talk about in-house issues. By saying that he made it clear that there are in-house issues. Trent was better covering it up, but it was clear even with him that this team’s play calling is disorganized.

What are the problems? Are Dick and Turk disagreeing about play calls? Who knows? What is obvious is that the Bills are sluggish and indecisive on the field and ill-prepared for games (that’s why they always start slowly). They have none of the crispness on offense that we saw at the beginning of the year. They are slow and predictable. Between the slow play calls, the runs and the short passes, it seems like Bills drives take five minutes to go 20 yards. It’s excrutiatingly painful to watch. In fact, the quality and the pace of the play takes the home fans out of the game. It’s impossible to be enthusiastic watching football played at a pace more suited to golf.

The entire team is out of sync. Trent scrambled and ran into his blocker. Fred caught a screen pass and ran into his blocker. JP passed up a a great up-the-gut scramble and cut to the outside for no gain. The special teams had their issues.

TV watchers probably couldn’t see it, but during one time out, with the Bills on offense, Takeo, Jason and Josh stood around the ball chatting. I hate to see that. After the game, fine, but during the game that guy is the ENEMY. I have to believe Tom Coughlin would chew their butts from here to San Francisco for doing that.

This team doesn’t threaten anyone, on offense or on defense. It doesn’t say “here we come to kick your butt.” Instead, it says “here we are, how about a friendly game?”

The Bills finally started running the ball with some success in the past few weeks, but against the 49ers they abandoned the run – Losman and Edwards attempted 38 passes, and Lynch and Jackson carried only 21 times. Take away Marshawn’s 50-yard run, and he still had 84 yards in 15 carries, almost 6 yards per. The Bills played the first half with an injured QB and the second half with their backup, against a mediocre rushing defense, averaged 6.2 yards per carry and passed almost twice as much as they ran!

The Bills ran seven plays (or more? someone said nine) inside the 49ers’ 10 yard-line, and Marshawn Lynch touched the ball once. Which was the one play he got the ball? Immediately after his 50-yard carry – no chance to get a blow, nothing. That was it – let him run fifty yards, call his number again; before and after that, never. Marshawn has to know that when he breaks a long one, he MUST get into the end zone, because the chances are slim that he’ll get another chance or that anyone else will get the job done.

This team at 5-1 was in ideal position to go to playoffs. As they entered crunch time in the season, they folded, badly. They didn’t show up for must-win game after must-win game. The Bills haven’t been ready for a game in six weeks. Even against Kansas City, without the Leodis INTs, they could have been in trouble. They gave up nearly 500 yards to a team with one win.

I look at all these things and I conclude the coaches don’t know how to make a team a winner.

I’m a Bills fan. I’ll watch forever. Next week, we’ll win. I know it. I don’t know how, but we will.

That’s what I think every week.

See you here in a week.