Estimated reading time: 10 minute(s)
It’s just a sad day. That happens after a Buffalo Bills loss. Any Monday after a loss is no fun. You replay the game in your head, and especially when it was close, you wonder, “What if they had just…” and myriad alternate realities dance through your head.
Today is no exception. But as I mentioned earlier, the day is sad on so many more levels than just the final outcome of the game.
Leaving the game minus four players with major injuries – TE Kevin Everett the most severe with a possibly career-ending injury – certainly added to a very down, depressed Bills lockeroom. Losing a game – in which you never trailed – by one point on a field goal that was kicked in an NFL record 11 seconds from the end of the previous play. Losing the home opener in front of 74,000 loud, excited fans. All of these add up to a pretty depressing day for players, coaches and fans alike.
But there were some highlights to yesterday’s game. Perhaps, as usual, focusing on the good accomplishments from the day before can lift some of the sadness of the defeats.
- Marshawn Lynch
One of the best performances yesterday – and most promising for the future of the Bills – was given by rookie RB Marshawn Lynch. Oft criticized in the pre-season, Lynch put a lot of that criticism to rest with 90 yards rushing on 19 carries, with 1 great TD run. Two plays stood out. The TD run where he carried several people with him into the end zone, and a 4th and 1 play where he drove forward and got the first down on a second and third and fourth effort. Those plays stood in stark contrast to the efforts we saw from Willis McGahee over the past couple years.
Only downside of Lynch’s play yesterday was a critical missed block on the opening drive. Bills were moving the ball well, but Lynch missed his man and gave up a big 14-yard sack that resulted in no points for the Bills offense. Bad way to start the game… rookie mistake. Lynch did make a few more rookie mistakes, and was noticeably – and unexpectedly – absent from the passing game, but overall was a bright spot in the loss.
- Special Teams on a Special Day
It was fitting that on Steve Tasker’s day, the Special Teams for the current Bills team were a big part of the game. Roscoe Parrish had a fantastic return for a TD. McGee almost broke a kickoff return for another TD. The kicking units covered kicks and punts very well, setting Denver up inside the 1 yard line for their first drive. There were some mistakes. Moorman had a bad kick or two, Lindell missed his only FG attempt. But as always, special teams played brilliantly and certainly gave us a great chance to win the game.
Watch the half-time presentation (as well as some other bonus Steve Tasker highlight video) at BuffaloBills.com:
When the Broncos offense took the field for the first time, Paul Posluszny made his presence known. On nearly every play, the stadium announcer would name the Denver ball carrier, and then say, “Tackle made by Paul Posluszny!” The crowd would follow that with a supportive cheer. After about the fifth repetition of that sequence, you could hear the almost sarcastic tone with which the announcer said, “Tackle by… Paul Posluzny!“, which the crowd responded to with an even louder cheer!! Poz ended the game second in tackles with 10, and was in position on most every play. He had some great penetration on a few running plays, and was just all over the field. I knew he was good, but yesterday Bills fans got to see that Poz may be something really special for years to come.
- Donte Whitner
Actually, the defense overall played great. They made big plays when they needed to, and even given some rough circumstances, did very well overall. The stats don’t say that, but my football sense does. I was there, and saw a unit that gave a LOT yesterday. Everything they had. Three starters went down in the game, including one who was replacing another starter! That’s a lot to overcome. The flow of the game put them in some tough situations, which mostly they overcame. Overall, definitely a B+ (at least) for the Bills defense.
One of the standouts was S Donte Whitner. Whitner was in on many plays, several for a loss. He was quite noticeable, and was living up to his #8 overall selection. Some Bills fans still question his being selected that high in the 2006 NFL draft, but Whitner has backed that up with some great play-making on the field, including yesterday’s game against the Broncos.
- JP Losman
I have to cut JP a little slack in that the offense was put in some strange situations due to good drives by Denver, the punt return for a TD (which kept the offense off of the field), and some of the injuries. But really, he had a very bad game. He never got into any kind of rhythm. A lot of that can be attributed to play-calling. But some of it has to fall on JP. One of the critical plays he missed was on third down on the Bills’ third possession. Parrish had beaten Bailey, and would have had the much-needed first down, but JP underthrew him. Pretty badly. Add to that the final possession where he overthrew a wide-open Lee Evans on a potential game-sealing bomb… and JP definitely did not contribute much to the game. He was 14-21 for 97 yards, 0 TDs and 1 strange INT. Not a good day for our signal caller.
- Bills Coaches
As I said, JP does take a lot of the blame, but perhaps most of it goes to the Bills coaches? The offense was very predictable instead of the high-octane, spread formation that many Bills fans were expecting. Yes, Denver’s defense did a good job shutting that down, but it did not appear the Bills were even trying to go that route. When they did spread out the defense, they went with short passes to the wideouts, hoping they could make something happen with the YAC. (Yards after catch.) That play was definitely not working for us.
Then, there was the most questioned play of all. 3rd and 5 with just over 2 minutes to go. The Bills have the lead, and the ball, and just need a couple more first downs. Instead of going with Marshawn, who had been hot and had converted on some very big plays, they elected to throw deep for only the second or third time all day. Lee Evans definitely was open, but it’s a low percentage play at best, and the percentages won. JP overthrew by a few yards (and threw to the wrong shoulder) and the Bills punt the ball. Had they made the play, the fans may be a bit more lenient, but that was NOT the call you make in that situation. In my opinion.
- Terrence McGee
Yes, Terrence McGee. I know, he had a fabulous return, and he’s always good for at least one of those per game. And, he actually made a couple good plays on defense, both on run and pass defense. He was defending that 2-point play that did not work for Denver. But I had a big beef with him yesterday. I counted two times that he outright DROPPED the ball and one more time where he was in position to make a play on the ball and did not. I know his main role is not to get the INT, but to defend against the pass. However, we need McGee to make those big plays. Especially on the ones that hit him in the hands!
The first of the two glaring drops was the play before the Broncos only TD of the game. They Broncs had been driving, making our tired defense look silly, but McGee stepped in front of a Cutler pass, and had he caught it, would have probably gone the distance on the return. Great play on the ball, got both hands on it… but dropped it! ARGH! Next play, Denver scores. The other really bad one was a bootleg on which Cutler threw an ill-advised pass deep to Walker, but McGee had plenty of time to read the play, make his break, and got both hands on the ball. Our section was cheering on the obvious INT, until we noticed the ball rolling on the ground. That would have out a stop to a critical fourth quarter drive. (I think we got the ball back from them on that one anyway, but still… you have to make that catch when you get both hands on the ball!)
- Chris Kelsay
This is pretty minor, but on one play, Bills DE Chris Kelsay had Cutler lined up for a big sack but did not wrap him up – and looked silly in the process. Cutler managed to get away, and even completed a pass for a first down on that drive. I believe it resulted in 3 points as well. That was really, really bad tackling.
- The Refs
I do get tired of saying this – and really tire of sounding like I am whining, or making excuses – but the refs did have an adverse affect on the game yesterday, that they should not have had. There was a late facemask call that went against the Broncos that should not have been called, but I am pretty sure that was one of those “make up” calls, which doesn’t ever really make up for the previously bad calls!
The refs missed lots of holding calls, several facemask calls, and worst of all, they missed a timeout call from Angelo Crowell on the final Denver drive, which led to a Denver first down. It was fourth and two, and Crowell was signaling for a TO, and all the Bills were expecting the refs to call it. They somehow missed it, and the Bills defense was (at least slightly) caught off guard, and Cutler rushes around the right side for a critical first down.
I’m quite tired of the refs having such a big (negative) impact on the Bills.
- The First Quarter
I have already alluded to it, but as the Bills offense seemed to the casual observer to be sputtering in the first quarter, I noticed that there were circumstances that led to that. Oddly enough, they were initially a good thing for the Bills. The Bills began the game with a very good drive. It stalled when Lynch missed a block, and Losman was sacked. No points, but a great special teams play for the Bills put the Broncos inside their 1 yard line. Broncos called a great play to get out of that trouble, and got a couple first downs… but the defense held, and forced a punt. Roscoe Parrish runs that punt back for a TD, putting the Bills up 7-0! Fantastic, except that the defense who had just worked hard to shut down the Denver offense, has to go right back out and do it again.
At this point they are tired, so they give up a few more first downs, but hold again, and only allow a field goal. Bills offense finally takes the field again after being off the field for about nine minutes. They run three plays, and have to punt, resulting in the defense taking the field again. The Bills stopped that drive, but already the Denver offense had 11:03 minutes of possession to the Bills 2:25, since their first drive. That tired out our defense, and never allowed our offense to develop any sort of rhythm.
- The Injuries
Add to the circumstances above some very serious injuries to our defensive starters, and the emotionally draining injury to Kevin Everett to begin the third quarter, and the Bills were definitely in a really tough position to pull out a win, even being at home. Besides Everett, the Bills lost saftery Ko Simpson (broken ankle, lost for the year), Jason Webster (broken arm, out indefinitely) and replacement starting LB Coy Wire (knee sprain, out indefinitely). This is on top of some major injuries in the preseason to Ryan Denney and Keith Ellison. It’s been a very rough start to the season for the Bills, health-wise.
My overall opinion of the game has not changed. In the stadium yesterday, it felt like the Bills fought hard, played a very solid game, and most certainly could have won that game. Questionable play calling, and the above unfortunate circumstances allowed Denver to pull out a win in a fantastic way (for them, at least), but overall, the Bills deserve a B+ for their effort yesterday. Most of the negative grade (for me) goes to the coaches and the refs. I was shocked when I saw the final stats and the Broncos had a 100 yard rusher (ok, that wasn’t a shock), a 100 yard receiver, and a 300 yard passer. The defense – at least according to my perception at the game – seemed to have a fantastic game against a very good team.
The road ahead for the Bills is very, very tough. Both of their next two opponents won their opening games in very convincing fashion. The Bills have to go on the road, with a severely depleted roster – and very heavy hearts – and take on two of the better teams in the AFC, including their arch rivals, the New England Patriots. It is very possible, even likely, that the Bills begin 2007 at 0-3.
This team has some great talent. We saw a bit of it yesterday. Buffalo Bills Review is hoping that the coaches can learn to take better advantage of it. It’ll be tough, but here’s hoping! Go Bills!