Monday Bills Musings

A combination of poor play, penalties and turnovers killed the Buffalo Bills against the New England Patriots. Ryan Talbot looks at these areas and other Bills musings the day after Buffalo's 37-22 loss.

Get Well Soon, Aaron Williams!

One defensive player doesn’t generally change the outcome of a game (unless your name is J.J. Watt), but Buffalo’s free safety was missed on Sunday. Williams battled with neck and wrist injuries and wasn’t healthy enough to play Sunday.

Duke Williams, a second year safety, played free safety in his place. Corey Graham, one of Buffalo’s top cornerbacks, played strong safety for the majority of the game. The Bills tried to be creative with their defensive lineup but the changes didn’t work out well.

Duke Williams was arguably the worst player on the field Sunday. Faced with covering the likes of Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, Williams was responsible for giving up large chunks of yardage. Pro Football Focus (Subscription Required) said that Williams was responsible for giving up five receptions for 63 yards against New England.

Williams was also called for two penalties against the Patriots. Early in the 2nd quarter, the Patriots faced a 1st and 10 at Buffalo’s 30 yard line. Brady took the snap and threw the ball deep to Julian Edelman. Williams trailed Edelman on the play and instead of turning his head and attempting to make a play on the ball, Williams blatantly pushed Edelman a second or two before the ball arrived. Some penalties can be disputed, but this one pretty obvious. New England was given the ball at the one and scored on the next play.

Williams’ second pass interference penalty was disputable, but it went for 17 yards. In all, Williams was responsible for giving up 109 yards Sunday. In Week 7, Buffalo needs to hope that Aaron Williams is ready to go.

Goodbye, Momentum

Buffalo’s defense was pretty strong in the 1st half, but turnovers killed any momentum that the Bills would build.

After New England missed a 36 yard field goal, Buffalo moved the ball 25 yards in two plays. In a scoreless game, Buffalo striking first would have been big. Unfortunately, Kyle Orton threw his worst pass of the day on the following play. Orton stared down Marquise Goodwin and attempted to throw a pass to the speedy wide receiver. Patriots linebacker, Jamie Collins, read Orton’s eyes and jumped in front of the pass. The Patriots scored a touchdown six plays later to take a 7-0 lead.

After a Robert Woods touchdown, the game was tied at seven. The Patriots faced a 3rd and 7 and Tom Brady threw to Gronkowski who gained 10 yards and seemingly fumbled the ball before regaining it. Buffalo challenged the play, believing that ‘Gronk’ never possessed the ball. The Bills were correct in their belief and the referees overturned the call. The Patriots punted the ball to the Bills in a tied game with 2:15 left in the first half. Momentum was clearly in Buffalo’s favor… until the next play.

On 1st and 10, Kyle Orton dropped back to pass. Patriots DE Chandler Jones beat Bills LT Cordy Glenn and strip sacked Orton. Jones also recovered the fumble. The Patriots were in business to take the lead into the half. The Bills defense did a good job of preventing the Patriots from scoring a touchdown, but the Patriots took a 10-7 lead after Stephen Gostkowski’s 42 yard field goal.

Both teams exchanged 3-and-outs before the Bills received the ball back on their 30 yard line with 14 seconds remaining. Should the Bills have taken a knee? Some believe so, but I actually agreed with the play call.

 Running back C.J. Spiller was given the handoff on 1st down and he took the carry 15 yards before fumbling the ball. Spiller could have and probably should have stepped out of bounds after picking up 12 yards, but he decided to go for extra yards. Devin McCourty wedged the ball out by hitting it with his helmet and the Patriots recovered the fumble at their 42 with six seconds left in the half.  A short pass to Julian Edelman set up Gostkowski’s 53-yard field goal to end the half.

Three Bills turnovers led to 13 Patriots points. You won’t win many games when you turn the ball over three times. Buffalo had entered the game with a +6 turnover differential.

Random Musings

-There were a handful of questionable penalty calls against the Bills on Sunday. That said, Doug Marrone needs to stress discipline this week. Buffalo was called for eight penalties against New England. The penalties went for 107 total yards. Turnovers and penalties will kill a team. They did on Sunday.

-Kyle Orton has thrown for 607 yards in two starts for the Bills. He was one yard short of going over 300 yards in consecutive games. He’s clearly Buffalo’s best option at quarterback, but he does need to work on his awareness in the pocket. Orton should have seen Chandler Jones coming on his strip sack, but somehow missed him completely. Later in the game, Orton went into full-statue mode on a Deontae Skinner sack. Skinner blitzed right up the middle and Orton saw him coming. He made no attempt to get out of Skinner’s way and took a hard hit. If he takes shots like that consistently, he’s going to find himself injured.

-The Bills once again abandoned the run too soon. Buffalo rushed the ball 23 times for 68 yards. There are many excuses you can make for it. Buffalo was playing from behind and their offensive line is struggling to create running lanes consistently, but you need to run the ball on a Patriots team that has struggled to stop the run. At one point, Jerod Mayo was carted off the field. The Patriots had to play Tavon Wilson at linebacker due to their lack of depth at the position. Wilson is 6’0”, 215 pounds, pretty undersized at linebacker. Buffalo made no attempt to take advantage of this.

-Speaking of Bills running backs, C.J. Spiller should not be a priority signing of the team in the offseason. On Buffalo’s end, they have no idea how to use Spiller as a weapon. Chan Gailey realized that Spiller needed open space to make plays. Doug Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett aren’t doing that nearly enough. On Spiller’s end, he’s trying to hit a “homerun” when he should take a base hit. There have been plenty of carries this season where Spiller could have gained 3-4 yards. Instead, Spiller tries to bounce the runs to the outside and has been stopped for losses and minimal gains. This has created and 2nd and 3rd and long situations for the Bills. Unless Spiller wants to come back at an affordable rate, the Bills should let him walk and work on signing Jerry Hughes long-term.

-Scott Chandler caught six passes for 105 yards on Sunday. Chandler was Buffalo’s leading receiver in 2013, but this was the first time he’s gone over 100 yards receiving as a Bill. In fact, Chandler’s 100+ yard day was the first time that Buffalo has had a tight end go over 100 yards since 1992. That’s not a typo. Pete Metzelaars was the last to accomplish this feat per Tim Graham of The Buffalo News. That says a lot about how the Bills have valued and used tight ends in the last 20+ years.

-Buffalo’s next two opponents are the Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets. These teams are a combined 3-9. The Bills have to win both of these games to show that they’re a legitimate Wild Card contender this season. A loss to a rookie-led Vikings team or an offensively challenged and cornerback-thin Jets team would be inexcusable. 

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