Buffalo Bills Week 7 Positional Grades

The Buffalo Bills squeaked out a last second victory over the Minnesota Vikings. How did Buffalo's positional units grade out in their 17-16 victory? Take a look!

The Buffalo Bills certainly made things interesting in their 17-16 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. The Bills scored the go ahead touchdown with one second remaining to move to 4-3. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you win by 1 or you win by 50; a win is a win. Here’s how the Bills fared against Minnesota.

Quarterback: A-

Kyle Orton wasn’t perfect by any means, but he did enough to win. Early in the game, Orton had success passing the ball but his receivers were responsible for two lost fumbles. The turnovers apparently became contagious as Orton threw an interception and later fumbled the ball deep in Vikings territory with the Bills trailing 13-10.

Despite his two costly turnovers, Orton was rather accurate against Minnesota. The quarterback completed 72 percent of his passes for 283 yards and two touchdowns. Orton certainly saved the best for last on Sunday. With the Bills trailing 16-10, Orton led the Bills on a 15 play, 80 yard drive that resulted in a two yard touchdown pass to Sammy Watkins. Between sacks and penalties, Orton threw for 105 yards on the final drive alone. Pulling out a gritty last-second victory gives him a bit of a boost in his grade.

Running Backs: B+

Buffalo certainly didn’t run poorly against the Vikings. Fred Jackson rushed for 12 yards on three carries (4.0 YPC) before exiting the game with a groin injury. C.J. Spiller took his first carry shortly thereafter and took it 53 yards. Unfortunately, Spiller broke his collarbone on the play and was carted off the field. That left the Bills with one back, Anthony Dixon. The team’s third running back performed well, rushing the ball for 51 yards on 13 carries (3.9 YPC). Together, the three rushed for 116 yards on 17 carries. All in all, not a bad performance.

The Bills will be without Fred Jackson for about one month and C.J. Spiller was placed on the short-term IR list. In their place, Dixon and Bryce Brown will have to step up. Their first game is against a strong Jets defense.

Wide Receivers: A+

Sammy Watkins scored both of Buffalo’s touchdowns on Sunday and was unstoppable against the Vikings. The fourth overall pick of the 2014 draft caught 9 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns. It was the sort of outing that the Bills envisioned when they traded up for him. The Bills certainly look like they have their No. 1 wide receiver.

The biggest surprise in the Bills receiving game was Chris Hogan. The wide receiver has had strong outings the last two weeks. It’s clear that he and Orton have chemistry as Hogan has 10 receptions for 135 yards and one touchdown in the last two weeks. Against the Vikings, Hogan had five receptions for 63 yards. His 28 yard reception down the left sideline set up Buffalo’s game-winning touchdown.

Robert Woods was the only other receiver to log a reception. He caught four passes for 10 yards. Mike Williams was active on Sunday, but went without a reception. Williams was only on the field for five snaps. Orton spread the ball to nine different players on Sunday. Despite this, Buffalo’s three receivers went for 195 yards and two touchdowns on 18 receptions. That’s good productivity.


Tight Ends: B-

Scott Chandler caught a pass when it mattered most. On a 2nd and 17 play, Orton threw a pass to Chandler. The play would have led to a 3rd and manageable situation. Instead, Chandler dropped the pass. One Orton sack later, the Bills faced a 4th and 20. With the game on the line, Chandler ran a crossing route that went for 24 yards. The first down conversion put the Bills on Minnesota’s side of the field. The impact of the play certainly helps boost this positional unit’s grade. Chandler finished with three receptions for 36 yards. Chris Gragg, possibly passing Lee Smith as the team’s second tight end, added two receptions for 19 yards. Five receptions for 55 yards is a pretty decent stat line for Buffalo’s tight ends.


Offensive Line: D

Buffalo’s offensive line earns its second consecutive D grade. The group is struggling. Buffalo’s line was responsible for the majority of the six sacks allowed against the Vikings. It’s difficult to find a play where Orton held the ball too long on a sack. Throughout the game, Buffalo’s line collapsed around Orton. Pro Football Focus (Subscription Required) credited the line with three additional quarterback hits and 12 hurries.

 This week’s matchup against the Jets doesn’t exactly bode well for Buffalo’s troublesome line. One move Doug Marrone should consider: Benching Cyril Richardson in favor of Kraig Urbik.

Defensive Line: A

The defensive line had a terrific bounce back game against the Vikings. Marcell Dareus had two sacks, Jerry Hughes was credited with 1.5 sacks and Mario Williams chipped in with a sack of his own. Kyle Williams and Jarius Wynn didn’t have any sacks but PFF did credit them with QB hits. The entire defensive line was also credited with five quarterback hurries. The line also had 11 stops on Sunday.

They unit came up huge early in the fourth quarter with the Vikings set up for a 1st and goal on Buffalo’s seven yard line. On back to back plays, Dareus and Hughes sacked Teddy Bridgewater. The two sacks drove the Vikings back 16 yards and the team had to settle for a field goal. This kept the Bills within one score.

In run defense, the defensive line had some struggles. Minnesota’s run game attacked the edges early in the game with success. Jerick McKinnon also added some good carries inside the tackles. Matt Asiata and Jerome Felton also had success carrying the ball. Buffalo’s line played a part in giving up 148 yards on 27 carries. This is what kept the unit from getting an A+.

The run defense is something the team needs to address this week with Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson on the horizon. Jets WR Percy Harvin may also get a carry or two. Buffalo had been terrific in this area leading up to the game, so I’m sure they’ll clean up the issues before Sunday.

Linebackers: B-

Buffalo’s linebackers were a bit better than average on Sunday, but there was one interesting storyline. Rookie Preston Brown took Keith Rivers’ job at SLB. Brown was the best linebacker on the field for the Bills on Sunday and certainly didn’t play like a rookie. Rivers was limited to eight snaps as Brown saw 67 total snaps. He was strong against the run and solid in pass coverage.

Brandon Spikes played well in run support as usual, but also played decently in pass coverage. Spikes has had struggles in coverage in his career but was pretty good against the Vikings. Spikes looked like he deflected a pass that led to Leodis McKelvin’s first interception.

Nigel Bradham had some struggles against the Vikings. He’s played well this season, but this may have been his worst performance of the year. Bradham was called for a defensive holding penalty and credited with three missed tackles. He’ll look to bounce back in New Jersey.

Secondary: B+

Buffalo’s secondary played poorly against New England, but bounced back against Minnesota. McKelvin led the way with two interceptions on consecutive defensive snaps. His second interception led to Buffalo’s first touchdown of the game. Stephon Gilmore had a solid outing as Bridgewater only targeted him three times throughout the game. Aaron Williams’ play wasn’t perfect, but the safety position was much better with him in the lineup. Da’Norris Searcy also performed well and was credited with 0.5 of a sack.

Corey Graham, Nickell Robey and Duke Williams also played decently for the Bills when called upon. The group could have a big day in Week 8 against Geno Smith.

Special Teams: B-

Dan Carpenter didn’t have many opportunities to contribute on Sunday. He made his only field goal attempt, a 31 yard kick, and both extra points.

Colton Schmidt had another strong game. Schmidt had five punts that averaged 44.6 yards and two of the punts landed inside the 20 yard line.

Jordan Gay was Buffalo’s most disappointing kicker. The kickoff specialist struggled to kick the ball deep against Minnesota and allowed the Vikings to have multiple kick returns. If his struggles continue, he may find himself at risk of being inactive or eventually released.

As for the return game, McKelvin had one kickoff return that went for 30 yards and Spiller had a three yard return. McKelvin added two punt returns that went for 18 total yards.

How would you grade Buffalo’s positional units based upon their play in Week 7? Let’s discuss it in the forums!

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