A 24-3 deficit was too much for the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo made a late game push on Sunday, but the team lost to the Denver Broncos 24-17. A slow start by the Bills once again sealed their fate. Here’s a look at each positional unit and how they played against the Broncos.
If you look at the stat line itself, Kyle Orton’s outing looks pretty decent. Two total touchdowns offset the two interceptions and he threw for over 300 yards! That’s not how you grade a quarterback’s performance though. Orton was slightly better than average on Sunday. Early in the game, Buffalo had some success moving the ball. Unfortunately, their drives sputtered. Buffalo’s first drive ended on a Sammy Watkins fumble. Their second drive led to a turnover on downs in Denver territory. A field goal ended their third drive and that’s all Buffalo had to show for their first half performance against Denver.
In the second half, things did not go well for Orton. His first two series resulted in interceptions. Following Orton’s second INT, a pass attempted to Robert Woods in the end zone, the Broncos kicked a 50 yard field goal. This, and Denver’s touchdown to start the second half, extended their lead to 24-3. At this point, the defense gave up a lot underneath to the Bills. It certainly led to some padded stats for Orton. He should be praised for some of the passes he made on Sunday, but he final stat line doesn’t tell the whole story.
Running Backs: B-
On Sunday, the run game didn’t get much of an opportunity against the Broncos. To be completely fair, Buffalo had to pass a lot in the second half in an attempt to get back into the game. The team finished with 16 carries that resulted in 74 yards and one touchdown, a 1-yard Orton sneak. The 4.6 YPC average isn’t bad, but Fred Jackson and company need to see more carries.
Jackson and Bryce Brown were also involved in the passing game. Jackson led the team in targets (14) and finished with 10 receptions for 37 yards. Brown had two receptions that resulted in 14 yards. It wasn’t a bad day for Buffalo’s backs but the unit didn’t stand out.
Wide Receivers: B
Buffalo’s wide receivers helped the team mount a comeback late in the game, but the unit needs to be play well for all four quarters. Watkins had an early fumble, but he made up for it with a strong outing. He finished Sunday’s game with seven receptions for 127 yards. Chris Hogan had a touchdown for the unit and finished Sunday’s game with seven receptions and 54 yards. Robert Woods also added 36 yards on three receptions. Their productivity would usually led to a higher grade, but some of the receptions came late with the Broncos in prevent-mode.
Tight Ends: B-
You never know how involved Buffalo’s tight ends will be on a given week. Their targets vary from week to week. On Sunday, Scott Chandler was an important target in Buffalo’s arsenal. He finished Sunday’s game with 81 yards and eight receptions. Lee Smith also added six yards on one reception.
Offensive Line: B
The offensive line is starting to mesh together. Pro Football Focus credited the line with allowing three sacks, six hurries and one hit. That’s not a great outing, but Denver has a strong defense. Cordy Glenn was Buffalo’s best lineman, but each player had his moments. The unit has improved significantly since Kraig Urbik was moved into the starting lineup. Doug Marrone should have played him much sooner in the season.
Defensive Line: C+
Peyton Manning gets his passes out very quickly, so it wasn’t surprising that the Bills didn’t log a sack. The bigger surprise was the lack of pressure and batted passes. On Sunday, the Bills were credited with one quarterback hit and one quarterback hurry. Players didn’t seem to get their hands up in time and the defensive line was a bit of a non-factor.
Jerry Hughes was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Sunday and was subsequently benched. Mario Williams and Kyle Williams were non-factors on Sunday as well. Marcell Dareus was a bright spot and he had a terrific game.
Buffalo’s linebackers were terrific on Sunday. The biggest star among them? Nigel Bradham. No one would be foolish enough to say that Kiko Alonso’s injury was a blessing in disguise, but the injury forced the Bills into playing Bradham. He’s responded well and is playing at an extremely high level. Pro Football Focus currently has him as the fifth best OLB in the NFL. Buffalo has a superstar in the making with Bradham.
Brandon Spikes was also terrific on Sunday in run support. Run defense is his specialty, but he hasn’t been a liability in coverage due to his limited reps on passing downs. It’d be nice to keep Spikes beyond this season, but it’ll depend on what his asking price is and if he’s willing to play in a backup role.
Preston Brown had an average outing on Sunday, but he’s been the best rookie on the team not named Sammy Watkins. Next year, the team will most likely play Brown as their middle linebacker.
Stephon Gilmore and Corey Graham were tremendous on Sunday. Gilmore allowed two receptions on five targets for 17 yards and he intercepted a Manning pass. Corey Graham was targeted four times and gave up two receptions. The receptions went for 20 yards and he also intercepted Manning. Graham made an error in judgment on Gilmore’s interception by retaliating at a cheap shot at his knees, but he needs to know better as it backed Buffalo up. Gilmore was called for pass interference (which was nullified by a Jerry Hughes unsportsmanlike conduct penalty), but his timing was perfect on the play. If anything, Gilmore should have gone for the interception. Nickell Robey struggled a bit in coverage on Sunday but his play has been up and down all season.
As for the safeties, Duke Williams caused a forced fumble towards the end of the first half and his overall play was strong. He played 45 snaps after Da’Norris Searcy left early with an injury. Aaron Williams’ play was decent, but nothing jumped off the page on Sunday.
Special Teams: C-
Dan Carpenter was the lone bright spot among the kickers. He’s very consistent and connected on his lone field goal attempt, a 44 yard kick. He also made both extra point attempts.
Colton Schmidt had a poor performance on Sunday. His three punts averaged 34 yards and his first punt was an absolute dud. It was his worst outing of the season.
Jordan Gay’s performance was also disappointing. The kickoff specialist had two kicks that didn’t come close to going out of the end zone. One was returned for 26 yards and another was returned for 24 yards.
Marcus Thigpen had one kick return and it went for 27 yards. He’s done a nice job since joining the team.
How would you grade Buffalo’s positional units based upon their play in Week 14? Let’s discuss it in the forums!