Colts buck Bills

Through three quarters on Sunday the Bills defense had only allowed one touchdown over the last 10 quarters and had only allowed one fourth quarter touchdown over the last five games. On Sunday against the Colts, the Bills took charge two plays into the 4th quarter after going ahead 14-3.

But alas, there was no "circling of the wagons" in the 4th thereafter. Rather, the fourth quarter more closely resembled a wholesale giveaway grand opening of freebies in order to attract customers.

In the fourth quarter the Bills surrendered nearly twice as many rushing yards and half as many passing yards as they had through three quarters on Sunday. The bargain basement bonanza had begun!

Game Grades:

QB: C- Bledsoe continues to struggle to be able to identify blitz matchup issues. Too many errant passes to be anything better here. He played error free ball until the last play but unfortunately also played "production free" ball as well.

RB: A Once again, Henry provides the clout for the O! Henry accounted for 50% of the Bills total net yardage produced by the offense.

WR: C+ Poorly thrown balls were the major reason why the Bills' passing game was not more effective. Yet, the Bills' WRs were average.

OL: B+ For once, other than Ruben Brown's lapse on the Bills' last play, the offensive line played well. Run blocking was very good and even pass protection was above average. This line has clearly improved since the beginning of the season and continues to do so. I dare say that if the last three weeks are any indication, then Pucillo is no longer its weak link leaving that honor to Teague.

TE: C Moore had one key dropped ball. The TEs were neither in Gilbrides' game plans nor on Drew's "target list" apparently with no catches on the day. Blocking was solid.

DL: D Same old, same old. Even two rookie starting offensive linemen, right guard (opposite Adams) and left tackle (opposite Schobel), could not make the Bills defensive line look good. There simply is never any pressure generated from only the front four and there was nothing new in that department this Sunday. James had 108 rushing yards on the day 68 of which came in the 4th quarter. Again, not a single sack and few pressures.

LB: C- This just in, the Bills LBs still struggle in pass coverage. Again, through three quarters they were average or above, but ouch, that fourth quarter…

DB: C+ The secondary relied too much on balls dropped by Colt players, poor throws by Manning, and not enough on good coverage and good defense.

ST: B+ Moorman Da Man! A 49.0 punting average and a 46.2 net punting average highlighted the day for special teams. KO returns were good. It would be quite fitting this season if Moorman were to be the Bills only Pro Bowl starter and Henry were to be a backup as the only two Bills representatives.

Coaching: D+ For three quarters is was decent, B-. For the last quarter it was pathetic, F--.

Key Plays:

Moorman's mishandling of the snap followed by his run of 37 yards to set the Bills up 1st-and-10 with a fresh drive at the Colts' 35 yard-line.

Edgerrin James' fumble on 2nd-and-5 on which would have been close to a first down run near the goal line and which gave the ball back to the Bills to end the half with the Bills leading 7-3. It was the Colts' only turnover of the game.

Bledsoe's interception on 2nd-and-2 at the Bills' 46 yard-line. First of all, needing only a field goal to tie and having all three timeouts remaining, why did the Bills not attempt a draw play or other run simply to get the first down and surprise the Colts. The rushing game was more productive than the passing game to boot. If they absolutely needed to pass, then why attempt what looked to be an over-the-middle throw whereby they likely would have had to call a timeout immediately following the play regardless.

Those three plays had the biggest impacts of any on the game. The first allowed the Bills to score their first touchdown in the last 14 quarters and go into the lockerroom at the half leading 7-3. The second negated what would have likely been a Colt TD to take a 10-7 Colt lead into the lockerroom at the half and is what kept the Bills in the driver's seat through three quarters. The last ended the game and removed hopes of the Bills attempting a field goal to send the game into overtime.

On the third down just prior to Moorman's mishandling of the long snap before he ran it for a first down, Bledsoe was sacked on a play that had five Colt players on the line with only five Bills offensive linemen in to block and were showing a sixth. Picking that blitz up should not have been difficult yet Drew did not do it resulting in what would have been a key sack had the "Moorman play" not unfolded as it had.

As well, Drew missed Josh Reed over-the-middle with a ball thrown ahead of Reed and low where had Bledsoe hit Reed in stride the result would have been a sizeable gain on 2nd-and-5 from the Colt 30. I only mention this due to all the emphasis by much of the media and fans on Bills' receivers dropping passes. Many are of this variety where the ball is poorly thrown. I counted 7 such poorly thrown balls in this game not including the interception that ended the game.

The "wheels began to fall off the cart" in the 4th quarter when the "traditional poor coaching" for the Bills kicked in with just less than a quarter remaining in the game and with the Bills leading 14-3. Of James 108 yards on the game, 68 came after that point in the game in the 4th quarter. To complement James' rushing, the Bills D allowed Manning virtual free-reign to go 8-of-11 for 70 yards, nearly a third of his game total. Two of those incompletions were dropped balls by Harrison and Wayne. While the lone sack of the day, as usual, courtesy of a member of the secondary, also came during those two Indy drives it was not nearly enough to offset a monster Colt offensive 4th quarter performance.

Moreover, the Bills never rushed more than four players throughout the two Colt drives in the 4th quarter. The translation, for those new to Bills football in '03, is that there was absolutely no pass rush throughout the quarter. I have no idea what the coaches were thinking giving Manning so much time. Complimenting this of course was Greg Williams' "Maginot Line" version of a zone defense for Manning to make sport of. I suppose there is no need to even ask why at this point as Bills fans await the imminent firing of Williams and Gilbride at the end of the season. Nevertheless, coaching performances such as this fourth quarter headscratcher certainly do not make fans wonder why Williams' head is on the block with the blade already in the process of falling.

The coup de grace in the 4th quarter came on James' 14-yard touchdown run at the 10:48 mark. While after a failed two-point conversion bringing the Colts to within five at 14-9, the run gave the Colts the hope and momentum that they needed to steal this one out from under the Bills. Combined with the vacation that the Bills took on defense the rest of the way, this set the table for the Colt win.

The Bills D held the Colts to only 3 points, approximately a 24-minute to 21-minute advantage in time-of-possession, and approximately only 40 yards rushing and 160 yards passing through three quarters. In the fourth quarter, the Bills yielded over two-thirds of that yardage total, two touchdowns, and approximately 11 minutes in time-of-possession to gift-wrap the game.

The bow of course was Ruben Brown's doing his best imitation of a turnstile allowing Chad Bratzke to come flying through the line and into Bledsoe's face forcing an interception in a "here, you take it" paltry rookie-like attempt on 2nd-and-2 to get rid of the ball and effectively ending the game. Do I blame Bledsoe for that? No, not particularly, I blame Ruben "Pro Bowl" Brown for it, however, Drew could have thrown the ball away given that Bratzke had come from head-on and Drew did have a couple of seconds to react and throw the ball away on a very key 2nd-and-2.

This win signified much of what is wrong with the Bills this season. Expect an underachieving performance next week vs. the Giants on the road where the Bills struggle to score after such an emotional meltdown and a completely deflating loss.


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