Inside Bills Report

In this age of specialization in the NFL, there must come a point when common sense dictates how players are utilized, and there is no more of a shining example than Buffalo's misuse of running back Travis Henry.

Because Henry is not particularly adept at pass protection, and isn't exactly Roger Craig as a pass-receiving back, he usually comes out of the game when the Bills are facing a third-down passing situation. For the same reason, he is on the sidelines whenever the Bills are in their two-minute hurry-up mode.

Yet Henry is Buffalo's most productive offensive player, especially this season as wide receiver Eric Moulds has been hampered for more than two months by a painful groin injury. Henry needs to be on the field all the time, but he's not.

At the most critical juncture of Sunday's loss to Tennessee, Henry watched as Drew Bledsoe drove the Bills downfield to a touchdown. Henry isn't a great receiver, but he's not terrible as his 25 catches this season would attest. Yet never did the Titans have to worry about the threat Henry provides. Instead, they concerned themselves with Sammy Morris, Buffalo's third-down back.

So let's review.

The Bills take a guy off the field who now has 1,227 yards rushing, 25 pass receptions for 151 yards and 11 total touchdowns in 14 games this year, and replace him with a guy who has 468 yards rushing, 59 receptions for 438 yards and six total touchdowns in his four-year career.

Even worse than Henry's exclusion from the final drive was his absence on the game's biggest play, the two-point conversion attempt with 24 seconds remaining that could have sent the game into overtime and possibly prolonged Buffalo's playoff hopes another week. Henry was on the bench for that one, too.

"I agree," Henry said with a smile when it was brought to his attention that he should have been on the field for that play which was basically a first-and-goal at the 2. "I want to be on the field to help this football team anyway I can, but with us running the two-minute, that kind of eliminated me."

If Henry was on the field, the Titans would have had to account for him and it might have freed up Bobby Shaw - whom Drew Bledsoe tried to hit for the two-pointer - just enough so that he wouldn't have needed to make a tough diving catch, which he failed to make.

"It doesn't have anything to do with two-minute drill," Henry said of that play. "I would like to be on the field in situations like that, but I wasn't. The game was tight and I feel like if I'm in the game I'm a threat, so it's frustrating not being out there." Rest assured the Titans were glad he wasn't out there on that play.

NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES

--LB Jeff Posey, who struggled for much of the season to make his presence felt on the Buffalo defense, is starting to come around late in the year. He had a sack/forced fumble that resulted in a touchdown return by DT Pat Williams.

--RT Mike Williams is playing better as his second season winds to a close. The former No. 4 overall draft pick has fared well in recent weeks pass blocking as he contained New York's Michael Strahan and didn't allow Tennessee's Jevon Kearse to register a sack when lined up against him.

--LT Marques Sullivan, making his second start of the season in place of injured Jonas Jennings, was beat cleanly by LB Keith Bulluck on a play that resulted in a lost fumble by Drew Bledsoe.

--CB Nate Clements produced his longest punt return of the season, a 35-yarder in the second quarter that helped set up a Bills touchdown. Clements has been returning punts instead of Antonio Brown for the last three games, but this was the first time he made a big play.

--RB Travis Henry surpassed the 1,200-yard mark rushing with a workmanlike 88-yard performance against the Titans. Henry gained 51 of his yards in the second quarter when the Bills turned a 6-0 deficit into a 10-6 halftime lead.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "That was a tough heavyweight fight down to the end. We didn't make enough plays in the second half to finish the game. There's a lot of fight in our locker room and you are always disappointed when you don't make it." - Coach Gregg Williams on the disappointing loss which ended Buffalo's playoff hopes.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

REPORT CARD VS. TITANS

PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus -- For 58 minutes, the Bills were failing miserably through the air and would have received an 'F.' Only the final drive, during which Drew Bledsoe marched them 81 yards for a touchdown that gave them a chance to force overtime, rescued the grade. Before that final possession Bledsoe looked helpless trying to throw against a Tennessee pass defense that entered the game ranked 32nd in the league. However, his receivers didn't give him much help, either. Eric Moulds, Bobby Shaw and Josh Reed weren't able to get open and many times Bledsoe either threw the ball away, threw it incomplete into tight coverage, or dumped it off to his backs and TE Mark Campbell. Reed didn't catch a pass all day and Moulds had only three receptions for 48 yards. The only big play made in the passing game was a 33-yard pass to Shaw that helped set up the final touchdown. The offensive line did a credible job against the dangerous Tennessee pass rush, but LT Marques Sullivan was beaten clean by LB Keith Bulluck and the result was a sack/fumble that ultimately led to a Titans touchdown.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- Going against the No. 1-ranked run defense in the league Travis Henry carried 19 times for 88 yards. As has been the case most of the season, the Bills should have relied more heavily on Henry's legs instead of Bledsoe's arm. Too often Bledsoe threw on first down and when those passes fell incomplete they found themselves in second-and-long, and eventually, third-and-long. Further complicating matters, they struggled to convert third downs for that very reason (2 of 12) and as a result they possessed the ball for just over 23 minutes. Had Henry been utilized more on early downs, the Bills may have been able to sustain drives which would have kept Tennessee's offense off the field. Henry had a number of productive runs, but he also was stuffed on a few occasions when his blocking broke down.

PASS DEFENSE: D -- The Bills thought they were catching a break when it was announced that Steve McNair wouldn't be playing for the Titans. However, backup Billy Volek, in his first NFL start, shredded Buffalo's No. 2-ranked pass defense for 295 yards and a rating of 101.2. Volek stung the Bills a few times with excellent play fakes, and he also willingly threw the deep ball to stretch the field. His favorite target was Derrick Mason who caught nine balls for 137 yards as Mason won his duel with Bills CB Antoine Winfield. Buffalo's pass rush, which has really come on at the end of the season, rang up four more sacks which makes 15 in the last three games. DE Aaron Schobel had two of those while FS Coy Wire had one on a well-conceived blitz and LB Jeff Posey had the other which resulted in a Volek fumble that was returned for a TD by DT Pat Williams.

RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus -- The Bills were primed to shut down Eddie George because they figured once it was revealed that Steve McNair would be replaced by Billy Volek at quarterback for Tennessee, the Titans would try to pound them on the ground. Buffalo did a good job on George, limiting him to 67 yards on 23 carries, and it held the Titans to 2.7 yards per attempt overall. George did manage a few pounding off tackle runs, but for the most part he didn't have much success, especially up the middle where DTs Sam Adams and Pat Williams impersonated mountains. Williams had 11 tackles plus a fumble return for a touchdown, one of his best games of the season. SS Lawyer Milloy played a key role in run support as he piled up a season-high 14 tackles. Buffalo's two leading tacklers this season, LBs London Fletcher and Takeo Spikes, had relatively quiet days a they combined for 16 tackles.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- The Titans turned over their return duties on both punts and kickoffs to Derrick Mason, and it was a change that paid big dividends. Thanks to Mason's ability to find seams and make smart decisions, the Titans average drive start after kickoffs was the 32 as Mason averaged 21.2 yards and had a 34-yard return against a unit that ranked No. 2 in the NFL coming into the game. On punts Mason had 5 returns for 59 yards including a 17-yarder. Buffalo's own return game was typically mundane, save for one punt return by Nate Clements that went for 35 yards and set up a touchdown at the end of the first half. Overall Clements had 3 returns for 50 yards and on kickoffs rookie Antonio Brown continued to struggle as he averaged just 15.2 yards on five attempts. Punter Brian Moorman was steady as usual with a 43.9 gross average and 35.4 net, and kicker Rian Lindell made both of his field goal attempts from 27 and 32 yards on a cold and breezy day at The Coliseum.

COACHING: C -- As has been the case throughout his three-year tenure, Gregg Williams received great effort from his team and it was important in this game as Williams returned to Tennessee for the first time since he was that team's defensive coordinator. The Bills came close to pulling an upset, which would have prolonged their presence in the playoff picture. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride did not make a wise choice on the Bills' two-point conversion attempt at the end of the game. By rolling Drew Bledsoe out to the right he in effect cut the field in half which limited Tennessee's defensive responsibilities, and it took away Bledsoe's option to run up the middle if no one was open. Also, Travis Henry was not on the field so the Titans didn't have to worry about a running play. Defensive coordinator Jerry Gray brought the NFL's No. 2 defense back to Tennessee where he also once worked, and his unit was rocked for 28 points and 349 yards. The Bills did not react well to Billy Volek's play fakes, and no one was capable of covering Derrick Mason.


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