Bills Overcome First Half Slop to Edge Fins

<B>In a Sentence: </B> <P> Superlative second half overcomes pathetic first half.

Game Grades:

The game grades this week will likely be inflated due to the better part of the game being the second half which will be more remembered than the abysmal first half. It is difficult to assess grades based on such diametrically opposed levels of play in the two halves.

QB: B- This is about as good a game that can be expected out of Bledsoe on the whole, and only statistically speaking. Miami rarely blitzed which was an oddity indeed given their past history vs. the Bledsoe-led Bills. Bledsoe had a very solid second half of play. He did little in the first half along with the rest of the offense however. He had only 63 net yards passing in the first half. He had 141 yards passing in the 2nd half however on a very solid 9-of-14 taking no sacks. Still, he had plenty of time in the pocket usually and was aided by a decent rushing effort, again, primarily in the 4th quarter. He threw several risky passes as well, usually with plenty of time.

RB: B+ Willis McGahee's play is what set the tone for this team today. He showed some promise for this season in this game. Is he the McGahee that fans have been awaiting since his well-known and controversial acquisition in the 2003 draft? No. But this is a start. He played his best game as a Bill. Was it exceptional? Again, no. But he continues to show improvement. His continuing to slowly get up, which occurred several times, while favoring his left leg will cause Bills fans to gasp with worry. His first half performance keeps this from being higher.

WR: B+ Moulds had his usual one-man show day. Reed and Evans both contributed nominally. It would appear that Evans missed a route once.

TE: B Mark Campbell continued to show his versatility as an all-around TE. He caught the team's lone offensive TD.

OL: B This Bills line faced few blitzes and limited talent. 34-year old undersized Jeff Zgonina started opposite Tim Bowens at DT for the Dolphins. Yet, they did a decent job providing Bledsoe more than ample time on most occasions and generating just enough holes for McGahee to have decent day. Bledsoe's lone sack came on an extremely critical play with a simple four-man pass rush.

DL: C+ Again, in the 2nd half the DL played exceptionally well. But in the first half they were pushed around by an incredibly lesser OL featuring three players, a rookie, as well as second and third year players starting for the first time this season. Vernon Carey being one of them. The second half was an A++, but the first half was a putrid F.

LB: B London Fletcher's pass coverage skills, or lack thereof, could not have been more glaringly highlighted on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Fiedler to Derrius Thompson to effectively end the first half. A good DB would have intercepted that ball which was very interceptable. Fletcher appeared to be the primary coverage on the 6'2"/220 lb. Thompson. Spikes played well and the linebackers, along with the rest of the team played a very solid second half. The unsportsmanlike conduct penalty following the Spikes INT/TD cost the Bills in field position.

DB: B Solid day all in all with few mistakes. The lack of play of the front-7 was more at fault for the woes of the Bills than the play of the secondary was.

ST: C Nothin' special, nothin' costly.

Coaching: C+ When one half is the antithesis of the other, then it becomes difficult to grade much higher. The halftime adjustments were apparently very good however. The Bills played very sound ball in the second half with some very nice play selections on offense and good pressure on defense. The first half is what prevents this grade from being higher. It was abysmal. There was no excuse for that in Buffalo and vs. Miami, a team now widely regarded as easily having the worst offense in the entire league.

The Good:

The Bills won.

Willis McGahee had a decent game statistically along with a few very good runs indicative of improvement this season and some hope that he will continue to improve significantly. He showed flashes of good second-chance yards and of the versatility that he displayed while at the University of Miami. He put up 142 total rushing/receiving yards.

The Bills allowed only one sack on Bledsoe although the Fins rarely blitzed, surprisingly.

The Bills had well over 100 yards rushing, albeit vs. one of the worst rushing defenses in the league, with the primary ball carrier breaking the 4.0 yard-per-carry mark for the second time this season.

The defense played exceptionally well in the second half allowing only 36 net yards of Miami offense.

The Bills offense played very well in the second half with 242 yards of net offense in the second half.

The second half was well coached.

The Bad:

Once again, the Bills were incapable of breaking the 13-point mark offensively.

They Bills offense played exceptionally poorly in the first half generating only 99 net yards of offense and no points on three drives ending in punts and one on a missed field goal.

The Bills defense played exceptionally poorly in the first half vs. the worst offensive team in the league allowing 176 total net yards, 83 rushing yards on 5.5 yards-per-carry, and 10 Dolphin offensive points.

The Bills only started to play solid ball once they were up demonstrating that they simply cannot seem to put it together when trailing. Given that this team figures to spend far more time trailing than leading, this game offered little hope for success throughout the rest of the season.

The Bills solid second half defensive effort clearly had at least as much to do with Miami's pathetic offensive situation easily rendering them the worst offensive team in the league unmistakably.

Much like the win in Miami in 2002 the Bills needed a defensive touchdown to win this game. In fact, this game may have been played out completely differently had the Bills D (Spikes) not come up huge with an interception return.

Once again the Bills are unable to put a solid game (4 quarters) together. The did string their most productive two quarters/half of team ball together for the first time all season however.

Once again, key mistakes and penalties cost the Bills dearly in this game.

This win, while a win, was unimpressive for the most part.

Once again, the only touchdown generating drive was set up by the special teams at the Miami 37-yard line. There were no long successful offensive drives otherwise.

Nearly half of the Bills' net offensive yardage and 60% of the Bills' rushing yardage came while the Bills led throughout the 4th quarter.

The Bills were 1-for-3 in both red zone as well as goal-to-go efficiency.

The Bills allowed the Dolphins to rush for 111 yards on 4.4 yards-per-carry on the day.

Sammy Morris looked like a top running back rushing for 91 yards on 18 carries and 5.1 yards-per-carry and shone as brightly as McGahee.

If Jay Fiedler does not trip over himself on 2nd-and-2 at the Buffalo 2-yard line at the end of the third quarter resulting in a TD instead of a FG, then the dynamics of the game change in Miami's favor during the fourth quarter when the Bills were against a very significant head wind.

It should not have taken well into the 4th quarter for the Bills to have put the lowly Dolphins away!

The Dolphins clearly are the worst team in the league.

Summary:

The first half of this game by the Bills was absolutely pathetically played. The Dolphins put up almost twice the net yardage that the Bills did during the first half, 176 net yards to 99. Sammy Morris, yes, Sammy Morris, ran roughshod over the Bills front-7 in the first half making them look very collegiate. In the first half the Bills only had a single drive of more than 23 net yards and that drive was an unimpressive 38 yards and resulted in a missed field goal.

The second half told a different story however and was the complete antithesis. The Bills dominated that half allowing the Dolphins only 36 net yards of offense while putting up 242 of their own, most of which came in the fourth quarter. Playing with a rare lead was the primary factor in this cause.

Willis McGahee was unimpressive until the fourth quarter where he carried 11 times for 61 yards, over half of his rushing output on the day vs. a war-weary and clearly downtrodden Miami defensive line and front-7. His long run on the day was a very impressive 31 yard jaunt down the right sideline giving 210 lb. free safety Antuan Edwards the stiff-arm of the day shedding him with relative ease.

Eric Moulds had his usual "one-man receiving corp" day. I am not emphasizing Lee Evans dropped ball simply because it was a first time occurrence and nothing to panic over. If this continues to occur with Bobby Shaw type frequency, then it can be brought up as the season goes on. There is no reason to think that this was anything other than simply a one-sy rookie hiccup.

All in all McGahee showed improvement and flashes of what fans hope he will become. He clearly has a ways to go to be able to claim such a status. Hopefully this game was a harbinger of sorts for what the Bills can expect going forward and into next season. Hopefully he can stay healthy. He got up grimacing a few too many times yesterday favoring his left leg/knee/ankle not exactly rendering assurances that he is not injury prone.

The Bills defense played poorly in the first half prior to beating up the Dolphin offense in the second half. The downside of this, in both of those regards, is that the Dolphin attack has no bonafide running back in spite of Morris' success, and their line was starting young first year starters Seth McKinney at C, Taylor Whitley at RG, and Vernon Carey at RT. This Bills defense should not have been controlled in the first half and should have done what it did in the second all game long given this if it were anywhere as good as many think it is.

The Bills should not take this victory as any sort of indication that they are all of a sudden on the verge of turning things around. McGahee's performance however certainly should intrigue Bills fans and the team should continue to look down the road to next season by continuing to start McGahee for two reasons: first, to see how he holds up over a long string of NFL-caliber games (knee/injury wise); and second, to see whether or not he actually develops into the back that fans hope he will turn into thus providing necessary insight as to the future of the Bills regarding their running back situation. He certainly is not there yet however, although he made strides in this game.

My Take:

Does this win dismiss notions that this Bills team is not ready for primetime? No, most certainly not. This week's Q&A can spare fans the "if we lost four straight, then we can win four straight" nonsense. Was what fans saw of the Bills in this game indicative of playoff caliber play? No, absolutely not. Not even close in fact. In fact, a strong argument can be made that if the Dolphins were any one of 30 other teams in the league this week, then the Bills walk away with another loss.

If anything, this game only proves that this Bills team is marginally better than these woeful Dolphins. If Takeo Spikes does not capitalize off of a Fiedler pass for an INT/TD combo, then the same argument can also be made. Throw in Fiedler's unforced slip at the other end on 2nd-and-2 and the win becomes even less impressive.

The Bills only played well when leading today. Had Spikes not made that play and Fiedler that slip, it could very well have altered the dynamics of the game with opposite results, something that Bills fans are loath to consider.

Before I forget, can someone please explain to me, again, why Ron Edwards is not starting! He's not even in his prime yet at 25 and is second on this team in sacks thus far behind Aaron Schobel. He is easily the best DT pass rusher on the team and plays at least as well as Adams, and yes, I hesitate to say it, but Williams as well. He also plays the run very well. The upside is astronomical. The Bills had better take note lest Edwards depart for greener pastures (not the Ricky Williams kind) in order to become a starter once his contract expires. He should already be starting in place of Adams who takes too many plays off!

As a whole it was a decent game. It only becomes disappointing when one considers the opponent. As well, had this game been in Miami, it would also be a good argument that the Bills would have struggled to put up a W.

I stated prior to the game that in order for this team to impress this week, they had to put up 20-some offensive points against an overrated Miami defense that is unsupported by its offense and ranks near the bottom in stopping the run. That did not happen with only thirteen offensive points put up, again coupled with an abysmal first half performance at home no less. This Miami defense was not as good as the Miami defenses of old. Their offense is pathetic and the fact that they dusted this Bills defense in the first half is shameful quite frankly.

Nevertheless, I suppose a win is a win although it should always be considered against whom the win came. It came clearly against the league's worst team, at home, and with only a solid half, primarily fourth quarter of play and then only while ahead. This is consistent with other Bills wins during the Bledsoe era. This victory while keeping the Bills from stealing the honors for league's worst team, will not boost them in the power rankings by much if anything at all. This game was not indicative that the Bills "are back" by any stretch. The Bills are on pace to finish 3-13 at this point and they will have to beat at least one other team better than Miami to achieve even that. They do not figure to do so by continuing to only be able to put up 14 or fewer offensive points. To date, the Bills are averaging 11.4 offensive points-per-game.

The Bills have 11 games remaining, six of which are on the road beginning next week in Baltimore. Following that they host Arizona and the Jets prior to rounding out the season with five of eight games on the road. Does this week's eked out victory over what is clearly the league's worst team translate to a big shot-in-the-arm? Hardly. It only proves that the Bills at home were only marginally better than what is unarguably now the league's worst team. Even then, only for a single half of play. Both teams put up identical amounts of points offensively on the Bills home turf. This is the biggest statement of the day.

To discuss this article or other issues on the Bills, Tune into "The 2004 Bills Report" which can be heard live on Thursday evenings from 7 to 9 p.m. over the Internet at www.broadcastmonsters.com. Call into the show live at 1-877-913-9739.

Comments: mweiler.billsreport@cox.net


Buffalo Football Report Top Stories