Special Teams Production Propels Bills To Victory

<B>In a Sentence: </B> <P> Special teams dominated the day with 204 return yards, 1 touchdown, and set up the offense for all five of it's scores, four times at the Cardinals' 30-yard line or closer.

Game Grades:

QB: D- Bledsoe, while having two touchdowns, no interceptions, and a passer rating in this game of 100.4, did little to help the team. Other than those two touchdown passes Bledsoe was 6 of 15 for 61 yards. He did absolutely nothing in getting the Bills to the point where he threw the touchdown passes. He threw no prior passes at all on the Bills first TD drive and he threw only two on the last TD drive, one falling incomplete the other to Moulds for 23 yards on a sneak deep throw on 4th-and-5, more a product of a good play design and capitalizing on an unsuspecting defense. He did nearly throw a couple of interceptions and had poor throws throughout the day getting booed routinely from the onset of the game.

RB: B I realize this is going to be unpopular, but it's a good thing that my reputation has not been built on saying what is popular, rather what is truthful. McGahee had a good game, not a great one by any stretch. Yes he had 102 yards, but on 30 carries for only a 3.4 yard-per-carry average. Of that 102, 4 carries for 50 yards were on the Bills first scoring drive which was by far the longest offensive scoring drive of the day starting at the Bills' own 45-yard line. McGahee deserves big props for providing that drive all by himself.

Throughout the rest of the game however, McGahee had 26 carries for 52 yards, a 2.0 yards-per-carry average and was 15 for 24 (1.6 ypc) over the last 50 minutes of the game and in the second half when we really needed him! While everyone will be hooting and hollering, suffice it to say that consistency was not his strong suit on Sunday. It has been the single biggest knock of his early career. The Cards allow an average of 4.5 ypc, McGahee averaged over a full yard below that. His blocking was solid.

WR: C This group was quiet in elements not favorable to a passing game. Bledsoe's play did not help matters here as Bledsoe's good passes can be counted on one hand.

TE: B Tim Euhus had a great catch of 4 yards followed by an 8-yard after-the-catch jaunt to the endzone on a very well designed/run play. Otherwise quiet in the receiving department. Blocking was decent.

OL: D+ The rushing game averaged 3.4 yards-per-carry, the offense barely broke 200 yards of offense, and the passing game had 81 total yards on the day. Just as when Henry is in there, there are often few holes for the RBs to run through. If the Bills had not gotten four "T-Ball" opportunities set up by the special team at the Cards' 26, 19, 11, and 30 yard lines going in, this offense would have once again struggled due largely to the line's inability to move the Card defensive line with consistency. All three of the aforementioned TDs came in the fourth quarter.

DL: C+ Once again, the defense was dominated by Emmitt Smith and Troy Hambrick in the first half. Emmitt is a washed up 35-year old RB and Hambrick nothing special. The Card rushing game had 97 yards in the first half with barely any support from their passing offense and completely predictable offensive play-calling. The defensive line was constantly pushed off the line-of-scrimmage in the first half and dominated by the Cards' OL. Two of the team's three sacks, against "standout" Josh McCown, were on blitzes by the DBs. Again, why isn't Ron Edwards starting?? He had the other.

LB: B Solid albeit quiet day. Good day by Fletcher and Spikes to a lesser extent. Quiet day from Posey.

DB: B- Good game overall aided by inaccurate passes to receivers which were sometimes open. Good run support and pass pressure.

ST: A++ The special teams set up every offensive touchdown of the game and scored one of its own! The offense had very little work to do en route to putting up 28 points!

Coaching: B Decent day against a team that made it easy. Exceptional execution and individual player performance were by far the greater factors in the win however. Versus another team and/or in better weather, the game would have been much closer. The team was unable to put this game away until the fourth quarter against a team begging to have been shut down sooner. If the special teams had not come up big in this game, the result could easily have been a loss.

Overall:

Offense: C The Bills once again demonstrated little ability to move the ball consistently or for any distance other than on a single scoring drive and then only after being set up at their own 45-yard line. The average scoring drive was less than 28 yards long. The average non-scoring drive other than the last drive of the game to run out the clock was less than 3-yards long. Two scoring drives begun in the Cards' red zone, two began inside their 30-yard line.

Defense: C If the special teams had not set up every single offensive point in this game and scored seven of them, the Cardinals may have won this game. The Cardinals are well below average in all offensive categories and averaged well beyond their average rushing production mostly via a 35-year old RB that has not had a 1,000 yard season dating back to 2001 and is well past prime, clearly. The defense allowed almost 100 rushing yards in the first half in spite of the Cards not showing anything in their passing game due to the bad weather. Again, the defense only showed up for a half with the line getting dominated by the Cards' line in the first half. Had the Cards had a better more experienced QB, then this game may have had a completely different outcome. Cardinal penalties often negating big plays assisted the defense in this game.

Special Teams: A++ The special teams was 90% responsible for winning this game!

The Good:

The special teams was on fire!!

Terrence McGee had his second kickoff return for a TD of the season! He is developing nicely as what would appear to be one of the league's premier KO returners.

31 "offensive" points paved the way to the Bills highest offensive point total of the season.

Special teams set up all five offensive drives, four times at the Cards' 30-yard line or closer, twice within the Cards' red zone, "T-Ball" style.

McGahee and the rushing game broke 100 yards.

Third-down conversions were about average, not abysmal.

Red Zone opportunities were 4-for-5.

Goal-to-go opportunities were 3-for-3.

Penalties did not kill the Bills.

The Bills had no turnovers.

Moorman's punts were very good in poor weather.

The Bills got two rushing touchdowns.

The average length of the Bills' scoring drives was less than 28 yards!

The Bad:

The average length of the Bills' scoring drives was less than 28 yards!

In spite of the Cardinals doing their best to give the game to the Bills via sloppy play in the inclement weather, it took the Bills over three quarters to finally lock this win down.

Once again, the offense only seems to be able to score once the defense or special teams sets it up. The Bills five scoring drives all came courtesy of the special teams giving them field position at their own 45 and at the Cards' 26, 19, 11, and 30 yard lines.

Bledsoe played poorly, ….AGAIN! He was fortunate to not have been intercepted on several occasions.

No takeaways vs. a team against which it should have been highly probable and in weather facilitating it on top of that.

The Bills were only able to generate a single sack from their front-7.

The special teams generated 204 yards while the offense generated only 209 against a team ranking average or below in all primary defensive rankings. The offense should have been able to generate more on its own. The average non-scoring drive was fewer than 3 yards with no drive greater than 15 yards other than the last drive of the game to kill the clock when it was long over and the Cards clearly allowing the clock to expire.

There was only one offensive drive greater than 30 net yards and it was only 55 yards with five of those on a penalty.

Other than on the Willis McGahee TD drive, second drive of the game, whereby McGahee was responsible for the entire 50 yards of offense produced, on the other 7 drives, and prior to the last game ending drive, the Bills managed only 17 yards of offense on those seven drives!

The Cardinals were clearly affected by the weather conditions (rain, wind, and cold), yet the Bills could not capitalize on the mishandlings and sloppy play of the Cards by generating even a single turnover.

Josh McCown outhussled and outplayed Bledsoe.

Vinny Testeverde at 40-years old is outperforming Bledsoe easily this season!

The defense allowed nearly 100 yards of Cards rushing in the first half, most of which came at the hands of a 35-year old Emmitt Smith.

Average yards-per-carry for the Bills was once again a very sub par and concerning 3.4 ypc. Against the Cardinals this should have been higher. The Cards average allowed on the season is 4.5 ypc.

Summary:

On the surface it might appear that in this game the offense "finally woke up." Nothing could be further from the truth. The offense took the same snooze that it usually does with the simple exception that it was able to capitalize in red zone opportunities handed to them by the special teams. But make no mistake, it was the success of the special teams that set up all five offensive scores with almost unheard of field position.

As well, all four offensive TDs were scored with the wind on short fields, three of the four very short. Punt returns on the heels of solid defensive play in the second half primarily, set up offensive field position at the Cards' 19, 11, and 30-yard lines respectively on the Bills last three touchdown drives all occurring in the fourth quarter. The first scoring drive (field goal) was also set up by a punt return pushing the starting field position to the Cards' 26-yard line, again, already within field goal range.

The offense otherwise in seven drives, between their second drive whereby Willis McGahee rushed for all 50 offensive yards on four plays, netted only 17 yards, 2.4 yards per drive. In the first drive of the game, a scoring drive for a field goal, the offense was once again set up inside the Cards' 30-yard line and could only convert a field goal.

Every single one of the Bills scoring drives except for one was set up by the special teams at the Cardinals' 30-yard line or closer. The other drive was set up by the special teams at the Bills' 45-yard line. This will not occur in every game needless to say once again raising the unviability of this offense to be able to produce any points or move the ball with any consistency or distance on its own merits from well within its own half of the field. Had the weather not been poor these occurrences likely would not have taken place.

The bottom line is that 80%, or greater, of the offense's success in this game was entirely predicated on the play of the special teams thereby not coming anywhere close to erasing the doubts of the anemic play of the offense thus far this season.

My Take:

All in all this was an enjoyable game and a fun one to be at despite the inclement weather. But the play of the special teams set up every single point scored by the team in this game! Every single one and even scored seven on their own merits.

Special teams play such as this each week is highly unlikely, clearly. It was a refreshing change of pace as well, but this game did absolutely nothing to dismiss the obvious offensive woes that the Bills have been experiencing. The offense must begin to learn to score and move the ball on its own from within its own end of the field. There are not too many teams that will put up 38 points on scoring drives totaling 134 yards. As of yet throughout this season, more points than not have been set up, or actually scored, by the efforts of the defense and special teams than on the merits of the offense by itself.

The offense, and the team, cannot rely on this to propel them to a victory each week. Had this been many other teams than the Cards, this game would have been much closer. Had the weather been better, this game would have been much closer.

The inclement weather was clearly a major factor for these Cards who never gave up heart and played heartily all the way to the end of the game, more than can be said for the way the Bills have played this season.

Nevertheless, the Bills have established some momentum. It will be interesting to see if some of this momentum translates to next week's game vs. the Jets or whether this game was such an emotional win that a letdown results. Either way, next week's game vs. the Jets who are acclimated to poor weather will be a much better indicator. The Bills will have an edge in that game given that the Jets will be coming off a Monday night game vs. a divisional opponent.

Comments: mweiler.billsreport@cox.net


Buffalo Football Report Top Stories