Jets Lose Altitude, Bills Defense Sets Up Offense

<B>In a Sentence: </B> <P> Each week I keep looking for significant offensive improvement yet none has emerged as the Bills still have not proven that they can consistently score starting from their own end of the field.

As well, to clarify, given that this season is shot from a playoff expectations perspective and even of turning a winning season, my analyses are geared towards considering the state of the Bills going forward.

Game Grades:

QB: C This is about the best that the Bills can hope for from Humpty. Having received numerous phone calls and e-mails following this game alerting me to what a great game Humpty Dumpty had. It can only be said that many Bills fans have truly forgotten what it means to have a QB that actually contributes and provides something positive to the offensive fabric of the game. The Bills clearly do not have one. Humpty avoided mistakes and was relatively good at riding himself of the football. He also led the team on only two drives originating beyond the Jets' 24-yard line and that put up points.

I simply cannot understand the support for Humpty even following this game. It was an average game by any NFL standard from top to bottom, if even that, with only a handful of throws worthy of note. For Humpty it may have been above average, but this merely emphasizes the low standard of production that Bills fans have come to accept. Humpty had as many poor and over throws as he did good ones. Had the team had any one of 20 other QBs in the league they likely would have won by 20 given the "flatness" of the Jets.

Humpty did have a beautiful 17-yard run on the only long sustained touchdown drive of the game and contributing to it on a key 3rd-and-4. This was far from a stellar game for him however and one where he "filled in" nicely but did not add much to the offense at all. It will be refreshing to finally have a QB that can bring a reasonable baseline of normalcy to the team for measuring performance, whenever that happens to be. At this point in time it would still be very interesting to see what Matthews has.

RB: B For all the hoopla on McGahee, it should be noted that on the Bills two field goal tries McGahee was ineffective unable to penetrate the endzone on 2nd-and-goal from the Jet 2-yard line at the end of the half, and then unable to move the ball forward on a no-gain run on 2nd-and-goal at the Jet 4 and then subsequently unable to move the ball forward on an 8-yard loss on 3rd-and-goal at the Jet 4 yard line and thereby forcing a field goal. On a side note, about 40% of McGahee's carries in this game were for a loss, no gain, or only a single yard when more than one yard was required. His yardage total was more a result of carry-volume as opposed to explosiveness or speed as his yard-per-carry of a paltry 3.6 yards suggests.

WR: C+ A beautiful TD grab by Lee Evans along with two other very nice grabs showing flashes of future first-receiver potential led the day here, but other than that a very ordinary day for the receivers as a corps. It will be interesting to see the degree of Evans' development in the second half.

TE: N/A No receptions among the group although some solid blocks on several occasions. A quiet day for the most part.

OL: C- McGahee had holes at times and ran well with holes present. At other times he was consumed in the backfield. Humpty was under pressure at times but also had time to set and throw on many plays. The line and Humpty continue to be the two biggest issues on this team.

DL: B+ Chris Kelsay was the lineman-du-jour here with the team's lone sack and good pressure all day. Schobel was held sackless but provided his usual pressure otherwise.

LB: B+ The usual solid day from Fletcher and Spikes with Posey once again being relatively quiet.

DB: C Not a great game here. Sloppy coverage at times left Jet receivers open throughout the game. Poor throws by Pennington as well as dropped balls were the primary culprits as to the seeming success in the passing department. Still, the Jets managed 194 net yards of passing, ten yards more than the Bills net passing tally and in spite of the lack of stellar run production. McGee did not have a good game here. Milloy made the lone interception on the day, the team's fifth on the season and his first.

Coaching: B There has been some speculation amidst the "reasons" given as to why the Bills did not take a shot at the end zone at the end of the first half. There were no timeouts remaining. Perhaps the coaching staff simply had little faith in Humpty's ability to not toss a costly pick or avoid a sack in a pressure situation thereby expiring the clock or ending the drive. Just a thought. It was a decently coached game however, no blunders or bumbling; no marvelous calls either.


Offense: C Give credit where credit is due, not where it is not. The Bills, in spite of amassing 341 net yards of offense only had two scoring drives, one for a field goal, originating in their own half of the field. They put up ten points on their own merits in other words. In spite of all those yards, the Bills only penetrated the end zone twice vs. a flat Jets team. Once on a drive begun at the Jets' 21 on the heels of a fumble recover. This in no way suggests much of an improvement in the offense.

Defense: B+ The defense allowed the Jets to move the ball in the first half for over 200 net yards but played tenaciously throughout much of the game. They also scored 2 points and set up half of the other 20 points by handing the ball to the offense twice just outside the Jet red zone. They also held Curtis Martin, one of the league's top and hottest running backs in check!

Special Teams: C+ The special teams had a decent outing but nothing special other than pinning the Jets to their own 1-yard line on a punt setting up the safety.

The Good:

Excellent time of possession: 37:28-to-22.32.

Zero sacks taken, zero interceptions.

Plus-2 turnover ratio.

Two takeaways.

Evans best game to date.

Once again, one TD drive, begun at the Jet 21, was conducted via four McGahee rushing plays without any help from the passing game.

Defense set up the offense twice, at the Jets' 21 and 24-yard lines; a requirement each week for offensive productivity.

The Bad:

Defense set up the offense twice, at the Jets' 21 and 24-yard lines; a requirement each week for offensive productivity.

1-for-3 in goal-to-go opportunities.

2-for-4 in red zone opportunities with one of the successes coming on a drive begun a yard outside the Jets' red zone!

4.6 yards-per-play offensively.

3.4 yards-per-carry rushing offensively.

On 9 goal-to-go plays, the Bills were able to punch the ball into the end zone on only one of them, the four-yard pass to Evans on 3rd-and-goal from the 4. McGahee tried from the Jets' 6-yard line getting one yard, from the 4 getting none, from the 4 losing 8, and from the 2 getting none.


All in all it was a decent game although to anyone having seen the Jets in a few games this season realizes that they were flat following the Monday Night game last week. They are still a tad bit overrated however. The Jets were clearly uncharacteristic in several ways in this game. The Bills won this game but the particulars surrounding the win were not much different from their other games this season. Twelve, over half, of the Bills 22 points scored were either scored directly or set up by the defense off of takeaways as the offense continued to struggle on its own. Twice the D set the Bills up on the border of the Jets' red zone, once at the 21, once at the 24. The Bills came away with 10 of their 22 points in those two drives.

The good news for the offense is that they were able to put together their longest drive of the season other than the "patch" drive on Moorman's 39-yard run "patching" together two drives on a failed first effort and originating at the Bills 4-yard line. The bad news is that on its own, the offense was unable to score any more touchdowns on the day. The defense had to do it's rendition of NFL T-Ball to push the offense along, again. In fact, on the season, this Bills offense, through eight games, has only managed to score a touchdown in six drives, one of which is the Moorman "patch" drive, on drives originating on their own half of the field. Not good nor an improvement over last season through eight games.

Thus far this season, the average starting field position for the Bills dozen touchdown drives has been at the opponents' 46-yard line. If the Moorman "patch" drive is corrected to begin the drive at the 41-yard line of the Patriots given that it was not a designed play, more a fortunate occurrence off of a grave miscue, then that same average starting field position on Bills' TD drives moves even closer to the opponents' 42-yard line. If nothing else, this should hammer home the extent to which the defense and special teams have played in setting up the Bills' offense this season as well as the offense's inability to move the ball for scores from within its own half of the field.

My Take:

As to McGahee, I see no more quickness or speed out of McGahee than I ever did form Antowain Smith while he was a Bill in his prime. In fact, their styles at present are remarkably similar. McGahee's inability to break 4.0 yards-per-carry, or even come close to it, and against well below average rushing defenses in two contests prevents me from believing that he is anything but average at present.

He did not make a living of eking out four yards-per-carry at the University of Miami nor is that what the Bills drafted him for. He also did not make a living there with a long run of 15 yards on the game and 31 yards on the season. Travis Henry has done that and more last season and in 2002! At that yards-per-carry pace, McGahee would require well over 400 carries to achieve the 1,500 yards that Henry was on pace for last season prior to ending his season injured not to mention his having played on a broken leg for about seven games.

McGahee also nearly fumbled giving the Jets one last chance for a game-winning drive instead getting the first down by millimeters. Do I say this to put McGahee down? No. I say it to utter a word of caution to those believing that at the present time McGahee is the team's long term answer at RB. He still has much improving to do in order to justify the time, opportunity cost, and investment expended on him by the team. I realize many will disagree, but McGahee's "success" thus far is more a machination of a hungry fan-base and media hungry for something positive to hang their hats on! Emotion should never overcome reason, common sense, and sound logic and judgement in the NFL. This is exactly why Commander Tom has failed during his tenure in Buffalo.

Fans and local media should be on guard lest McGahee turn into another Humpty Dumpty from a marketing/media perspective whereby the decision/conclusion that "McGahee is great" precedes the justification for it in exactly the same manner that Humpty's career came about. Doing this can harm the team in the long run. Last season and the season prior, Henry has provided more! McGahee should start the rest of the way but clearly needs to distinguish himself as indisputably better than Henry before the Bills can begin to consider him anything close to what they believed they were getting when they acquired him.

He has had three 100-yard rushing games against two poor teams with bad rushing defenses and vs. the Jets coming out flat after an emotional Monday Night performance. He has averaged a very unimpressive 3.7 yards-per-carry in those games when his counterparts have averaged significantly more in most cases. Often these counterparts have no more experience than McGahee and a fraction of the expectations.

The weeks ahead will provide a better indicator as to exactly where McGahee stands. The final judgment on McGahee should be made at season's end, no sooner. Five of the last eight games are on the road beginning with a tough stretch vs. @ New England, St Louis, and @ Seattle. He can show us what he has in those games. He also needs to make it through a 12 game stretch or so where he is the primary ball carrier and can prove that, for the first time since his junior season in high school, he can make it through such a string without sustaining a knee injury on top of all that. If I had to make a decision today as to which RB to retain heading into the future, it would easily be Henry. As with everyone, I am fully expecting McGahee to show us more. But at present, that "more" has not come to pass.

As to the rest of the game, this game serves as yet another indicator of the stagnancy of the Bills offense and a credit to the defense and special teams which continue to provide the T-Ball environment around which the offense can capitalize. While Humpty made few errors in this game and took no sacks, again, that is about the best that can be expected out him, which to many a fan including myself is unacceptable. Humpty is incapable of coming anything close to consistently being able to spark the team and provide long, sustained drives, and scoring viability. The mantra surrounding his play continues to be one of "if he makes few or no errors, then it is a good game for Humpty indeed!"

The standard for QB play in Buffalo is at such an incredible low these days with the memories of Jim Kelly becoming ever increasingly a distant memory, that a mediocre game is hailed by some as a monumental game. It was certainly far from Montana-like however. My prediction for Humpty, who now stands at 9 TDs to 7 INTs, is more INTs than TDs still by season's end given the upcoming schedule which will separate the men from the boys as it were proverbially.

The next three weeks will provide a much truer indicator as to how close this team is to competing with playoff caliber teams. Keeping it close with the offense being able to move the ball and score from its own territory will indicate success even in the absence of victory. Continued inability to move the ball offensively and decisive wins for the team's opponents over that stretch will indicate that there is much more work to be done and provide further answers as to how effective Commander Tom and Mike Mularkey have been this season.


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