The Bills are Becoming Like a Box of Chocolates:

<P>Where the Bills dug this game out from is anyone's guess. <P> <B>In a Sentence: </B> <P> All things considered, this is the best overall game that the Bills have played during the Commander Tom era! <P> In a word: Enigmatic!

Game Grades: Humpty really tried hard to give this game away and swing the momentum at three key times during the first thirty-three minutes of play, but the sun was shining where it usually does not for Humpty and the Bills.

QB: C+ Classic Humpty! He makes enough throws to impress you but also makes enough unforced errors to give the game away blighting his positives. The difference in this one, the Hawks couldn't take advantage of Humpty's pre-holiday gift giving. No thanks to Humpty of course as he did his best. I wonder my little head off what, oh what, this team would have been like this season with another QB and a couple of decent linemen that could have been gotten with the $8 million Humpty money. Somehow I get a whiff of 9-2.

Humpty was the weak link in a game otherwise without major flaw for the most part. He was also the primary reason for the team's ability to move the ball. Go figure. Sure, he had some good reads, but three turnovers were all absolutely horrendous unforced interceptions by Humpty in situations where time was not an issue. He nearly threw two or three others as well. He played relatively well otherwise really being nearly the sole purpose that the Bills moved the ball for most of the game, but those two factors outweigh each other to produce an average grade. Humpty threw another poor ball that nearly ended up another interception yet which ended up being a caught tipped pass on the last play of the first quarter. His TD pass to Lee Evans was a wee bit underthrown with a spectacular grab by Evans with a defender in his face.

He also rarely faced any blitzes with his sole sack coming on a straight four-man pass rush. When he did, he was either superb or abysmal. I counted nine blitzes, most with only five rushers. On two of them Humpty threw interceptions and nearly threw a third on another. He had time and protection on each of his INTs. He also threw out of those blitzes on five of them. Generally speaking, even on blitz plays, Humpty had more than ample time.

Losman should start next week. Seeing Losman in there moving about and scrambling with more deftness than a truck with two flat tires was intensely refreshing and reminiscent of what better QBs can do apart from simply throw the ball and then only sporadically. I dare say, had the Bills had a different QB from day one, I am of the opinion that they might very well be 8-3 or 9-2 at this point and right in the thick of things for a playoff berth in spite of the weaknesses of the line. While playoffs will not happen this season, it is still wise to get Losman some mileage under his wheels.

RB: B+ Willis took a beating in this game beginning to prove some durability, which is good. He was also ineffective moving the ball through three quarters despite the passing offense clicking on all cylinders. McGahee's rushing in this game was more a derivative of the Bills success as opposed to a reason for it.

Through three quarters Willis had amassed only 61 yards on 21 carries for an average per carry of only 2.9 yards and rushed for only three first downs on the game. No one can make the statement that this was the reason for the Bills' offensive success throughout most of the game. Humpty's 22-of-32 for 242 yard performance, in spite of his interceptions and poor throws otherwise, carried this team through three quarters. If such a statement were made about another team that played a such, the person making such an assessment would be seriously challenged on why that conclusion was reached.

In the fourth quarter after the Hawks' defense had begun to tire en route to the Bills' 36-to-24 minute time-of-possession domination, McGahee began to run better going 7 for 55 in the fourth quarter. Of the team's 25 first downs, McGahee rushed for 3 of them. He was not a factor in the Bills domination in this game. He benefited from it. He rarely ran against much other than a four-man front with Seattle approaching this game much the way Jacksonville had, namely rarely blitzing. Interestingly it was Humpty playing good-cop, bad-cop moving the ball as well as providing the turnovers.

Understandably he had four touchdowns, but he was simply not impressive in moving the ball down to the goal lines on his TD drives. The upside is that his goal-to-go runs were noticeably better and very good this week. His single 30-yard run was the most impressive but was more the result of a trick/sneak play call on 4th-and-1 than it was of any speed or physical running of his own. The play ended up drawing defenders to the middle and giving him an opportunity to run virtually untouched to the endzone with a great move to stretch the ball across the goal line while being pushed out of bounds. Where he was far more effective than he's been in the past is down near the goal line. Again, a good thing.

The goal for McGahee this season is clear, to keep himself healthy. He can work on resurrecting his lost speed this offseason and next season. With Henry suffering a broken leg, any "controversy" for this season just ended. Either way, prudence says to start McGahee. He has a great stiff-arm and his speed seems to be coming back. Hopefully by season's end he will be showing the abilities that he had at Miami.

WR: A Great catches, no big drops. They did their job. Moulds and Evans had very good days with no drops and together did 80% of the work of this group. Aiken and Smith caught three passes combined as the third and fourth wideouts.

TE: A Good blocking! Good receiving with 5 catches for 53 yards between Campbell and Euhus.

OL: B Oddly, pass blocking was better than run blocking. Much of the reason why McGahee did not run better had to do with the line. The criticism of him above is simply to counter notions that he is "superman" at this point in time. If he were "his old U. of Miami self", then he'd have done more in spite of "less than superb" run blocking.

DL: A+ Due to an earned time-of-possession, the defensive line was fresh and outstanding. The front-7 was the primary reason for shutting down the league's top rusher! Ryan Denney with a forced fumble setting up the Bills last touchdown.

LB: A+ The linebackers share in the kudos for shutting Alexander down! The linebackers were superb today including the subs. Spikes was excellent.

DB: B The Seahawk receivers were open often. Either Hasselbeck was off or they were dropping balls like leaves falling off the trees in autumn. Had Hasselbeck not been off and the Hawk receivers not dropped so many balls, not to mention a very significant non-called pass interference call against McGee, then the Seahawks would have remained in this game. Terrence McGee escaped his blatant pass interference following Humpty's second interception nearly costing the Bills 40-yards and a Hawk first-and-ten at the Bill 25. The DBs were solid in run defense. McGee had an interception of a Jabari Greer tipped pass.

Lawyer Milloy had a nice hit on Mili forcing the ball loose and nearly resulting in a fumble in the third quarter. Rashad Baker made a diving attempt at an interception and provided solid play, especially as an undrafted free agent and will hopefully provide a breath of fresh air there at safety moving forward.

Coaching: A Whatever mistakes were made on the field today, they were not coaching errors for the most part. Once the Bills were up by 21, perhaps the coaching should have kept a lid on the trick and misdirectional plays so as not to pull out all the stops in one game, especially when not necessary. The onside kick to begin the second half was outstanding and would have iced the game had Humpty not thrown his third interception to kill the subsequent drive. Also, there's still too much passing at times. It could easily have cost the Bills today if the Hawks had not been so inept within themselves. Also, hats off to the coaching staff for not going into a prevent defense late in the game and for continuing to apply pressure on Hasselbeck even on the last drive.

Overall: A Some unquestionable play-calling for a change. Trick plays worked and were timely although slightly overused.

Offense: A While it may not have been pretty at times, the Bills got it done on O and on the road as well. Three INTs, again, nearly two or three more, could very well have altered the outcome of this game. But for the first time all season, the offense moved the ball and scored all by itself without the aid of insane special teams play or defensive set ups.

Still concerning is the Bills inability to get anything more than nominal rushing production out of their offense on any consistent basis on a team purported to be built on power-rushing.

Defense: A+ Shut down the top rusher in the NFL and held an effective passing game to nominal production.

Special Teams: B Gee! Lindell missed a 53-yard field goal. Imagine that!

That decision to attempt a field goal from 53 with Lindell goes into the "coaching headscratcher of the day" category. The application of a rule for leaping that I have always regarded as ridiculous bailed the Bills out of that horrid decision and subsequent failed field goal. The special teams was called upon to do little otherwise with only two punt returns, two kickoff returns, one punt, but seven kickoffs. The majority of the special teams work was not by the strength of the special teams, it was by Lindell. Nevertheless, as a group they get a mulligan given that they have largely been responsible for the other four wins.

The Good:

A BIG win on the road!

38 points, 31 of which was earned entirely by the offense for the first time this season and for the first time in who-knows-how-many games.

Apparently Losman "is ready."

9-of-15, 60%, 3rd-down efficiency.

4-of-6 red zone efficiency.

4-of-4 goal-to-go efficiency.

Over 36 minutes, 60% time-of-possession.

6 penalties for 44 yards.

Having the Bills offense do the work for points instead of requiring the defense and special teams to set up all the points.

Coaching was solid.

This is the first game where "the good" heartily outweighs "the bad."

This was the first four-quarter football game that the defense has played as a unit.

The defense and offense picked up the slack on an otherwise quiet special teams day.

The Bills put up more offensive points on the road this week (31) than they have in all four prior road games on the season. (30)

The Bad:

Three INTs and nearly two or three others with protection/time not being an issue at all.

In spite of being able to punch the ball in on runs, the Bills still struggle to use the run effectively throughout the game and certainly far from consistently.

Summary:

If someone had laid out the box score of this game with the team names scratched out ahead of time and fans had to guess which team was which, most would have guessed the opposite as to what occurred. The next several games will be interesting to be sure.

This game was the anti-season for the Bills. Not only did they play well, but they played well on the road. The offense was able to stand on its own for the first time all season. The defense played outrageously and vs. a very solid offensive unit although they seemed a bit out of sync notwithstanding. The Bills D took it to the Seahawks in their own house and in spades! Understandably the Seahawk defense was somewhat decimated and not their original unit this season, nevertheless, on the road this was a big boost for this team shedding the holocaust cloak that has covered them on the road.

My Take:

The Bills are an enigma! What a strange season for this team. Weird and surreal are two other appropriate descriptors for the Bills this season. Reviewing this game on tape was refreshing however and fun for a change. I will throw a wet blanket on things as well with a word of cautioning pointing out that the Bills have yet to beat a halfway decent team that has played well. The only two teams worth even mentioning in their five wins were Seattle this past Sunday as well as the Jets following their Monday night game. The Rams are a .500 team which will be fortunate to make the playoffs. The Hawks over the past few weeks, and completely in hindsight, are a team that lost to Arizona and barely beat Carolina and Miami, both home games. They have now lost five of their last eight.

I will stand by my assessments that the Bills, in order to prove an improvement over last season will need to beat some teams that are in the winning team category. Throughout the Commander Tom era, this team has only been able to beat .500 or worse teams and thus far, there is nothing on the season to suggest anything any different.

Next week would be a great week to tryout JP Losman. Ahem!! Apparently "he's ready."

Again, I have a very difficult time believing that had the Bills released Humpty this past offseason and put the freed up $8 million towards some solid linemen, with Jeff Blake or another QB that this team would not be 9-2 right now and making a strong bid for post season honors! No one can convince me otherwise.

Other than McGahee continuing to learn the ropes and work himself back up to speed coupled with an offensive line that overachieved this week and is somewhat talent-challenged, the sole weakness of the offense was Humpty. Yes, he played well for the most part, but that does not mitigate three sole turnovers and the team's only giveaways and what could easily have been two or three more.

The Bills needed this game, but they absolutely need to continue to look down the road. As well, a big week vs. a decent team on the road does not automatically guarantee wins or playing well vs. "lesser" teams yet to come on the schedule.

As well, with the status of Pat Williams and Ron Edwards as free agents uncertain coupled with Adams and Williams aging out of their prime, I would like to see Tim Anderson some throughout the remainder of this season and it would be wise to play him. Again, the way that this Bills team has played throughout the Commander Tom era, nothing should be taken for granted, especially following unusual games such as this one.

The "mathematical" odds of the Bills making the playoffs are so ridiculously remote that they should only be sought after other team interests moving forward are considered. Losman should play. Continuing to play Humpty is silly. Bills fans know all too well what they can expect from Humpty vs. playoff caliber teams that are not beat up into next season such as the Seahawks' D was. Losman should start. He may even provide more than Humpty does now as a rookie.

One other quite perplexing thing that I have noticed is that opponents rarely seem to blitz the Bills this season. Given a QB that is easily taken out of the game via blitzes, it is a headscratcher. It should also not mask the fact that when blitzed, Humpty is also largely ineffective. Playoffs mean better defenses, better defenses mean more complicated looks, more complicated looks mean disaster for Humpty. Ergo, Losman!

The play of the Bills in this game does raise an eyebrow however. Next week's game in Miami should be interesting to say the least. The Dolphins are a team that seems to have not given up in spite of the fact that of any team in the league, they have the most reason for doing so. But make no mistake, progress towards next season and beyond should easily outweigh a handful of wins for this season and should be the goal for the remainder of this season.

Comments: mweiler.billsreport@cox.net


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