Bills Pound Helpless Niners into Oblivion

<B>In a Sentence: </B> <P> Niners' young offense plays right into hands of Bills' strengths.

Now I'm no master lip reader, but did Referee Mike Carey, instead of asking the Niners which end of the field they wanted to defend at the beginning of the second half, tell Dennis Erickson that they were "on the clock." This game pretty much went as scripted.

Game Grades:

QB: B+ A few whacky throws by Humpty once again made fans scratch their heads in this one. Also, a fortunate fumble called incomplete spared the Bills a turnover that would have made little difference on the game as a whole given the massive degree of lopsidedness in this one. There were also one or two brief Moulds-fests scattered in there as well. Humpty still does not like to spread the ball around.

RB: A+ Willis McGahee and Shaud Williams both had stellar days amassing 195 yards as a tandem and averaging over six yards-per-carry on the day. This was the first game whereby McGahee came out of the gates dominating and did it throughout the game.

Watching Shaud Williams should remind fans of Dave Meggett.

WR: A Lee Evans is beginning to show some serious promise. He has soft hands, seemingly very good field instincts, is physical after the catch, and is playing exceptionally well for a rookie. The transition between Moulds and Evans has already quietly occurred. During the month of December, Evans has 21 grabs for 336 yards and 6 touchdowns to Moulds' 21 haul-ins, 234 yards, and one touchdown. During November and December Evans has 35 grabs for 523 yards and 8 TDs to Moulds' 44 catches for 475 yards and 1 TD. Evans has clearly become the Bills go-to WR. Josh Reed and Jonathon Smith were the only other WRs to catch a pass with 3 for 22 between them. Evans did have a "rookie" taunting penalty.

TE: B Neufeld, Trafford, and Banta had a quiet day on the receiving end with Trafford having been the only TE to catch a ball. Blocking was solid.

OL: A McGahee and Williams had their best day of the season and Humpty had plenty of time in pass mode.

DL: B+ Sam Adams was the only member of the DL to log a sack. Versus the Niners with Ken Dorsey this number should have been higher. The line did a decent job vs. a young and weak offense otherwise.

LB: A The LBs as a unit played solidly. Posey had a roughing-the-passer call costing the Bills 15. Spikes logged one sack. Josh Stamer logged an interception.

DB: A Clements and Milloy both logged interceptions. The DBs had little work on the day as the Niner passing game was rendered ineffective by the Bills' front-7 and the rushing game was severely limited. The Niners only had 83 net yards of offense in the first half.

Coaching: B

Again, up 27-0 in a game where the opponent cried uncle weeks earlier, why the reverses and other "non-traditional" plays? With a running game averaging over six yards-per-carry, why not simply run the ball up the gut? The sentiment is the same with the passing game! The run is working better than it has all year with absolutely no ability of the D to stop it on the horizon. Why resort to streaks of throwing? At times it seems as if Coach Mularkey's game would not be complete in his mind without a certain number of trick or misdirection plays whether they are needed and warranted or not. It almost comes across as showboating at times.

Also, on the Bills' third drive, leading only 7-0, and with the Bills rushing game averaging nearly seven yards-per-carry, on 2nd-and-5 and 3rd-and-5 at the Niner 6-yard line, why the incessant passing and two incompletions? Also on the first drive, the drive stalled on incompletions on 2nd-and-3 and 3rd-and-3 back-to-back. Why? Why the 2-to-1 passing-to-rushing ratio in the first half? Coach Mularkey is putting far too much credence in Humpty! Far! On the sidelines, this game revealed a real affinity for Humpty by Mularkey. This is not good for Bills fans going forward.

Coaching was obviously solid otherwise.

Overall: A Even though this was the 2-13 Forty-Niners and worst team in the league other than perhaps Miami or Cleveland, this was the best executed, most balanced, all-around performance of the season.

Offense: A

The offense did what it had to. It moved the ball, scored, and consumed the clock.

Defense: A The defense did what it had to. It held the opponent to only seven points. Fans should be happy with that every game.

Special Teams: B+ Special teams did what it had to. Average starting field position in this game was the Bills' own 47-yard line largely due to special teams play.

The Good:

41 offensive points.

7 points allowed.

The best and most balanced performance of the season all-around.

226 net rushing yards.

9-of-14, 64% 3rd-down efficiency.

Nearly 3-to-2 time-of-possession.

Only five penalties for 46 yards. Consider as well that 15 were for taunting by the rookie Evans.

The Bad:

A tendency to pass when passing is neither necessary nor advised.

Trick and misdirection plays when they are not necessary.

Humpty remains far too focused on two receivers often and locks onto Moulds for stretches. This works fine vs. San Fran, Cleveland, Miami, Seattle, Cincy, and the Rams with terrible defenses, but will cost this team vs. N.E., Pittsburgh, San Diego, Baltimore, Indy, and any team better than average in defense.


As to playoff possibilities, Bills fans need to watch two things in addition to beating the Steelers next Sunday. We need to keep an eye on Denver and the Jets.

If the Bills beat Pittsburgh, then either the Jets need to lose to St. Louis on the road or Denver needs to lose to Indianapolis who will be playing for absolutely nothing on the road in Denver other than to avoid injuries. A Bills win coupled with either a Bronco or Jets loss will give the Bills the last wild card birth. The Jets will be facing the Rams who will be coming off of a Monday Night game making the Jets' job vs. a subpar team that much easier. Denver has an extra day of rest and will be at home.

If the Steelers beat the Bills, then there will be no playoffs this season for the Bills.

My Take:

Even if the Bills do make the playoffs, fans should not raise their expectations too high. In spite of appearances of recent success via this string of victories, these Bills have not proven an ability on the season to even hinder offenses such as San Diego's or Indy's, the teams, one of which, they would face in the wild card round. Nor have they proven an ability to score on defenses among the top half of scoring defenses this season. The success of this team this season has largely been built on a schedule featuring the league's three worst teams in four games and four wins along with the league's worst division for three additional wins of the 9 wins to date.

While sitting here watching "Draft Bowl 2004" between Cleveland and Miami fighting for who's not to get the 2nd overall selection in the forthcoming draft, I began to reflect on the games this past weekend. While watching the Packers-Minnesota game on Christmas Eve, which I remember well because I sat Brett Favre in my fantasy league, I began to long for the days of yore when Jim Kelly led the Bills. The mastery with which Favre directed the Vikings down the field twice for ten points giving them the victory made me pine for a reliable crunch time quarterback. But alas, the game ended and reality set in. Watching the fluid and much quicker and more agile movements of JP Losman on fake rollouts, in spite of the fact that all he did was hand the ball off, also made me wonder what this season would have been like had he been starting along with a superlative offensive line.

Meanwhile, the sun has been smiling in unlikely places lo these past two weeks to provide the Bills an opportunity at the playoffs that I believed would not occur regardless of how well the Bills played and finished out the season. The Bills travel home for their final game this week vs. the Steelers who find themselves in the enviable position of merely needing to escape the regular season with as few injuries as possible before preparing to play all of their playoff games in Pittsburgh following a much needed bye week.

The big question for next week is what will Pittsburgh bring to the game. If they bring their A-game and starters, my prediction is for a sound defeat. If they bring their second team in a game where they plan on simply making it back to Pittsburgh for two week's rest, then my prediction is for somewhere between a close game and a decisive Steeler win depending on to what extent backups are used. Tommy Maddox appears to be the starting QB, which could very well aid the Bills ala Jon Kitna. More on what to expect in the pregame piece.

I simply have difficulty seeing this Bills team as anything other than what it has been for several seasons now. The only difference between this season and the past few prior to it is the number of patsies on the schedule as well as the order in which they were arranged. Other than that, to date, these Bills have many of the same weaknesses including an average or somewhat below average OL as well as a QB incapable of doing anything in the playoffs and vs. playoff caliber competition. Those same things have borne themselves out again yet this season as well.

Yes the Bills are on a six game winning streak. But that winning streak is against six teams featuring the three worst teams in the league in the Niners, Cleveland, and Miami, along with Seattle, Cincy, and the Rams, and a combined 30-59 without one team in that six-team lineup that has scored more points than it has allowed and with not one of those teams good in their own right.

If the Steelers decide to show up on Sunday with their A-game, my guess would be for an eye-opening day for Bills fans. The Bills will likely face Tommy Maddox however due to a rib injury sustained by rookie sensation Ben Roethlisburger.


Buffalo Football Report Top Stories