Rushing Offense: A
Yeah, it was the Chiefs. But this was still encouraging. Buffalo's ground game amassed 200 yards on 35 carries, primarily leaning on Fred Jackson. Behind an offensive line glued together by rookies and journeyman, Jackson somehow rushed for 99 yards. Just imagine what he'd do behind a legitimate starting five. Despite working with a maligned line and uncommitted play-calling, Jackson could flirt with 1,000-yard plateau. Pretty amazing. Buffalo's best chance at playing spoiler against the Patriots is to feed Jackson and Marshawn Lynch at least 40 carries.
Passing Offense: D
Ryan Fitzpatrick has three games to prove himself. After lighting it up against Miami, he has promptly regressed to new lows against the Jets and Chiefs. In Buffalo's last two games, the passing game has been sad. Fitzpatrick has completed only 21-of-43 passes for 184 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. His scoring strike to Terrell Owens was heady. Fitzpatrick calmly stepped into an imploding pocket and hit T.O. on a third-down crossing route. But then, he compressed into Captain Checkdown 2.0, completing only two other passes to wide receivers all game. Maybe it's contagious.
Head coach Perry Fewell assured Fitzpatrick will start in Week 15 against New England. Time is running out for him to prove himself as a starter in the NFL — for any team.
Rushing Defense: C-minus
The Bills made Jamaal Charles look like Chris Johnson Lite. The former Texas Longhorn burnt Buffalo's league-worst run defense for 143 yards on 20 carries, including a 76-yard score on a draw. On the touchdown, everything went wrong. Defensive tackle Kyle Williams was blown out of the play by center Wade Smith. Blitzing linebackers Paul Posluszny and Nic Harris evaporated into a heap of jerseys. Safety Donte Whitner bit way too close to the line. And Drayton Florence couldn't catch him. Other than this run, the unit fared OK. Give Fewell credit. He took full credit for Charles' touchdown, admitting he shouldn't have blitzed. But still, it seems Buffalo is always one backbreaking loss away from defeat.
Passing Defense: A
For a brief moment, let's jump three weeks ahead. When you're 5-8, you can do that.
In all likelihood, the Indianapolis Colts will have an opportunity to go 16-0 at Ralph Wilson Stadium. If so, you can bet Buffalo's mob of defensive backs will treat such a game as its Super Bowl. Playing Peyton Manning would be the pinnacle for this group. All season, they've bonded through a rash of injuries, spent extra time in the film room and truly had a broke out as one the NFL's most promising position groups. Amid a culture of losing, that isn't easy to do.
Pouncing at every possible tipped ball, the Bills lead the lead in interceptions (25). Jairus Byrd increased his total to nine after robbing Matt Cassel on fourth down late, and he would have had 10 if George Wilson didn't wrestle the ball away from him on Kansas City's desperation Hail Mary. Their four picks on Cassel was the difference.
And give a lot of credit to the front four, which applied steady pressure all day. Aaron Schobel's fourth-down sack of Cassel in the first quarter was huge. Cassel rolled left, expecting to waltz into the end zone and Schobel was never fooled. The grizzled veteran ripped Cassel to the turf and upped his season total to eight sacks. He has rebounded very well from a season-ending foot injury in 2008.
Special Teams: B
Brian Moorman's booming 73-yard punt may be his defining moment with the Bills and Jackson ran back a kick return for 40 yards. After struggling early on this season, Buffalo's special teams unit is rounding into form. The team has had generous field position lately.
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