I suppose one could look at the Bills’ recent loss in one of two very different ways. As a loyal Bills fan, I could accept the fact that they played a good team, a playoff team, with a top 5 quarterback, who was able to pick them apart and force them to do something they hadn’t done this season, play from behind. I could find the silver lining and say that it wasn’t a blowout, that holding a high quality offense to 20 points (not counting the safety of course) is a good defensive effort. I could even say that the Bills aren’t in trouble because there is only a handful of teams with elite quarterbacks and we can still win against the plethora of average offenses in the league. But above all else, I am a realist.
I thought the Bills had a solid chance to win against San Diego in Buffalo, on the strength of the defense. I knew if they could get ahead early, then they could pull it off. I also knew that if they let the Chargers jump out in front, then the chances of coming from behind were very slim. I was utterly appalled at the performance of the Bills offense, particularly the play calling. Once again, Hackett has shown that he has no idea how to use the weapons he has on offense, calling run after run directly at the defensive line, punctuated by the occasional failed shot down the field. Apparently, getting gobs of yards on screen plays or throwing quick slants over the middle to Watkins is not an effective game play, no matter how good it looks on the field. I said it last week after the beating the Bills defense put on the Dolphins, they won’t be able to keep winning that way. The offense needs to produce, they need to move the ball, control the clock, and, above all else, score in the red zone. And well, this week just getting to the red zone was a chore against the rather pedestrian defense of San Diego. As usual, the brightest spot was a Fred Jackson play, an 11 yard catch and run after (gasp!) a screen pass, where Iron Fred made a hell of a cut back and squeaked through a few defenders to find the end zone.
But that was the only bright spot on offense, in an otherwise thoroughly underwhelming Sunday afternoon. Even the defense, the stars of the first two weeks, wasn’t up to snuff, giving up a multitude of big plays down field. Another puzzling coaching decision was benching Corey Graham, by far the best CB over the first two games, in favor of Leodis McKelvin. My assumption is that they wanted McKelvin’s speed to cover Keenan Allen down field. For what it’s worth, McKelvin was definitely able to keep up with Allen when he went deep, he just wasn’t able to break up the two huge passes that Allen caught. But, hey, he was right there to make the tackle, 45+ yards later! Even the vaunted defensive line was marginalized by the Chargers and unable to consistently get pressure or hits on Rivers. I’m not sure how much of a difference it would have made, but one of the things the team needs to be able to do to win games is pressure opposing quarterbacks.
All in all, it was a pretty terrible game by the Bills, but the season is not without hope. We only have to play a couple more top tier QBs and the rest of the opponents are underwhelming at best. I think the Bills could be on the way to their first non-losing record (note: not winning) in 10 years. A good test will be the upcoming game at Houston, a fellow 2-1 team with a studly defense and a question mark offense. At least we know the quarterback can be easily rattled into throwing multiple picks, right guys?