For the first time in a few weeks, I was able to sit through the majority of a Bills game. Lucky me, eh? We've reached that unfortunate point of a Bills season when we mostly want the misery to just end. It's happened almost every year for the last 12 seasons. If you're like me, you've become numb to it; I don't even get disappointed anymore. It probably makes it easier to coldly evaluate awful performances like yesterday's but it's killing our once proud passion for this team. Probably good that many of us didn't completely "buy in" when the team was 3-0. Oh, well, on to the review.
- San Diego wins the coin toss and chooses to receive. After a touchback, they start on the 20 yard line.
- Chargers drive the 80 yards for the score, capping it with a 9 yard TD pass from Phillip Rivers to Antonio Gates. Gates had 38 yard receiving and Ryan Matthews 26 yards rushing. One positive play by Bills was 8 yard sack by Marcell Dareus.
- After one first down conversion on a 11 yard pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Stevie Johnson, the Chargers Eric Weddle intercepts Fitzpatrick on 3rd and 2. Chargers start on their own 45 yard line.
- The Chargers end the quarter at the Bills 15. Gates (20 yards receiving) and Mathews (41 yards rushing) shine again.
Not many positives to take from this game but one was Dareus' play. Not only the sack from this quarter but he was penetrating into the backfield on some running plays as well. Has Marcell been disappointing this year? Perhaps he hasn't been as much of a difference maker as we expected, but we really have to put things in perspective. He honestly hasn't had much help, especially after Kyle Williams went on IR. And he really is one of maybe two bright spots on the D (Barnett being the other). I truly think Nix finally got one of his picks right, and we'll see Dareus bear more fruit year by year.
I'll dive into Fitz's play in the 3rd quarter commentary, but let's say a couple things about the offense in general. If you eliminate the defensive TD later in the game, that means the offense put up a total of 3 points. After a couple of okay games vs NYJ/Ten, Chan Gailey's unit took another step backwards to pretty much where they were vs Dal/Mia (and it is Chan's offense when all is said and done). While the defense is still our main concern, the offense is far from elite at this point. A lot of it can be attributed to the loss of MVP Fred Jackson, but we need to see better overall consistency going forward. A little more talent wouldn't hurt, but the mistakes seem more mental than physical now.
Not sure if SD's offense found themselves this week or if our defense is just that bad. It's probably the old pat answer - a little bit of both. But the Chargers were the team on Sunday that most expected them to be at the start of the season, at least in terms of the offensive side of things. Whenever the Bills face anyone with that level of talent, it's going to be a mismatch for our piss poor defenders. Rivers basically gave us the only significant points on the day with his comical fumble in the third quarter.
- Mike Tolbert finishes off drive for Chargers that started at the end of the 1st with a 1 yard TD run. Alex Carrington blocks the XP attempt, though.
- On their next possession, the Bills manage to move the ball down to the SD 41 but drive stalls and they're forced to punt. A David Nelson 10 yard catch and Fitzpatrick 18 yard scramble were biggest plays.
- Next time with the ball the Chargers add to the lead with a Mike Nowak 47 yard FG. Matthews was key with 43 yards rushing and 6 receiving.
- Bills take ball to the SD 35 but David Rayner misses a 53 yard FG attempt. Stevie Johnson caught a 34 yard pass to help put them in position.
- Bills defense finally stops SD on next possession with a 3 and out.
- Bills then go 3 and out as well.
- Bills D force punt after 1 SD first down.
- Fitzpatrick kneels to end half on 1st down at own 5 yard line.
If you based the quality of draft picks on blocked kicks, Carrington would get an A+ grade. It's too bad he hasn't been able to translate those playmaking skills to his defensive snaps. While Alex has made the occasional impressive play, his overall production has been spotty. But in comparison to the higher pick Troup, Carrington hasn't been a total disappointment.
Really not a lot happened in this quarter after the second SD touchdown. Nice to see our defense make a couple stops to at least keep the game close going into halftime.
- Bills start on own 21 yard line after receiving second half kickoff.
- Bills capitalize with a Rayner 37 yard FG. Key play is 53 yard completion to Stevie Johnson.
- On Next SD possession, Rivers fumbles ball into end zone and Bryan Scott recovers for the TD as Bills draw within 6.
- Bills D forces SD into punting situation next time out but Weddle runs the ball 10 yards on a fake punt to convert for a first down.
- Chargers take advantage of the opportunity on a 2 yard TD pass to Gates. Vincent Jackson had 3 catches for 36 yards on drive.
- Very next play from scrimmage, Fitzpatrick throws an interception to Steve Gregory who returns it 26 yards for a score to put Chargers up 30-10.
- Bills move to SD 25 yard line with 2 completions to Derek Hagan (28 yards) and a 15 yard unnecessary roughness penalty but fail to convert on 4th and 5 after a 2 yard Fitzpatrick scramble.
- Quarter ends with 2 Matthews runs for 7 yards total.
Even though it worked against us, I always find momentum shifts interesting to watch. That fake punt sunk us. Now, given the way our offense was playing there's no guarantees that we would have made it any closer than the six point deficit, but for our confidence-shaken team, they finally had some things working in their direction. But these kinds of bad breaks or unfortunate plays tend to go against the bad teams. And the Bills are pretty much the definition of a bad team (still can't believe I'm typing that after the hope we had the 1st month of the season, even though it was false hope).
One other bright spot was Scott's play. Of course the TD is the obvious moment to remember, but he had a couple other times when he made some heads-up plays. He's a player like George Wilson that has a great feel for knowing where to be and a knack for the ball. I'm not saying Scott is a star by any stretch, but he is quite a valuable depth player, which something we sorely lack.
But our pass defense in general is just awful. Drayton Florence and Leodis McKelvin looked bad most of the day and that can be said for a good chunk of their season as well. I know people don't want to hear it, but if there's no stud pass rushers at our spot in the draft, we may need to take a corner.
Okay, about Fitz. There seems to be a general panic about his play and the big contract. Yes, he's been sub par since getting the extension and he isn't exactly Aaron Rodgers out there, but he is not a bad QB. With the serious issues on the defensive side of the ball and the cocky gunslinging that he displayed the first six weeks or so, #14 is not a player I'm losing sleep over. You *have* to go defense with at least our first 2 picks in the upcoming draft, so don't talk to me about getting that franchise QB as I doubt a slam dunk signal caller will be available at 10-12 or wherever we're picking. If there's someone available that you think you can develop in round 3 or 4 to take over for Fitz eventually, then fine go ahead. But we can win with Fitz, I'm sure of it.
With all that said, Fitz was atrocious Sunday. Just awful.
- On possession started at end of third, Chargers drive down for their last score a 26 yard Rivers to Patrick Crayton touchdown. Matthews led the way with 34 total yards (11 rush, 23 receiving).
- Bills are unsuccessful on another 4th down conversion attempt on an incomplete pass to Johnson. The Bills had moved down to SD 13 with Spiller going for 37 total yards (31 rush and 6 receiving). Johnson caught an 18 yarder.
- Chargers go three and out on next possession.
- Tyler Thigpen comes in for Fitzpatrick, converts two first downs, but then is intercepted by Marcus Gilchrist at Buffalo 49 yard line.
- Billy Volek comes in for Rivers and kneels twice to end game.
It's always hard to find happy moments in these interminable long 4th quarters in a Bills blowout. But Stevie played very well today, and that's pretty important. Call him a pretty good #1 or excellent #2, the kid can play football. He has those moments when you want to scream at him for immaturity and drops, but he can produce. Bills should be ashamed of themselves if they don't re-sign him.
Thigpen looked better than he had previously this season in relief before the interception. Yeah, I'm grasping at straws, I know.
- Do we want to list a lot of extra notes about this game? Probably not, but I'll give you a couple.
- Spiller had 46 yard rushing and probably would have had more chances if this game were closer. At the very least our #1 pick from 2010 is getting touches and showing he's not a bust. Interesting to see if he's back at WR next year when Fred returns, as I think you need to have him on the field more often than not.
- Justin Rogers looked good at returning kicks yesterday, and I liked his willingness to take the ball out of the end zone with determination and try to make something happen. Much better than Brad Smith, Spiller and McKelvin have looked there at times this season.
Three more weeks to go, Bills fans. The next two weeks will most likely blacked out locally and then we have the Patriots to wrap this thing up. Next week is certainly a winnable game with Dolphins having fired their head coach and old friend J.P. Losman running the Phins offense. But if being a fan of this team has taught me anything it's not to assume positive results. The possibility of J.P. having a career game against us in Buffalo is enough to make you laugh, right? Just a little?
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