Bills/Raiders Film Review: Bills Special Teams

It wasn't the prettiest game to re-watch, but the Buffalo Bills' victory over the Oakland Raiders wasn't as ugly as it appeared watching it live at Ralph Wilson Stadium, either.  Here's what we noticed on a second run-through of the game tape on special teams.  Offense Review :: Defense Review

After two strong performances to start the season, Buffalo's special teams didn't play particularly well in the team's win over Oakland.  Mistakes and poor decisions were made and the Raiders' unit - which came in with a solid reputation, and proved it deserved it - made a lot of plays.

Kick/Punt coverage: These units have proven to be the weakest areas of Buffalo's units through three games (though they did put some above average coverage on the field in Jacksonville).  Johnnie Lee Higgins' 69-yard kickoff return to start the game in essence put the Bills in an immediate hole, and he had some dynamic punt returns as well.  Oakland had killer field position throughout the entire game.  Again, I'll point to the personnel turnover on this unit as the problem; Bobby April needs to get these guys covering better quickly, as the Bills face some dynamic return men (Dante Hall, Steve Breaston, Darren Sproles) over the next few weeks.

Kick returns: He didn't have an overwhelming day, but the Bills made the right move getting Leodis McKelvin onto the field in this department.  Yes, he was one of the players that made a mistake, mishandling a rolling kickoff that pinned the Bills at their own 13 yard line.  But with a rookie return man, you take the good with the bad, and there was a lot of good in what McKelvin displayed Sunday.  He's a far more patient returner than I've ever given him credit for, and clearly, his long return at the end of the first half put his team in a good position.  He's got a ton of potential, and as a rookie, he's got a lot more wiggle and much fresher legs than Terrence McGee.  Mark my words: McKelvin will return at least one kick for a score this season.  (It will help when his blocking, particularly from the wedge, becomes more consistent - they did perform much better this week, creating more than one lane on a few occasions.)

Punt returns: Speaking of "take the good with the bad", we all are aware of the great things Roscoe Parrish can do as a punt returner.  But we saw the bad on Sunday from him as well; fielding a punt at your own goal line is only acceptable under the rarest of circumstances, and the decision caught his teammates off-guard and they committed a penalty.  He can't do that again.  That decision was the epitome of what the entire Bills team went through Sunday: they were pushing and borderline desperate.  When the team let the game come to them in the fourth quarter, we saw what happened.

Block units: Haven't been seeing as much of the "hey John Wendling, let's see if you can't take a flying leap over gigantic men" formation as we saw during the pre-season.  Opponents are gearing up for it, and Wendling has instead just sort of been hovering a yard or two behind the line of scrimmage on those kicks.  That formation will need to be used sparingly going forward.

Credit where credit is due: He's not a Bill, but I still feel compelled to talk about Shane Lechler for a moment.  Oakland's punter is fabulous.  He had some help from great field position, but he single-handedly erased Parrish from having an impact on this game (something Parrish would fix with his touchdown reception on offense).  Oakland's special teams units literally dominated a Bills unit that is supposed to be the league's best.  Like the rest of the team, this area needs to mature as well.

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