Bills vs. Bengals: Notes From The O-Line, Week 11

CINCINNATI - NOVEMBER 21: Fred Jackson #22 of the Buffalo Bills runs with the ball during NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on November 21 2010 in Cincinnati Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

What do we make of a Buffalo Bills team that can only manage two scoring drives against Detroit and then score touchdowns on 60% of their offensive possessions against the Cincinnati Bengals? What do we make of Rian Lindell, who hasn't hit a field goal since the initial drive of the second half of the Week 8 game in Kansas City? What do we make of Ryan Fitzpatrick, who can follow three picks (the first of which was negated by defensive penalty) with four touchdowns (one of which was a fantastic pass into a tiny window)?

There's no mystery as to what to make of Stevie Johnson, who I think has given himself a unique sobriquet: exit Scuba Steve and enter Joker. I took particular interest in Johnson when they flashed a T.O. stat on the field. In 2009, T.O. had 55 receptions - nine of which were for 25 yards or more - for 829 yards and five scores. Johnson, in just 10 games, has 52 receptions - eight of which are for 25 yards or more - for 728 yards and nine scores. Those of us who despaired at losing T.O. have a young WR who has almost doubled his touchdowns, and is three receptions and 101 yards (one of which needs to be 25+ yards) away from surpassing Owens in every way. Well, not every way - Johnson doesn't seem the type to burst into tears during an interview.

Anyway, the line analysis is after the jump.

When Eric Wood went down with a leg injury, I had a really bad feeling. If I remember correctly, Wood was injured in the tenth game last year, and Buffalo was in the tenth game of the 2010 season. Like many Bills fans, I was relieved when Wood got up and walked to the sideline. When I went back through the game, I saw that Wood was having a good day on run plays, but not so much on passing downs. I was curious to see how Kraig Urbik did in his stead. Fair warning: my game feed cut out on one of my TVs (the one recording, naturally) for the first five plays of the seventh drive (second drive of the second half), so those plays aren't included in my breakdown.

Individual Run Grades - Week 11
Player Good Decent Bad Killed Grade
Bell, D. 1 20 0 0 76.0%
Levitre, A. 4 14 3 1 76.0%
Hangartner, G. 1 17 3 0 73.1%
Wood, E. 4 9 0 0 81.2%
Wrotto, M. 3 16 2 0 76.0%
Urbik, K. 1 6 1 1 75.0%
Individual Run Grades - 2010 season-to-date
Player Good Decent Bad Killed Grade
Bell, D. 16 185 17 3 74.9%
Levitre, A. 45 141 15 4 78.0%
Hangartner, G. 19 192 14 2 75.4%
Wood, E. 51 147 14 3 78.5%
Wrotto, M. 7 51 10 5 74.1%
Urbik, K. 2 10 3 1 73.7%

The line as a whole had more bad run plays individually than I had thought when I watched the game live. With only 21 run plays to break down (24 total in the live game), the Bills had at least one lineman screw the pooch on seven different plays. They killed two of those seven. Wood and Demetrius Bell finished the game with no bad run plays. Urbik, in Wood's stead, had one killed play - the first play of the only drive to end in a punt, when the Bills were clearly just working the clock.

Run Direction Success, Week 11
Gap Att Yds YPA
Left C 5 45 9.0
Left B 3 19 6.3
A 4 21 5.3
Right B 2 2 1.0
Right C 7 43 6.1
Run Direction Success, 2010 season-to-date
Gap Att Yds YPA
Left C 56 273 4.9
Left B 19 83 4.4
A 58 192 3.3
Right B 26 81 3.1
Right C 68 309 4.5

The Bills again had success outside of the tackles. In each case, however, the startling averages can be traced to just one run per side - each of which came as the Bills were trying to work the clock. Take away those runs, and the Left C Gap average drops to 4.8 while the Right C Gap plunges to 2.2. What a difference big plays make...

Individual Pass Grades, Week 11
Player Good Decent Bad Killed Sack Help Grade
Bell, D. 1 32 4 2 0 3 73.4%
Levitre, A. 1 33 3 1 0 0 73.9%
Hangartner, G. 1 34 2 0 0 0 74.5%
Wood, E. 1 21 3 1 1 0 73.4%
Wrotto, M. 0 34 3 2 0 2 73.4%
Urbik, K. 0 12 0 0 0 0 75.0%
Individual Pass Grades, 2010 season-to-date
Player Good Decent Bad Killed Sack Help Grade
Bell, D. 6 341 30 9.5 3.5 29 73.7%
Levitre, A. 6 344 18 6 0 0 73.9%
Hangartner, G. 7 378 13 5 2 0 74.7%
Wood, E. 13 329 21 6 1 0 74.6%
Wrotto, M. 1 88 9 4 1 8 73.4%
Urbik, K. 0 28 3 0 0 0 73.1%

While Wood had a good game on the ground, he gave up a sack and had two other bad pass plays. I believe this is the second time this season that I have seen Wood left completely flat-footed by a simple spin move. Working in a relatively limited space, he should be able to handle those sorts of defensive maneuvers. The line generally had a hard time with stunts when one lineman was farther off the line than the one next to him. For example, Bell often set up to block farther back from the line than Andy Levitre. When Levitre's defender circled around the defender Bell was blocking, neither Bell nor Levitre picked up the circling defender. When Bell and Levitre set up to block roughly even to one another, Levitre picked up Bell's guy and Bell took on the circling defender.

Six of 10 drives ended in the promised land. Fitzpatrick killed the second and third drives with his INTs, and did his level headed best to kill the first drive as well. Mansfield Wrotto killed the fourth drive (missed FG) with a false start and a bad block on the third down pass to David Nelson. Chan Gailey killed the only unsuccessful drive of the second half by calling nothing but runs in an effort to milk the clock.

I had thought I'd heard or read somewhere that the Bills had been blitzed by the Bengals more than any other team this year. I didn't find that to be the case. I have the Bengals down as blitzing 13 times (and stacking the box against two runs). With that said, the Bengals were effective in that Buffalo managed a meager 54 yards and three first downs against those 13 blitzes. Plus, Fitzpatrick threw a pair of INTs against those blitzes. I'm quite certain that the Steelers were watching, taking notes, and then looking for saliva proof writing implements and tablets - and probably a couple of mops and buckets. Pittsburgh blitzes constantly and creatively anyway. Against the Bills, I'd be shocked if that trend didn't continue.

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