MINNEAPOLIS MN - DECEMBER 05: Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the Buffalo Bills dives but fails to convert a first down against the Minnesota Vikings at the Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on December 5 2010 in Minneapolis Minnesota. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Ball Security. We've reached "Red Level" on the Homeland Security Alert chart. Ryan Fitzpatrick's two fumbles and his interception are better charged to the offensive line. The non-quarterback fumbling has to stop, though. Leodis McKelvin's kick return fumble changed the tide of the game. Up until that fumble, Buffalo was standing toe-to-toe with a Brett Favre-less Vikings team and trading punches evenly. If there was a turning point, McKelvin's fumble was it. Corey McIntyre's fumble cost Buffalo their best chance of getting back into a blow-out game. Many Buffalo players should be carrying footballs all week.
Listless First Half Play. All cardiac kids fail, and this was Buffalo's week. While I applaud Buffalo's first half calmness and look of resiliency, their attitude bordered on careless. The team looked as if they expected to play poor in the first half, and come back in the second. It almost seemed like Buffalo didn't care that they got shelled in the first half. While it's nice to know that you can come back, the point is missed. Comebacks are generated by initial bad play. Good teams start and finish well routinely and only comeback when required.
Leodis McKelvin. I am OK with his pass coverage. Every cornerback gets beat. He competed on the fade to Sidney Rice, and played the ball well. I chalk that up to Rice's amazing play as opposed to McKelvin getting beat. McKelvin's interference penalty on the next drive was a technique issue, and can be fixed. That said, please stop putting McKelvin back to return kicks. I understand that given a small crease he will score. He gets to top speed almost instantly, and cannot be caught from behind. McKelvin's kick return confidence is shot, and he's making more mistakes than his ability warrants. He's muffed three kicks in two weeks. It's time to put CJ Spiller back there.
Drayton Florence. Earlier this season I thought Florence was on the "not on the team next year" list. He played awful against the Jets, in particular. He's now turning into Buffalo's top corner, and a good one at that. Florence is one of those guys who is always around the ball. This increases his chances of making plays and he has, scoring twice in three weeks. Back on the roster in 2011.
Arthur Moats. Pittsburgh has a knack for finding small college defensive ends outside the first round and turning them into good outside linebackers. James Harrison, Greg Lloyd, Jason Gildon and Joey Porter come to mind. Buffalo may be onto that with Arthur Moats. Officially, Moats was credited with two tackles and a quarterback hit. He played better than that, though, flying around the field and giving Bryant McKinnie all he could handle. Oh, and he knocked Brett Favre out of the game. If there's an upside to Aaron Maybin playing poorly, it's that Moats is seeing the field.
Brian Moorman. As always, Moorman is awesome. Playing indoors must be a good break for him, and he put the "hang" in hangtime. Coverage units had a shot at stopping returners on every punt. Buffalo could have won the field position battle pretty easily if they had won anything else.
The Minnesota game was a good wake-up for players, coaches, and fans alike. I personally learned that Buffalo is not as far down the road to being good as I thought, though I'm not going overboard with this loss. Buffalo's linebacking talent needs help or the rapid development of youngsters. Buffalo's offensive line is still not that great. Demetrius Bell got taken to the rodeo a few times by Jared Allen. The team is not deep enough yet to sustain the injuries that happen each year. Ryan Fitzpatrick is still likely not the franchise signal caller the team needs. Aaron Rodgers faces that Minnesota pass rush twice a year with a comparable offensive line, and wins games. The team advances through baby steps, and this is just a baby step back.
Up Next: December 12 rematch of the "touchdown-less" bowl with Cleveland.