Bengals 23, Bills 20: Notes From The O-Line, Week 4

CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 02: Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the Buffalo Bills throws a pass during the NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The Buffalo Bills squandered opportunities against the Cincinnati Bengals, and as a result squandered the opportunity to spend another week in sole possession of lead in the AFC East. What happened? Yes, the refs at times seemed to be a second unit that the Bills had to face on Sunday. Looking at it a bit more closely, a few other things became clear:

  • The Bills ran 20 times and threw 37. That's a puzzling number given that the team had the lead for much of the game. It also made the team predictable, with the Bengals clearly expecting some runs just based on Chan Gailey's play-calling tendencies.
  • The Bills ran fewer than 60 plays against the Bengals. While Buffalo had a normal number of possessions (11), the team failed to extend drives.
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick had a miserable day against the blitz. This was an unwelcome change from the previous two games (13-of-17 for 141 yards and 11 first downs against Oakland, 5-of-6 for 115 yards with three first downs against New England), and contributed to those short drives. 4-of-9 for 64 yards and exactly one first down isn't going to cut it. Look for a disgruntled Philly defense to blitz early and often next week.
  • The offensive line killed five plays, all of which were on first or second down. That left the offense in challenging down and distance situations, particularly when Fitzpatrick's struggles against the blitz were factored into the mix.

The first two drives were killed by defensive holding non-calls by the refs. The non-call on Stevie Johnson can almost be understood, but the linebacker grabbing Fred Jackson hand? Yeah, that one absolutely had to be called. Brad Smith killed the third drive by dropping a pass for first down yardage. Fitzpatrick killed the fourth drive by throwing to a well covered Smith on the right side of the line while Johnson was open for first down yardage on the left side of the field. Fitzpatrick's overthrow of Donald Jones doomed the fifth drive. David Nelson's penalty killed the sixth drive, and the seventh made it to the end zone.

After the half, the sack Demetrius Bell gave up killed the eighth drive. Jones failed to catch a low throw from Fitzpatrick on the ninth drive that would have led to a first down when added to the yardage on the subsequent two plays. The tenth drive was killed by a combination of Eric Wood's non-block on Domata Peko on a one-yard loss (would have been at least a two-yard gain if Wood made the block) and the refs deciding that Johnson's five-yard reception on third down was somehow not a catch - even though the ball never hit the ground. I'm chalking the last drive up to Gailey calling a play in which three of the five receivers ran patterns of less than three yards when five were needed.

Individual Run Grades - Week 4
Player Good Decent Bad Killed Grade
Bell, D. 4 14 1 0 78.2%
Levitre, A. 5 14 1 1 79.0%
Wood, E. 3 13 4 2 74.0%
Rinehart, C. 4 13 3 0 76.0%
Pears, E. 2 17 1 0 76.0%
Hairston, C. 0 1 0 0 75.0%

Bell, injured on the penultimate run-though (seemingly not seriously), had the best day of the offensive linemen on run plays. True, Andy Levitre had one more good run than Bell, but Bell's bad run play wasn't a killed play. Wood had a subpar game and killed two plays. He struggled through much of the game without getting any sort of movement on Cincy's defensive tackles. Chad Rinehart wasn't great, but he didn't do anything to make it likely that he'll be replaced when Kraig Urbik is healthy enough to play. Erik Pears had a fairly quiet day on run downs.

Run Direction Success, Week 4
Gap Att Yds YPA
Left C 2 4 2.0
Left B 2 3 1.5
A 8 23 2.9
Right B 4 29 7.3
Right C 4 19 4.8

The Bengals stacked the box on only three runs, each of which went for positive yardage. Three negative yardage plays went through the A gap, while each B gap saw a run play for zero yardage; three of those plays were killed by offensive line mistakes. The average for the B gap is skewed by the 21-yard run. The lack of negative plays to the Right C gap accounts for that decent average.

Individual Pass Grades, Week 4
Player Good Decent Bad Killed Sack Help Grade
Bell, D. 0 30 3 1 1 1 73.2%
Levitre, A. 2 34 1 0 0 0 75.5%
Wood, E 1 36 0 0 0 0 75.5%
Rinehart, C. 0 37 0 0 0 0 75.0%
Pears, E. 0 34 3 1 0 1 73.4%
Hairston, C. 0 4 0 0 0 0 75.0%

The pass play stats are notable for the total number of bad plays (7) as well as the sack that Bell surrendered. The Bills totaled 14 bad run plays against Oakland and 11 against New England. The total number of bad run plays is moving in the right direction. Against, Cincy, however, the Bills allowed the Bengals to push the pocket. Given that the Bengals rushed only four linemen about 75 percent of the time, it was dispiriting to see the five offensive linemen lose ground to a smaller number of defensive linemen. Chris Hairston did get onto the field for a small number of snaps, but didn't stand out.

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