I didn't have time to throw some thoughts out after last week's thrilling win, but I do right now for yesterday's disgusting loss. The Pats game was an incredibly satisfying game that will resonate for a while. The Bengals game was an ugly disaster that might be the turning point this season. I was thoroughly disappointed in the team's performance yesterday, as they looked flat and let Cincinnati dictate the game. In fact, I'd say that Cincy was the better team for most of the game. In the end, the end result confirms that unfortunately. This was such a big game for the team and they failed the test. At this point, the Bills just may not be ready to be a contender, nor are they ready to win these types of games consistently. The good teams find ways to win game where they don't play well and I'm not sure the Bills are there just yet. Let's hope they learn quickly and figure out how to put these games away. It's still a mostly young roster that hasn't won a lot. It's going to take time in this area.
- Why did the team come out so flat and look out of sync all game? Cincy did a great job defensively against our offense, but overall the team just didn't look ready or as focused as the first three games. Did the media attention really get to them? I have to believe it did, even if only slightly. They spent a lot of time all week doing interviews and seeing new faces in the locker room and press conferences. That could have disrupted their preparation a bit. Who knows, but the team just didn't seem as ready as they have all year and were totally smoked in the second half.
- Did Fitz turn back into a pumpkin now that we are into October? He was just AWFUL yesterday and it's shocking that he didn't throw a disgusting interception. So kudos on that, I suppose. He was back to throwing inaccurate passes to wide open receivers, which really derailed some drives and kept the offense out of sync all day. I have to believe the Cincinnati pressure was a big part of this, making him uncomfortable in the pocket and throwing maybe a split second earlier than he'd like. Whatever it was, Fitz needs to get back to what he was doing the first three weeks. Yesterday, there were a number of missed opportunities due to poor Fitz throws and it led to stalled drives and missed scoring chances. Can't have that this week.
- What was up with all the 3rd down passes down the right sideline? Obviously, Gailey must have seen something on film to make him believe that was an area to target, but jeez, how many times can you go back to a dry well? Looking at the NFL.com play-by-play, three first half drives ended with an incompletion deep down the right side on 3rd down (and one was deep to the left). These were 3rd and 4, 3rd and 3 and 3rd and 6 situations, so why were they going deep? The deep left pass to Brad Smith was on a 3rd and 4, as well. Why weren't they sticking with the underneath stuff to get the first down? Why weren't they trying the deeper passes on 1st and 2nd down? I just didn't like the playcalling in these 3rd down situations. They ran high risk, high reward plays that just weren't working. The team could have really opened the game up in the first half if they sustained these drives.
- Somebody send out an APB on David Nelson. Where was he for the majority of the game yesterday? I feel like he wasn't even on the field most of the time, and we also saw a ton of Brad Smith at WR. Nelson only had 3 targets, compared to 8 for Donald Jones and 4 for Smith. He's been a 3rd down machine this year, yet he was an afterthought in that situation yesterday. I don't understand or agree with the plan to go deep early and often on 3rd and relatively shorts when David Nelson has proven to be so effective all year. Stick with your bread and butter, Chan.
- No Brad Smith in the wildcat? That's been a great play on 3rd downs for us all season, yet they didn't run it once against the Bengals. Some of those deep balls on 3rd down should have been snaps to Smith, in retrospect. I'm really surprised he was utilized as a WR so much and didn't get a touch out of the shotgun.
- That was just a TERRIBLE call on the 3rd down catch by Stevie Johnson. Just horrible. Every angle showed that it was a catch and he controlled it the entire way through. There was no bobble and no indication that he didn't catch it. What did that ref see that called it incomplete and why did they not overturn it. If they call that play correctly, the Bills are in Cincy territory with under 8 minutes to play. Another first down and a few more minutes off the clock would have sealed the game, in my opinion. Instead, the refs blew the call, blew the replay and the Bills just played poorer football after it. I just don't know what they saw or why they didn't call it a catch in the first place. I think because they called it an incompletion, and he rolled over with the ball to take away a totally clean replay, they decided to just uphold the call. That play totally changed the game and potentially the Bills season.
- The offensive line was pretty bad yesterday for the first time this year. Cincy has a good DL and they consistently caused havoc in the pocket and in the run game. After a few successful runs out of the shotgun, it was pretty apparent Cincy was ready for that play. I don't know why Gailey kept calling it. And why did they run Spiller on the 2nd and 1 play before the Johnson catch fiasco? Cincy only ended up with 1 sack, but there was consistently solid pressure on Fitz all game long. They did a good job of pushing our interior back and flushing Fitz a few times. He just wasn't comfortable as a result. After a solid first half of run blocking, the OL just couldn't get anything done in the second half. That really hurt the offense's ability to sustain drives.
- Did Demetrius Bell return to the game after he left with the shoulder injury? Is it the same shoulder he hurt in early August? This is concerning because he's been solid all season and I thought Chris Hairston looked overwhelmed yesterday. On Hairston's first snap (the Johnson fiasco), the DE cleanly beat him on a quick inside move, but luckily Fitz had already released the ball. The next drive he looked stiff and in need of RB help. I'm extremely worried if he has to play next week and if Bell's injury is serious. We need Bell in there because he is much better at this point than Hairston. Luckily, Trent Cole will be out next week. He's one of the best pass rushers in the NFL and an absolutely terror when utilizing the bull rush. He would have destroyed Hairston and possibly Bell with that move. Philly still has a great pass rusher in Jason Babin and his league leading SEVEN sacks to worry about. Luckily, their other options are also injured with Juqua Parker (ankle) and Darryl Tapp (chest) missing yesterday's game. Brandon Graham is out for the year, too. Expect a lot of blitzing to make up for those losses and some confusing looks in their fronts.
- Fred Jackson again looked pretty good yesterday, though not quite as effective as the first three weeks. Running that draw out of the shotgun hurt his numbers and ability to get things going, IMO. I wish Gailey would have called more off tackle and outside runs with Jackson, though Cincy's front 7 was playing pretty well. I would have liked to have seen more screens or slants with Freddie, as we have seen plenty thus far.
- I want to see more CJ Spiller on the outside lined up at WR. I really like him on slants or coming underneath on drag patterns. He almost broke one, yet couldn't break the tackle, and could really be a huge plus this week if Philly lines a LB up against him. He continues to look like a major bust as a top 10 pick, but he also needs to be utilized better. He's not a good RB, but he could be a good player with the ball in space and down the field. Heck, I'd rather see him running down the sideline on 3rd downs if that's what the strategy is going to be.
- Guess Scott Chandler isn't going to be much of a factor outside the red zone.
- Our defense is just awful. The run defense, after a solid start, is starting to get lit up again, giving up 130 yards a game, while the pass defense is just plain bad. It's so infuriating watching a pass rush that literally has no chance of getting pressure the majority of the time. There are few blitzes and the overall scheme to get pressure is unimaginative and isn't working. Shawne Merriman is constantly getting neutralized and doesn't have any explosion right now. He got "a sack" yesterday when Dalton ran out of bounds, so at least he'll have one in his Bills career. He needs to play better, but he's not the only one. I saw Arthur Moats getting some rushing opportunities late in the game. They're going to have to continue trying that hoping he can add something to the defense. At this moment, other than maybe long term franchise QB, there is no bigger need. This is easily the biggest hole on the team, and it's not even close.
- There are some gaping holes off tackle to run through. Cedric Benson had a number of big runs as a result. I think our OLB's get themselves out of position too often, rushing upfield looking to get to the QB, while the DE's may not be controlling the OT's and OG's as well as we need. This hasn't been a huge issue thus far this season, but it certainly started to stand out against the Bengals.
- Our secondary, specifically Leodis McKelvin, continues to have their struggles too. Reggie Corner looked bad, but that's to be expected. Florence was okay yesterday and continues to show why he's our best CB. McKelvin is just a bad football player at this point in his career. He just can't cover anybody on a deep ball, consistently getting beat off the line and failing to turn around to make a play on the ball. It's sad that this guy hasn't turned into an average corner at this point in his career, let alone a good one. I smell a 200 yard receiving game from DeSean Jackson next week if McKelvin is on him. He's going to beat Leo deep over and over, and if Vick can get set to throw it, there will be some big plays allowed by our D. I'm dreading this matchup.
- If Andy Dalton can scramble around like a goofball and pick up first downs, what is Michael Vick going to do next week. It wouldn't shock me if he had 100 yards rushing against a team that seems to struggle when the QB gets outside of the pocket.
- The Bengals sure have a great looking 1-2 punch in the passing game with AJ Green and Jermaine Gresham. Both of them are top notch athletes and with solid QB play will be able to terrorize defenses together for some time. Green is incredible and already one of the top 20 WR's in the league to me. Gresham has all the tools to be one of the elite TE's in the league too. Good for Cincy for getting these two players the couple of drafts. That's a nice jolt of explosiveness for a team that obviously needed it.
- Is it just me or has Kyle Williams been mostly a non-factor at this point in the season? He had 77 tackes, 5.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss last year, and so far this year he has 9 total tackles and 1 TFL. What is going on here? Is he drawing a ton of extra attention and blocking? Is he just playing bad football? He was an absolute menace last year, with no help around him. This year he has a solid player in Dareus next to him, a healthy Dwan Edwards, a solid Shawne Merriman in run defense, and a Chris Kelsay playing the best football of his life. Where is the impact?
- Again, how is this defense going to stop the Michael Vick scrambling next week? I don't know if Nick Barnett has the speed to keep up as a spy, and he'll probably have to deal with Shady McCoy anyhow. This matchup is going to be a nightmare, especially if George Edwards continues his bland scheming.
- Good friend Jason Peters was laying on the turf in a great deal of pain yesterday. I think he hurt his hamstring pretty badly, so I doubt we see him this week. That's a good thing as Philly will have to rely on King Dunlap now.
- More on next week...Philly's D has been pretty bad. They've been run on all season, so I expect Fred Jackson to see a great deal of carries next week, especially in the more traditional between the tackles sense. They've also allowed 8 yards an attempt through the air and are dead last in the league in TD passes allowed, BUT they do lead the league in sacks led by Babin. The opportunities are most definitely going to be there, especially on passes over the middle (see San Fran yesterday). We just need the accurate Fitz to show up.
I'm not at all surprised by what happened yesterday, but I'm very disappointed. This was a game the team needed to have, to me, considering how strong the schedule is about to get. Philly, at the Giants, a solid Redskin team in Toronto, the Jets, three roads game in Dallas, Miami and Jersey, a good Titan team at home and then at San Diego. That's a very rough schedule ahead and if this team wants to avoid falling flat on its face, it needs to win games against mediocre teams like Cincy....especially when you lead by 14. At the very least, this team needs to be 4-2 heading into the bye week. If they end up losing 3 straight going into the bye, I think it's safe to say with that schedule and the loss of momentum, this team is unlikely to make a playoff push. This week is going to be a tough one against an angry Eagles team, and they need to come out a lot more fired up and ready to play. The offense absolutely has to put points on the board and play like they did for most of the first three games.
I hate the feeling of a loss and the day after is always crappy. It hurts even more when the team had started so well, played so well and was playing a very, very beatable opponent that they built a two score lead on. I really hope that Stevie Johnson missed catch wasn't the turning point on this season. The team had dealt with some adversity pretty well to that point; it's now time to get back to what they were doing well and stick it to a team that has really failed to meet expectations thus far. That play may have been the turning point, but this week's game could be the point at which the Bills season either "makes" or "breaks". I really hope Gailey and Edwards are ready to deal with a talented team that is very beatable. We need to see some more imagination this week, while also making sure to go back to our bread and butter (Jackson, Stevie over the middle, Nelson on 3rd downs, etc). The game yesterday will leave a bad taste in my mouth all week, but not all is lost. A wise man once said "pain heals, chicks dig scars, glory...last forever". Time for this team to wipe the Bengals game from memory, get up off the ground and show Philly that this is a team with some staying power.