Bills 38, Raiders 35: Notes From The O-Line, Week 2

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 18: Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the Buffalo Bills throws a pass during an NFL game against the Oakland Raiders at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 18, 2011 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

The Buffalo Bills' 38-35 Week 2 win over the Oakland Raiders was a tale of two halves, obviously. Less noticeable was Ryan Fitzpatrick's embrace of his inner Trent Edwards. Really.

Few remember that Edwards was money against the blitz (and terrible against any other defense), and after the half, Fitzpatrick shredded the aggressive Raiders defense. In the first half, the Raiders blitzed six times, and Fitzpatrick completed four passes for 33 yards and two first downs while throwing an interception. That's not an awful stat line against pressure, but it doesn't compare to Fitzpatrick's performance in the second half.

The Raiders blitzed 11 times after Phil Hansen's speech, and Fitzpatrick responded with nine completions for 102 yards, nine first downs and a touchdown. One of his incompletions was a drop that would have been a tenth first down. Yes: Fitzpatrick can face the heat, and that made a world of difference.

We heard quite a bit about the Raiders and their bully mentality. Several talking heads talked up their defensive line and how physical they were. I was very interested in seeing how the Bills stacked up against a physical team, and came away impressed at how well Buffalo's linemen rose to the challenge overall. Yes, there were some ugly plays by individual linemen here and there, but as a whole, the Bills more than held their own. While Fred Jackson deserves a ton of credit for his performance, he also had some terrific run lanes to exploit.

Run Direction Success, Week 2
Gap Att Yds YPA
Left C 5 60 12.0
Left B 3 2 0.7
A 9 81 9.0
Right B 4 31 7.8
Right C 2 11 5.5

As you can see, there was treasure almost everywhere, except for the left B gap. The absurd yards per carry in the left C gap, A gap and right B gap are due largely to runs of 43, 34, 29, and 26 yards.

Individual Run Grades - Week 2
Player Good Decent Bad Killed Grade
Bell, D. 3 19 1 0 76.7%
Levitre, A. 12 10 1 0 84.6%
Wood, E. 9 11 3 1 80.2%
Rinehart, C. 6 7 1 1 82.1%
Urbik, K. 1 6 3 0 71.0%
Pears, E. 3 18 2 1 75.9%

In the run grades, you can see that Andy Levitre and Chad Rinehart had great games, and Eric Wood had a good game as well. True, Rinehart and Wood each killed a play, but each had far more good plays than bad. The tackles, Demetrius Bell and Erik Pears, did well enough. Kraig Urbik didn't grade out well on run plays, but then he only had 10 snaps. Like Geoff Hangartner, though, Urbik could lose his starting job due to injury if Rinehart continues to play at a high level.

Individual Pass Grades, Week 2
Player Good Decent Bad Killed Sack Help Grade
Bell, D. 3 47 5 1 1 0 74.3%
Levitre, A. 4 49 2 0 0 0 75.7%
Wood, E 0 54 1 0 0 0 74.6%
Rinehart, C. 1 39 1 0 0 0 74.6%
Urbik, K. 2 12 0 0 0 0 77.9%
Pears, E. 4 46 5 0 0 1 75.0%

My grading system doesn't lend itself to many good pass ratings on individual plays. The Bills combined for 14 good pass plays which, as a whole, balanced out the 14 bad pass plays. Pears, for example, put guys down on three of his four good pass plays. The irony of the bad passes is that most of them came in the second half, when Fitzpatrick was on fire. No doubt you saw Fitzpatrick shrug off a defender here and there, or shuffle just enough in the pocket to get the pass away.

Another thing to note is the lack of help the tackles were afforded by the running backs and/or tight ends. Linemen were expected to win matchups one-on-one or with support from other linemen. This allowed Chan Gailey to flood the field with five receiving threats, which assured lots of single coverage.

Overall, it was a solid performance by the offensive line against a quality defensive line. You didn't need me to tell you that, though. The question is whether or not the Bills' offensive line will be able to take it to a New England defensive line that includes Vince Wilfork and a rejuvinated Albert Haynesworth with a defensive mastermind calling the shots. The Raiders game gives us hope that the Bills' line won't be "out-physicaled" by the Patriots.

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