And so it ends. The Buffalo Bills' exceedingly slim playoff hopes clashed against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, and the Seahawks won. Facing the read-option for the first time all season, the Bills found no answers for Marshawn Lynch or rookie quarterback Russell Wilson. Their legs carried the Seahawks to a convincing win, and stomped out Buffalo's last glimmer of playoff hope.
The Good. Sigh. This one's tough. I did notice a couple things that give me hope for 2013. First, C.J. Spiller is essentially a match-up proof runner. Seattle has a good defense, and couldn't contain Spiller. Like Chris Johnson a few seasons back, Spiller can't be stopped for a whole game. Defenses can stop him for limited gains, even for stretches during a game, but he's going to break runs. Seattle's defense is physical and fast, and they couldn't get the job done.
Second, I like Stevie Johnson in the slot. It's clear Buddy Nix has long-term plans, and they include putting Johnson in the slot. The early returns look good. Instead of playing against the sideline, Johnson was able to work a truly complete route tree from the slot. Richard Sherman is a big, physical, talented cornerback. Johnson spun him around like a top. Johnson has no truly elite physical skills, but may be the best route runner in the league. Putting him in the slot for the long-term is the right move. I wouldn't be surprised to see him break personal single-season records next season if he continues to play from the slot.
The Bad. There are too many. This game was the worst defensive performance for Buffalo since Week 10 against New England. The defense had some good downs against Seattle, but couldn't stop the big plays. A flea-flicker, Lynch's big runs up the middle, and Wilson on the zone-read option broke the Buffalo defense down early. They never recovered.
The offensive line played poorly. Ryan Fitzpatrick got pressured a lot, hit four times in the pocket, and sacked three times. David Snow and Sam Young got beat, but so did rookie Cordy Glenn. Seattle plays a unique defensive front, sort of a combo of a 46 and a 3-4 defense, and it baffled the depleted Buffalo line for parts of the game.
The offense didn't show up in the second half. Down 31-17, the Bills could have made a game of it in the second half, but their first three possessions resulted in an interception, a fumble, and pick-six. Seattle put 16 more points up, only running six offensive plays to do so, halfway through the third quarter. The game was over with more than 20 minutes left in the game.
Here's hoping that San Francisco wins the NFC West. Running a fake punt while up by 30 points in the fourth quarter is crappy sportsmanship. Pete Carroll runs a team of punks, and showed where they get it from yesterday. Even Bill Belichick punts on fourth downs in blowouts. Filing this event in my database for when Buffalo plays the Seahawks in a few years.
Let's Not Overreact. Did anyone not see this one coming? Seattle had a reputation for playing down to opponents, and underachieving on the road. So a road game against Buffalo should be a let-down game, right? Well, not so fast. In the two weeks leading up to this game, the Seahawks beat Chicago on the road, and then pounded Arizona. Seattle came into the game on fire; Buffalo stumbled in and had very little to play for. I'm not surprised Buffalo lost big at all. The light on the trains involved in this wreck were big and bright.
Outlook. Here we are again. It's another December out of the playoff hunt, and it's officially open season on off-season speculation, starting with Nix and Chan Gailey, and extending to free agency and the draft. The last two games against Miami and New York will play into those conversations for sure, and it would be nice to exit the season on some sort of high note. That song has two notes left, starting on the road in Miami next week.