For a while the Bills looked like they had a chance to win, but when E.J. Manuel went down, so did the Bills. In a sporadic game, the Bills lost 24-37 to the Browns on the road, but obviously the bigger concern are how QB E.J. Manuel and WR Stevie Johnson doing. The Bills have 10 day furlough before playing Cincinnati so keep those fingers crossed that we get these guys and some of our defense back.
Rushing Offense: B+
The Bills had 3 rushing touchdowns on the night, two 1 yard dashes by Fred Jackson and a nice 54 dash by C.J. Spiller. Spiller finished with 8 carries for 66 yards, Jackson had 17 for 53 (3.1 avg) and Choice managed 5 for 22 yards (4.4 avg). E.J. had a nice run (for 14 yards), but should have stepped out of bounds after getting the first down. The Bills ran double what the Browns run defense usually gives up, but the offensive line could not maintain the same push or create holes like they had against the Ravens. Again, if the Bills are going to sell the HB option, they need to actually have the QB run with the ball too.
Passing Offense: D
E.J. Manuel had been getting some flak for his mechanics and inconsistent play, but clearly had the better tools than his backup Tuel (no pun intended). Manuel finished 11-20 for 129 yards, while Tuel was just 8-20 for 80 yards and a late pick six. The line gave up a few sacks as well which did not help. Robert Woods had some nice grabs finishing 5 for 64 yards, but was harassed by defenders all night. Chandler had some nice catches too finishing with 4 for 49. Get well soon E.J. and Stevie.
Run Defense: B
Once again, the defense did well several times to shut down the run only to give up a big play later. Still not many teams can force another to take several plays to move one yard. Kiko, Dareus and Lawson all made some nice tackles and limited McGahee to 72 yards on 26 rushes (2.8 avg).
Pass Defense: C
Regardless of what happened, the Bills need Byrd to return to the lineup and to shift Aaron Williams back to safety; the corners right now are getting no help. McKelvin’s return was nice and he was OK including covering TE Jordan Cameron at times. For the second week, A. Williams got busted on a bad hit and gave up some plays. As a whole the Bills were OK in pass coverage giving up just 223 yards and 1 TD, but they have to be consistent through third downs. Gordon and Little made the corners look bad at times. On a happier note, Mario Williams had 2 of the Bills 5 sacks while Jerry Hughes pitched in for 1.5 so at least we have that going for us. (Pass Rush B+, Pass Coverage D-)
Special Teams: F-
I’ve saying for a while, Powell cannot be consistent enough for the Bills. Twice he punted low and to the left (away from Easley) and paid the price big time. The Browns are not geniuses on offense. HALF of their points came from special teams/defensive plays. Powell has to stop shanking punts, and give them some more elevation. On the one bright side, Carpenter hit a 52 yard field goal; what will the Bills do when Dustin Hopkins returns??
Heading in without some key pass defenders and then losing your top receiver and starting QB is not an enviable position for a head coach. It is really hard to fault Marrone in that Manuel was moving the ball coming out the half before getting injured. The Browns lucked out in the sense that Weeden is a starting QB and could easily take over when Hoyer went down. Whereas Tuel, despite the fan love, is not even close to a NFL starting QB. Coming out the gate, the Bills were sharp, but quickly dulled as time went on. Pettine’s defense can only do so much when the Bills offense cannot stay on the field. Injuries, stupid penalties and poor play-calling cannot win games (unless you’re the Jets). Marrone will have time to make adjustments and let his guys heal, so keep those fingers crossed. The next four games are not going to be any easier Bills fans...