The Bills came close to pulling off a week 1 upset against the Patriots, but in the end, lost 23 to 21. In the end, too many mistakes and penalties did them in. Still, the Bills had a nice debut for rookie QB E.J. Manuel. The pieces seem to be falling into place, but a lot of fine-tuning is still needed.
Rushing Offense: C-
Spiller got off to a bad start averaging 2.4 yards on 17 carries. Additionally he had a costly fumble in the first quarter. On the flip side though, Fred Jackson had a solid game with 13 carries for 67 yards (5.2 avg) and E.J. Manuel had a nice 19 yard scramble. The O-Line needs to push the defense more and maybe involving FB Frank Summers more will improve the run game.
Passing Offense: A-
Anytime a (rookie) QB has a QB rating nearly 30 points higher than Tom Brady, you know he had a good game. Manuel had a solid debut completing 18 of 27 passes (67%) for 150 yards, 2 TDs and no picks. He also had a few good plays called back due to penalties. The O-Line was more solid in pass protection giving up 0 sacks. Jackson led the team with 4 catches for 41 yards, while Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods caught a TD apiece. Stevie dropped a would be first down late in the game though.
Run Defense: D+
The Bills had a mixed outing against the Pats run game. On the plus side, rookie LB Kiko Alonzo recovered a Brady fumble on the 2 yard line while Da’Norris Searcy ran back a Stevan Ridley fumble 74 yards for a score. However, the Bills continued to give up big runs to both Ridley (5.1 avg) and Shane Vereen (7.2 avg) late in the game. (Vereen had 101 yards on 14 carries).
Passing Defense: C
Despite Justin Rogers picking off Brady and keeping Brady to a 76.4 QB rating (man did he miss Gronk today), the Bills secondary could not keep the ball out of Danny Amendola or Julian Edelman’s hands. Edelman had 2 TD grabs. On the plus side, they did a good job limiting hyped rookie Kenbrell Thompkins. McKelvin did a nice job with 4 passes defended. The Bills had 2 sacks on Brady, but otherwise, the pass rush was lackluster at times.
Special Teams: B-
The Bills had a quiet day on special teams. Recently brought in kicker Dan Carpenter did not attempt any field goals but had some decent kickoffs. T.J. Graham almost botched his only kickoff return of the day. Coverage units, particularly Marcus Easley, had a good day, thanks in part to Shawn Powell blasting 9 punts with a 45.8 yard avg.
Marrone and his staff did a nice job getting the Bills ready to play against and nearly beat the best of the AFC East. However, with this young team, they need to ensure players don’t make mistakes or as many penalties in future games. Marrone promised an up tempo offense, but he could have slowed it down towards the end to eat up some clock. Oh, was anyone else confused with that challenge on the phantom Pats fumble that the Pats recovered? Still I like the intensity and mentality Marrone has installed in Buffalo. Understand that growing pains are necessary. Props to Marrone and Pettine ending the Pats 30+ points streak from the previous 6 games.