Over the course of the 2013 season, we charted the "Real Score" of each game broken down by Offensive, Defensive, and Special Teams units. The "Real Score" is an original concept that provides a more accurate picture of how each unit performed where it matters most - the scoreboard. It answers these questions: how many points did each unit contribute, how many points did each unit give up, and what is the net score of each unit? It provides unit-specific accountability and looks past the positive highlights in favor of the whole picture, good AND bad; the scoring highlights played on a loop and the train-wreck plays we tend to forget.
The point of the "Real Score" is to avoid misleading final scoreboards that prompted a CBS broadcaster to say the Bills' Defense had given up 20+ points in every game before their Week 11 matchup with the Jets (they hadn't). By just looking at the final score and stats like a team's avg. points scored and avg. points given up, broadcasters and fantasy football leagues would have you believe the Bills' Defense gave up Kansas City CB Sean Smith's 100-yd interception return.
In general, here's how it works: Offense, Defense, and Special Teams get credit for contributing 7 points to the Bills' when those units score touchdowns (i.e. when the Defense returns an interception for a touchdown) and are accountable for giving 7 points to the opponent when those units give up touchdowns (i.e. when the Offense throws a pick-six.) Offense, Defense, and Special teams get credit for field goals when they get the team in field goal range and the team settles for the field goal (i.e. when Defense gets a turnover in field goal range and the team settles for the field goal) and are accountable for field goals given up when they allow the opponent into field goal range and the opponent settles for the field goal (i.e. when Special Teams allows a long return into field goal range and the opponent settles for the field goal). Defense also gets credit for safeties.
What if the Defense gets a turnover in field goal range and the Offense capitalizes on it with a touchdown? The Offense gets all the glory for the touchdown and 7 points. What if the Offense turned it over in the opponent's field goal range and the Defense ended up giving up a touchdown? The Offense is off the hook and the Defense is accountable for 7 points given up. Special Teams works the same way.
There can be exceptions to the rules for the sake of common sense, but that's the gist.
To arrive at the score differential between the two teams, simply add the Offense and Special Teams Real Scores and subtract the Defense Real Score from that number (i.e. CLE 37, BUF 24 --> Offense 17 + Special Teams (-13) - Defense 17 = -13).
Here's a look at the "Real Score" of the Bills' 2013 season and how each unit contributed to the final score:
REAL SCORE BY WEEK
- Week 1 (L)
- NE 23 - Def: 23
- BUF 21 - Off: 14, Def: 7
- Real Score: Off: 14, Def: 16, ST: 0
- Week 2 (W)
- BUF 24 - Off: 24
- CAR 23 - Def: 17, Off: 6
- Real Score: Off: 18, Def: 17, ST: 0
- Week 3 (L)
- NYJ 27 - Def: 27
- BUF 20 - Off: 14, Def: 6
- Real Score - Off: 14, Def: 21, ST: 0
- Week 4 (W)
- BUF 23 - Off: 20, Def: 3
- BAL 20 - Def: 20
- Real Score - Off: 20, Def: 17, ST: 0
- Week 5 (L)
- CLE 37 - Def: 17, ST: 13, Off: 7
- BUF 24 - Off: 24
- Real Score - Off: 17, Def: 17, ST: -13
- Week 6 (L, OT)
- CIN 27 - Def: 24, ST: 3
- BUF 24 - Off: 24
- Real Score - Off: 24, Def: 24, ST: -3
- Week 7 (W)
- BUF 23 - Off: 13, Def: 10
- MIA 21 - Def: 21
- Real Score - Off: 13, Def: 11, ST: 0
- Week 8 (L)
- NO 35 - Def: 35
- BUF 17 - Off: 17
- Real Score - Off: 17, Def: 35, ST: 0
- Week 9 (L)
- KC 23 - Off: 17, Def: 6
- BUF 13 - Off: 13
- Real Score - Off: -4, Def: 6, ST: 0
- Week 10 (L)
- PIT 23 - Def: 17, Off: 3, ST: 3
- BUF 10 - Off: 7, Def: 3
- Real Score - Off: 4, Def: 14, ST: -3
- Week 11 (W)
- BUF 37 - Off: 27, Def: 10
- NYJ 14 - Def: 14
- Real Score - Off: 27, Def: 4, ST: 0
- Week 13 (L, OT)
- ATL 34 - Def: 34
- BUF 31 - Off: 31
- Real Score - Off: 31, Def: 34, ST: 0
- Week 14 (L)
- TB 27 - Def: 21, Off: 6
- BUF 6 - Off: 6
- Real Score - Off: 0, Def: 21, ST: 0
- Week 15 (W)
- BUF 27 - Off: 24, Def: 3
- JAX 20 - Def: 17, Off: 3
- Real Score - Off: 21, Def: 14, ST: 0
- Week 16 (W)
- BUF 19 - Off: 16, Def: 3
- MIA 0
- Real Score - Off: 16, Def: -3, ST: 0
- Week 17 (L)
- NE 34 - Def: 24, ST: 10
- BUF 20 - Off: 20
- Real Score - Off: 20, Def: 24, ST: -10
REAL SCORE BY UNIT
OFFENSE (higher is better)
- Week 1 L v. NE - 14
- Week 2 W v. CAR - 18
- Week 3 L @ NYJ - 14
- Week 4 W v. BAL - 20
- Week 5 L @ CLE - 17
- Week 6 L v. CIN - 24 (OT)
- Week 7 W @ MIA - 13
- Week 8 L @ NO - 17
- Week 9 L v. KC - (-4)
- Week 10 L @ PIT - 4
- Week 11 W v. NYJ- 27
- Week 13 L v. ATL - 31 (OT)
- Week 14 L @ TB - 0
- Week 15 W @ JAX - 21
- Week 16 W v. MIA - 16
- Week 17 L @ NE - 20
DEFENSE (lower is better)
- Week 1 L v. NE - 16
- Week 2 W v. CAR - 17
- Week 3 L @ NYJ - 21
- Week 4 W v. BAL- 17
- Week 5 L @ CLE - 17
- Week 6 L v. CIN- 24 (OT)
- Week 7 W @ MIA - 11
- Week 8 L @ NO - 35
- Week 9 L v. KC - 6
- Week 10 L @ PIT - 14
- Week 11 W v. NYJ - 4
- Week 13 L v. ATL - 34 (OT, 31 in regulation)
- Week 14 L @ TB - 21
- Week 15 W @ JAX - 14
- Week 16 W v. MIA - (-3)
- Week 17 L @ NE - 24
SPECIAL TEAMS (higher is better)
- Week 1 L v. NE: 0
- Week 2 W v. CAR - 0
- Week 3 L @ NYJ - 0
- Week 4 W v. BAL - 0
- Week 5 L @ CLE - (-13)
- Week 6 L v. CIN - (-3), (OT)
- Week 7 W @ MIA - 0
- Week 8 L @ NO - 0
- Week 9 L v. KC - 0
- Week 10 L @ PIT - (-3)
- Week 11 W v. NYJ - 0
- Week 13 L v. ATL - 0 (OT)
- Week 14 L @ TB - 0
- Week 15 W @ JAX - 0
- Week 16 W v. MIA - 0
- Week 17 L @ NE - (-10)
A frustrated Marrone yelling, "That's not the f-ing playcall!" at his rookie QB
It should be no surprise to see some of the low scores here. The Bills' Offense didn't net more than 21 points until Week 6 against Cincinnati, a crushing overtime loss, and netted 24 points or more only three times all year.
Some deceptive games include the Bills' Week 1 loss to New England 23-21. What looks like a respectable offensive outing against long-time division champs is actually a 14-point day for the Offense. The game was close because of a 74-yd fumble return TD by Da'Norris Searcy. The Bills flipped the table and beat Miami 23-21 in Week 7, but the Offense actually contributed only 13 of those points and the Defense, who manhandled Miami twice, scored the other 10. In their thrilling come-from-behind victory in Week 2 v. Carolina, the game was close because the Offense had given up back-to-back field goals to Carolina on a fumble and an interception to end the 3rd quarter and start the 4th. Even after the Defense intercepted Joe Flacco 4 times, the Week 4 matchup with Baltimore went down to the wire because of the Offense's lack of punch. The 3-point difference in the game ended up being a field goal provided by the Defense on an Aaron Williams interception and the game ended with the Defense nabbing a 5th pick to end Baltimore's hopes for overtime.
A generous pass interference call negated an interception on the game-winning drive of the Carolina game while Rex Ryan's mismanagement of challenges in Week 3 allowed the Bills to keep the ball down 20-12 with a chance to tie it in the 4th quarter instead of the Jets getting the ball near field goal range on what was clearly an EJ Manuel fumble. In that same game, the Bills' biggest play, Fred Jackson's 59-yd run, was only sprung because DROY Sheldon Richardson had a Leon Lett moment and even then Jackson was caught from behind and the Bills settled for a field goal.
You don't expect much from a team's third-string quarterback, but the Offense's low point would certainly be Jeff Tuel's lone start against Kansas City where the Offense GAVE UP 17 points to KC and netted -4 points! That should probably put an end to any talk about Jeff Tuel's potential in the league (he also personally gave up 7 in relief duty to Cleveland). The worst EJ Manuel-led game would have to be against a 3-9 Tampa Bay team whose defense Darrelle Revis recently called "a joke". In that game, Manuel was the team's leading rusher with 29 yards and the Offense laid a Real Score goose egg. The Offense couldn't out-duel a rookie QB who was held to 16 net yards of passing through the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarters. That's only slightly worse than the Real Score of 4 the Offense managed against Pittsburgh while throwing for 3.5 yards/pass.
Even in the Bills' 6 wins, the offensive unit netted under 20 points/game.
Their most productive game was clearly against Atlanta in Toronto where they managed a Real Score of 31. They capitalized on a Matt Ryan fumble at the ATL 21 with a Fred Jackson touchdown and got another 24 points completely unassisted by Defense or Special Teams, but the good stuff was wasted when they ended the day with back-to-back fumbles by Stevie Johnson and Scott Chandler to drop their second overtime loss of the year.
The Offense gave points to opponents in 6 of their 16 games: 5 times in the 10 games Manuel started, 0 times in the 5 games Lewis started, and 1 time in the 1 game Tuel started for an average of 2.63 points/game. Not adjusted for circumstances or opponent, the Offense netted more with Thad Lewis under center.
REAL SCORE AVG. = 15.75 (16.6 in games Manuel started, 18 in games Lewis started, -4 in games Tuel started)
SEASON IN A NUTSHELL: Besides the Atlanta finish, it might be Q1 7:07 in Week 15 against the Jags when the Offense didn't realize and exploit the fact that Jacksonville only had 10 defenders on the field. They actually ran away from where the Jags were missing a man!
The Bills were ferocious against Miami in Week 16
The Bills' 2013 Defense was a great defense, certainly in the top 5 or 6, in stark contrast to how the 2012 unit performed. All the points scored, all the turnovers, all the drive-ending sacks and negative plays, all the three-and-outs, all the times they held opposing offenses to field goals after Buffalo's Offense turned it over in field goal range, and they did it all with little to no help from their Offense or Special Teams counterparts. Their 28th best run defense ranking is inconsequential; the Bills wanted to pressure teams and dictate to the offense and they did just that. It's why Football Outsiders had them ranked as the 4th most efficient defense in the NFL and why there shouldn't be anybody left questioning whether Mike Pettine has a command of the Ryan family philosophy or not.
The Real Score helps to tell a piece of the true story of this defense, but even the Real Score doesn't give them credit for the times they gave the ball to Buffalo's Offense in field goal range and the Offense scored a touchdown, as was the case in Atlanta we already mentioned. They even pushed teams back or got turnovers of their own on occasion after the Offense turned the ball over in opponents' field goal range (i.e. New Orleans and Baltimore). We already mentioned the 10 points they put up against Miami in their first matchup thanks to a pick-six by Nickell Robey playing catch-man technique from the slot and Mario Williams' sack/fumble, but that wasn't the only time they scored 10 points in 2013; they also did it in a Week 11 shellacking of the Jets when they walked away with a Real Score of 4.
How about this: the Defense scored points in 9 of 16 games for a whopping 3.19 points/game. In a league where so many games are decided by a field goal or less, the Defense certainly did its part to get the Bills over the playoff drought. The Defense gave up less than 20 net points in 10 of 16 games and a net average of 12.17 points/game within the division.
Two of the Defense's worst three games came against the NFC South. They gave up 35 net points to New Orleans and 31 net points to a struggling Atlanta team. Those are also the only two games the Defense gave up more than 24 net points.
Their best game of the year was their second game against Miami where they actually scored more points than they gave up for a Real Score of -3! That's as dominant as you will ever see; 103 total yards given up, 14 rushing yards given up, 7 sacks. The Dolphins barely eked out, at the end, 2.0 yards/play. They narrowly missed getting credit for another field goal, but giving the ball to the Offense on the MIA 48 was just a little too deep.
Their most deceptive game was in Week 5 against Cleveland where they actually only gave up 17 of Cleveland's 37 points. That's when an awful Special Teams unit had its worst game and Jeff Tuel threw a pick-six in relief of an injured EJ Manuel.
Also, New England put up 34 against the Bills to end the year, but the Defense was only responsible for 24 of those points. They deserve credit for stopping the Pats' offense after Blount's 83-yd return, but when Dareus foolishly jumped the snap count on a sure-thing field goal, he allowed the Pats' offense back onto the field to score a touchdown from the 5 yard line. Special Teams got the blame for that touchdown because it's Tom Brady at the 5 with a fresh series. Against one of the league's most efficient offenses, the Defense only gave up 16 points through three quarters, holding the Pats to field goals on 4 of their first 5 scoring drives. The Patriots didn't score again after that penalty until 2:23 left in the 4th. It was also just poor luck they couldn't scoop up any of the Patriots' 4 fumbles.
Mike Pettine was able to get big plays out of undrafted rookie Nickell Robey, great play from the quiet FA signing of Manny Lawson, and a ton of production from Indianapolis castoff Jerry Hughes that has to make the even swap for Kelvin Sheppard the worst trade Indianapolis has ever...nope, giving away a 1st round pick for Trent Richardson is the worst trade Indianapolis has ever made.
REAL SCORE AVG. = 17. If Pettine had stayed, the 2014 Defense likely would have been even better.
SEASON IN A NUTSHELL: Like Rex Ryan and Dick LeBeau, Mike Pettine relied on the threat of pressure to get guys coming in clean on a 4-man rush, but Manny Lawson coming in clean on a 2-man rush (that's right - 1 of the Bills' 2 rushers was unblocked) to make the sack on Matt Ryan and end the Falcons' first drive was probably one of the most hilarious executions of that philosophy.
Special Teams Summary
Dareus hangs his head after jumping offsides on a sure-thing FG in Week 17
The 2012 Lions' Special Teams unit under Danny Crossman will always hold the dubious distinction of being the unit that gave Minnesota a franchise first: a kickoff returned for a touchdown and a punt returned for a touchdown in a single game. The Lions had an awful Special Teams unit, so they were more than happy to let Crossman out of his contract to join the Bills and the 2013 Bills' Special Teams unit was a disaster. Go figure. Other than watching Marcus Easley find his niche as a gunner, there was little to be excited about.
Their most disastrous game was Week 5 against Cleveland when they gave up 13 points to the Browns on a 57-yd return by Travis Benjamin (the Defense held them to a field goal), a 34-yd punt to the BUF 38 (the Defense held them to a field goal, Shawn Powell was later released), and a 79-yd touchdown return by Benjamin (the Defense couldn't do anything about that one). The very next week against Cincinnati, special teamer Marcus Dowtin lost his job when the the unit gave up the game-winning punt return in overtime. Their Week 17 performance against New England was their second-worst game of the year, giving 10 points to the Pats.
The Special Teams unit had a negative net score in 25% of the Bills' games and never once registered a scoring play for the Bills; no touchdown returns, no returns that even earned the Bills a field goal. Leodis McKelvin was fortunate to only lose 1 of his 7 fumbles. The Bills' special teamers combined to rank as Pro Football Focus's 2nd-worst unit.
REAL SCORE AVG. = -1.81 points/game. Danny Crossman's history with Marrone is one of the reasons people are talking about the head coach's "cronyism".
SEASON IN A NUTSHELL: A halfback in a linebacker's body trundles down the field for an 83-yd kickoff return, the Defense then gets a red zone 3-and-out, and Marcell Dareus on the field goal unit jumps offsides and allows the Patriots to score from the 5.
It's certainly disappointing to see Mike Pettine go as the Defense was the lone bright spot for the Bills in 2013. Special teams plays lost multiple games for the Bills and the Offense has a lot of work to do before the Bills can be a playoff contender again.