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Notes From The Line: Bills at Cardinals

The Cardinals game was certainly a disappointing showing by the Bills. Any time you give up 5 sacks you’re going to have a hard time winning. The line certainly didn’t cover itself with glory on run plays. They didn’t get much help from the coaching staff. With all that being said, I think it’s pretty clear that the defense lost this game for the Bills. The offense--despite giving up sacks, committing penalties, overthrown receivers and dropped balls--averaged 28 yards per drive. That’s enough time for the defense to have a chance to catch their collective breath and to, at the least, flip field position. The defense allowed an abysmal 60% conversion rate on 3rd down and 50% on 4th down. Unlike games in previous years, the offense didn’t leave the defense hanging: the defense did that almost all by itself. (As an aside, George Wilson gets my game ball for biggest idiot. I thought it was beyond stupid for him to hold up his fist on 4th down when his team was getting clobbered and the Cardinals were moving essentially at will. Help out the refs when you’re winning or, at the very least, still in the game, goober.) Moving on…

Watching the game I thought the Cardinals blitzed far more often than they did. Would you believe they only blitzed on 7 of 31 (19.4%) of pass plays? It certainly seemed like they sent a lot more guys when I watched the game on Sunday afternoon. They generated pressure with 4 guys and did it largely by stunting. I think we can count on seeing the Chargers engage in the same sort of tactics next Sunday. Given that the Cardinals had as much, if not more, success stunting towards the right side of the offensive line as they did the left I don’t think we can hang this on Peters’ selfish actions this summer. It’s a problem that extends beyond any individual lineman.

As I suspected they would, the Cardinals stacked the box often. On 9 of 17 (52.9%) of run plays the Cardinals had at least 8 guys in the box. The Bills ran for 6 (!) yards on those 9 plays, or 0.7 yards per attempt. That’s beyond terrible. On the other 8 plays? 67 yards or 8.4 yards per attempt. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but I am expecting the Bills QB to check out of runs where San Diego has 8 in the box. Even with a FB/HB in the backfield and a TE on the line that leaves the Bills 1 blocker short. Turk needs to come up with some creative passes out of that formation when the box is stacked. We saw one against the Rams and Schouman picked up an important first down. Let’s hope Turk has more of those up his sleeves.

The Bills ran through the left c-gap 4 times for 17 yards (4.3 ypa), left b-gap 2 times for 2 yards (1.0 ypa) and a TD, 2 times through the a-gap for -4 yards (-2.0 ypa) largely due to the fumble by Lynch, 4 times for 14 yards (3.5 ypa) through the right b-gap and 5 times for 47 yards (9.4 ypa) through the right c-gap. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the ypa improves the farther away from Fowler the run goes.

The game didn’t take all that long to break down because the offense only had time to run 48 plays.

Drive 1

Pass 1 Royal for 3 yards

Peters sent a speed rushing DE 5 yards upfield. Walker was pushed all the way back to Edwards on a bull rush, thanks in no small part to the DE having his hand firmly under Walker’s facemask. You’d think the ref might notice the way Walker’s head was being shoved backwards…

Pass 2 Jackson for 2 yards on a screen

Fowler never touched anyone. He ran into the flat to his right, passing two LBs on the way. He then tried to reverse course and take on one of the LBs but wasn’t anywhere near able to make contact before they dropped Jackson for minimal gain.

Pass 3 Hardy for 13 yards; Edwards hurt; Cardinals blitzed 5

Yes, as Brian notes, Walker would have had a hard time blocking the blitzing DB. With that said, had he even got a hand on him in order to take the DB off of his straight line run to Edwards, the QB might not have spent the remainder of his afternoon trying to remember his name. Walker was the only guy who could have blocked the DB.

Run 1 Lynch for 2 yards; Losman in the game; a-gap run; stacked box

Fowler got a 2 yard drive and finished his block. Yes, really.

Run 2 Lynch for -6 yards and a fumble; assigned as an a-gap run; stacked box

As much as I wish Buffalo would replace Fowler, this play was killed by a miscommunication between Fowler and Dock. Dock took a half a step, paused for a beat as he looked at 94 before blocking someone else. Fowler barely got a hand on 94, who met Lynch almost at the same time as the handoff. (Sidebar—Lynch may have fumbled anyway as his right hand came down and struck the ball as Losman was shoving it into his guy.)

Dock and Fowler killed the drive via miscommunication as to who was supposed to block 94.

Blitzes: 1

Stacked: 2



Drive 2

Pass 4 INC to Reed; overthrown

55 tried to bull rush Peters, who has evidently been watching the Ultimate Fighter. Peters sprawled and planted 55. Peters then looked around to make sure that no one else needed his attention as he kept 55 pinned to the ground.

Pass 5 Lynch for 3 yards

Pass 6 Hardy for 17 yards; blitz-5

Dock blocked no one while Fowlers guy blew right past him and hit Losman. Royal had a nice blitz pick up.

Run 3 Lynch for 7 yards; right b-gap

Peters turned the DE away from the run and kept him from pursuing the play. Dock and Fowler teamed up to blow the DT out of the hole. Whittle had a pretty sad block while Schouman led the play with a solid block. Walker drove a LB out of the hole and out of the play.

Run 4 Lynch for 5 yards; right b-gap; stacked box

Peters drove 94 2 yards and then threw him 2 more. Dock engulfed 95. Fowler took out a LB at the 2nd level. Butler executed a pretty trap block on 97 and put him down.

Pass 7 Losman sacked for -2 yards; attempted to scramble      

Losman had almost 4 seconds to find a receiver before taking off. This sack is on him.

Losman killed the drive by taking the sack.

Blitzes: 1

Stacked: 1


Drive 3

Run 5 Lynch for no gain; left b-gap; stacked box

Dock let 94 get inside of him and he got enough of Lynch to slow him down for others to tackle. Butler had a pathetic cut block which didn’t even cause 93 to break stride…which let him make the tackle.

Butler then had a false start, setting up 2nd and 15.

Run 6 Lynch for 1 yard; right b-gap

Peters let a LB go upfield and kept him there. Fowler was pushed back 2 yards by the DT into Lynch’s route. That forced Lynch to find a new running lane which allowed 55 to run him down from behind. Royal had a nice block on a LB.

Pass 8 Evans for 87 yards; TD; 60 yards in the air

Peters got help. He put it to good use as he handed his guy off to Lynch and put Dock’s guy down with a thud. This was a good thing as Dock couldn’t keep his guy from getting by him in spite of a grievous hold. Peters got Losman the time he needed for the long throw to develop. Butler sandwiched Walker’s guy and then got out in front of Losman in case anyone else needed to be blocked. Walker let his guy get to his inside (where Butler smacked him) which forced Losman to move outside the pocket.

No one killed the drive.

Blitzes: 0

Stacked: 0


Drive 4

Pass 9 Lynch for 1 yard; ugly screen

Walker missed a cut on 90. 90 then forced Lynch to go wide and limited the play to 1 yard. Had Lynch been able to cut inside of a WR block he would have gotten more yardage.

Run 7 Lynch for 3 yards; left c-gap; stacked box

Fowler was driven back 2 yards. Schouman had a nice block on the end of the line. Evans made a half hearted attempt at a block and his guy was in on the tackle.

Pass 10 Reed for 19 yards; blitz-7

Jackson had a good blitz pick up.

Run 8 Jackson 11 yards; left c-gap

Dock and Peters teamed up on the DE and launched him 4 yards. Peters peeled off the DE and tossed a LB 3 yards. Butler pulled and blew a LB out of the hole.

Run 9 Evans for 22 yards; stacked box, right c-gap

Fowler led the play. He spun 270 degrees at the snap (making it look like he was just blocking incompetently—very believable) and then led the play. He engaged a LB in space which let Evans run by. Had Royal not completely whiffed on a block Evans would have gained even more ground.

Run 10 Lynch for 4 yards; left c gap; stacked box

Butler put the DT down. Schouman was blocking on the line and drove 54 7 yards into the endzone. Whittle got enough of a LB to let Lynch get by.

Run 11 Lynch for 1 yard; right c-gap; stacked box

Dock and Fowler teamed up on 97. Walker didn’t seal the end of the line which allowed 90 to turn around and get in on the tackle. Royal completely missed 55, who was in on the tackle. Had Royal and Walker done their jobs Lynch would likely have scored.

Run 12 Losman for 2 yards; TD; stacked box; left b-gap

When a LB turned to chase Losman, Peters threw him into the endzone. Dock sealed 91 inside and formed the run lane. Walker let a LB go upfield and kept him there.

No one killed the drive.

Blitzes: 1

Stacked: 5




Drive 5

Run 13 Lynch for 22 yards; right c-gap

Peters never let 94 get off the line. Butler buried 54. Walker drove 90 6 yards off the line. Schouman had a nice block on 95, which would have been at the point of attack if Lynch hadn’t cut it back the other way.

Run 14 Lynch for -1 yards; 9 in the box; left c-gap

Peters turned 55 inside and sealed the edge. Dock turned 94 in a circle. Schouman took out a run blitzing safety but that meant that he wasn’t there to pick up a LB filling the hole and smacking Lynch.

Pass 11 Sack; -4 yards, blitz-5; defense lined up offside (Walker’s guy)

Butler was beaten by 90 for the sack. Walker was beaten around the edge by 55.

Run 15 Lynch for 1 yard; right b-gap; stacked box

Fowler went to the 2nd level and missed a LB. Walker and Butler got no push at all and their guys made the tackle.

Run 16 Lynch for -1 yard; right c-gap

Dock pulled and hit 24 in the hole. (The fact that 24 was in the hole was problematic as Dock couldn’t take out a filling LB.) Butler helped Walker with 94 but couldn’t disengage fast enough to get the filling LB either. It really wouldn’t have mattered. Even though the LB made the tackle another DB was coming in fast and would have made the stop if the LB didn’t.

The drive was killed by play calling. Running on 3rd and 5 isn’t going to pick up many first downs.

Blitzes: 1

Stacked: 2


Drive 6

Pass 12 Royal for 6 yards; fumble

Walker got help on the play.

Jauron didn’t get help (at least not good help) when it came to advice on throwing the challenge flag. It was a questionable call. In a game you’re losing badly it’s almost automatic to challenge those sorts of plays. It may well have been a wasted time out but you’ve got to at least take the shot.

The drive was killed by Royal (for fumbling) and Jauron (for not challenging)

Blitzes: 0

Stacked: 0


Drive 7

Pass 13 Lynch for 4 yards

It’s already the 4th quarter!!!

Pass 14 Lynch for 2 yards; Butler holding

Butler held and his guy still hit Losman. Well done.

Pass 15 Sack; fumble

Peters got help. He sealed the DE inside and couldn’t get back to pick up the stunting DT. Dock’s DT stumbled and eventually got to Losman. Losman had 4 seconds to throw, making him responsible for the sack.


Drive 8

Pass 16 Sack for -5 yards; blitz-5

Dock’s guy stunted outside and he didn’t react to the guy stunting to him. That guy went past him and then right past Lynch, who missed the block.

Pass 17 sack for -12 yards

Peters let 53 blow right past him for the sack.

Pass 18 Evans for 13 yards

The drive was killed by Peters. Giving up a 5 yard sack is bad but giving up a 12 yard sack on 2nd and 15 is just awful.




Drive 9

Pass 19 Reed for 11 yards

Peters had help.

Pass 20 Evans dropped it

Pass 21 INT; blitz-7

Against an all out blitz that was nevertheless picked up Losman launched a terrible pass that was picked off.

Losman killed the drive.

Blitzes: 1

Stacked: 0


Drive 10

Run 17 Jackson for 5 yards; right c gap

Fowler missed a LB at the 2nd level. Butler rode a DT in an outside circle and put him down.

Pass 22 Reed for 7 yards

Pass 23 Evans INC;

It was a long pass and Evans had a shot at it. He just couldn’t quite adjust to it. If he’d been able to do so he might have scored—not that that would have done anything but pad Losman’s and Evans’ stat lines.

Pass 24 Jackson for 10 yards

Pass 25 Reed for 8 yards

Pass 26 Johnson (a Johnson sighting!) for 8 yards; blitz-7

Pass 27 Jackson for 20 yards

Peters put 96 down when he tried a spin move. Dock let 94 get past him and it almost led to a sack.

Pass 28 sack for -10 yards

Walker, Dock and Fowler were confused by a stunt. All 3 blocked a DE while no one picked up the DE stunting inside. Fowler should have stayed home and picked up the DE.

Pass 29 thrown away

Butler’s guy got inside of him and forced Losman to run for his life and throw the ball away. Peters had help.

Pass 30 Hardy for 4 yards

Pass 31 INC to Hardy

Peters and Walker each had help. Losman threw a bad pass and Hardy didn’t adjust to it.


Peters had 6 good run plays, 11 decent ones, no bad ones and no killed plays. He had 3 good pass plays, 27 decent ones, 1 bad one and 1 killed play. That killed play was a sack which killed a drive. The good news is that I saw the Peters of last season finally re-emerge. He was moving from one defender to another when the situation called for it. He threw some guys around and slammed others to the ground. One thing that stood out that is a departure from last season is that Peters was helped on 6 pass plays.


Dock had 4 good run plays, 11 decent ones, 2 bad ones and 2 killed run plays. He had no good pass plays, 27 decent ones, 4 bad ones and no killed plays.


Fowler had 3 good run plays, 11 decent ones, 3 bade ones and 1 killed run play. He had no good pass plays, 28 decent ones, 3 bad ones and 1 killed pass play. The one killed pass play was a sack.


Butler had 5 good run plays, 9 decent ones, 3 bad ones and 2 killed run plays. He had 1 good pass play, 27 decent ones, 3 bad ones and 1 killed play. The killed play was a sack.


Walker had 2 good run plays, 13 decent ones, 2 bad plays and 1 killed run play. He had no good pass pays, 28 decent ones, 3 bad ones and no killed plays. It should be noted that one of his bad plays got Edwards sent in for x-rays. He was helped only on 2 plays, an oddity given that Peters was helped on 6.