The Buffalo Bills dropped an 18-15 decision yesterday to the Jacksonville Jaguars, once again squandering a fourth quarter lead in defeat. Perry Fewell's Bills had many of the same problems that Dick Jauron's Bills had - which isn't surprising, as it's kind of the same team - but there was at least one major difference that's worth mentioning in this week's film session.
We've got eight topics of discussion in this week's film review. Let's get this over with, eh?
On Ryan Fitzpatrick. One might argue that Fitzpatrick had his best game as a Bill yesterday, and statistically, that's true. Fitzpatrick averaged 9.6 yards per attempt, completed 18 of 31 passes, and in general was smart with the football. That's why he's starting over Trent Edwards, folks - rarely does Fitzpatrick make the wrong read. In fact, I only saw him make one poor read in Jacksonville, checking down to an out route to Josh Reed when he had Terrell Owens wide open deep. T.O. let him know he missed him, and the two moved on amicably and hooked up to have a really solid day.
Fitzpatrick's big problem is simple: he just doesn't throw a good ball. I charted all 31 of Fitzpatrick's throws, and while this is completely subjective, I judged 16 of those throws (51.6%) to be inaccurately placed, whether they were caught or not. Overthrows, passes too far ahead of or behind receivers - Fitzpatrick is all over the place. If Ralph Wilson is seriously considering spending $10 million on Buffalo's next head coach, he might consider spending a similar amount transplanting Fitzpatrick's brain into Edwards' body; that procedure might give us one of the best quarterbacks in the league. (Also acceptable for the transplant: J.P. Losman's body.)
On Terrell Owens. The guy's still got it. Forget about what the Mike Florios of the world continue to repeat about his supposedly "deteriorating skills," because that's garbage. Yes, Owens was toasting two incredibly inexperienced Jaguars cornerbacks on Sunday. Yes, you would hope that a player of T.O.'s pedigree would completely and utterly dominate names like Derek Cox and Tyrone Brackenridge. He did just that - his 9 catches, 197 yards and a 98-yard touchdown reception prove that he can still be a tremendous asset, even to a non-contending team. Owens probably won't be in Buffalo next season, but he's absolutely worth the risk for a team on the verge of contending in 2010.
Owens, by the way, was clearly the focal point of the passing attack this week; he was targeted 14 times, nine more than the next-highest Bills receiver, Reed.
On Andy Levitre. I thought he struggled mightily on Sunday, just as I thought he struggled in Tennessee. I also thought he looked better at left tackle than he did at left guard - his footwork was quick and concise on the edge, which really surprised me. He doesn't have the arm length or the wide base to consistently hold the edge - and let's remember that the Jaguars are one of the worst pass-rushing teams in the league, which helped Levitre's cause - but there aren't many rookie offensive linemen who can do what Levitre has done over the past two weeks. He has struggled, but he deserves a ton of credit for having the ability to play competently while flip-flopping between left tackle and left guard. At all costs, Buffalo needs to avoid this going forward, as it's going to be difficult for Levitre to develop his game over the next six weeks if he's playing different techniques every other down.
On Eric Wood. So much for using the rest of the season to develop our young offensive lineman; Wood's lower left leg injury - confirmed by the team after the game to be fractures to both his tibia and fibula - was one of the most gruesome injuries I've seen in quite some time. I don't blame Buffalo for playing Wood at right guard this season, but I've thought Wood was playing out of position all season. Now, it looks like he won't even finish his rookie season healthy. More on that this afternoon, but you've got to feel for this kid - he clearly loves playing football, and that's a tough way to go out. Get well soon, Eric.
On David Garrard and his stupid legs. Garrard is an incredibly average quarterback, and as such, the one thing you absolutely cannot let him do is hurt you with his legs. Buffalo was in this game because they did an outstanding job in run defense, limiting Maurice Jones-Drew to just 66 yards on 25 attempts. That forced the game back into Garrard's hands, but it was his legs that did damage to Buffalo. The stat line wasn't astounding - he ran for 16 yards on six attempts - but he picked up first downs twice with his legs on critical third downs, and he also added a two-point conversion on a quarterback draw. Buffalo only gave up seven first downs on the ground the entire game, but those two were pretty crucial.
On Kyle Williams. I mentioned the stellar performance of the run defense - that's the aforementioned clear difference between Jauron's Bills and Fewell's Bills that I mentioned - and Williams was the centerpiece of the effort. The guy was unblockable yesterday (on run downs, anyway). He finished with five tackles and was generally disruptive all day. He also put a big hit on Garrard while pass-rushing; Buffalo's pass rush was solid in the first half, though it waned in the second half as the Jaguars started to dominate in time of possession. Give Williams credit - his knee isn't 100%, but he was a dominant force on Sunday. Most might not consider him a starter going through a regime change, but you might consider it. He can really excel, particularly if he's not an every-down player.
On Aaron Maybin. I watched him closely, because let's just be frank - with the success of Washington rookie Brian Orakpo, patience with Maybin is (unfairly) wearing thin. I thought he looked really solid in the first half; he had an excellent bull rush on a stunt (which forced Garrard to step up into a blitz), and he looked quicker around the edge than I've seen him at any point this season. (It may have helped that he was lining up against rookie right tackle Eben Britton.) He even got a snap or two in which he rushed from a standing position, which Bills fans have been itching for all season; I thought he looked very uncomfortable doing this.
Then he disappeared in the second half, when he was far less effective and didn't really show up at all. This is pretty much what we've seen from Maybin all year - flashes of supreme athleticism and hustle while factoring into the rush peripherally, but stretches of blah play and a complete lack of a counter-move. Give him time, folks. Understand that inconsistency is entirely expected from a 21-year-old. Once the Bills (or, more accurately, the new regime of the Bills) figures out to use him, and he gets a little more comfortable in his own skin, he's going to be dynamite.
On Reggie Corner. Say what you want about him, but Drayton Florence might be the Bills' defensive MVP not named Jairus Byrd this season. He's tough, physical, and doesn't make many mistakes. So, naturally, with Terrence McGee sidelined for a second straight game as he recovers from knee surgery, Jacksonville went after Corner early and often. Corner was torched. He's a fast player who is willing to crack down against the run, but he's not a terribly quick corner, and he's got bad hips; it's pretty easy to turn him around, and it always gets him a half-step out of position. He got torched by Mike Sims-Walker on the deciding touchdown of the game, however, because of impeccable play design and a really sneaky rub route that impeded Corner's ability to keep up with MSW. Corner struggled, but he shouldn't be blamed completely for those decisive points.
If y'all noticed anything about particular players, units or situations, you are, of course, welcome to share those in the comments section.