For folks that are new to Buffalo Rumblings, here's the scoop: after each Buffalo Bills regular season game, we'll do a film review session in which we look back at the game to pick out some minor details that we may have missed while watching the games live. This is your film session for the Bills' 25-24 Monday Night Football loss to the New England Patriots.
Offense still missing a key ingredient. As surprisingly efficient as Buffalo's offense was in New England, the team was still missing a significant key to fielding a potent attack - and that was getting their receivers involved. Terrell Owens and Lee Evans need more looks. Yes, each dropped passes, and yes, Trent Edwards was able to find big gainers to Fred Jackson underneath, but particularly in the case of Owens, he's your money maker. He's your best player on offense. I don't blame Edwards for throwing where he threw, because the Pats did a good job of taking away his top option on most non-screen passes. The Bills just need to draw up more plays designed specifically for Owens and Evans. Perhaps they had that up their sleeves for the final, ice-the-clock drive that never materialized. It'd be nice to see both involved earlier in next week's game.
More defensive adjustments needed. The Patriots were able to string together long, time-consuming drives in the second half because roughly 4 out of every 5 Tom Brady passes came at the back end of a three-step drop. A defensive line consisting of Dwight Freeney, Mario Williams, Kevin Williams and Albert Haynesworth couldn't have pressured Brady in that situation. Perry Fewell did dial up a few blitzes that forced Brady into some incompletions and bad passes, but those were so few and far between that it hardly mattered. True, Brady should never have had the opportunity to win that game after the Bills took the 24-13 lead. But we need much more out of Fewell's scheming in that situation. (The one positive adjustment Fewell made, by the way, was against the run; NE's rushing attack was a non-factor for much of the game after the Bills gave up a few early runs.)
Demetrius Bell can play. Yes, he had a lot of mental mistakes. We covered that yesterday. And yeah, he also had some pretty serious pass protection breakdowns in the second half - Edwards was hit far too often. But I don't think I'm being hyperbolic when I say Bell is the most athletic tackle we've had here in years. The dude can flat out run, and he was terrific on toss sweeps, routinely sealing the edge. His technique is still lacking somewhat, but in playing the line's most difficult position in his first NFL start, he held up remarkably well. He needs to get better, because there are much scarier ends he'll be facing in the next few weeks than Tully Banta-Cain. My respect level for Bell increased somewhat when I saw him butting heads and jawing with Vince Wilfork - D-Bell is tough. Wilfork, for the record, was so fired up that he encroached on the very next snap.
The rest of the O-Line was great, minus Brad Butler. I paid particularly close attention to the interior three linemen, and Andy Levitre, Geoff Hangartner and Eric Wood were excellent. I wouldn't say that they "blocked" Wilfork, per se, but they sealed him magnificently and got him moving on other occasions. They handled him very well. The Pats didn't do a ton of blitzing, but when they did, communication was great between the inside three. Meanwhile, Butler - who didn't play poorly by any means - was the most susceptible to the bull rush, and was beaten more than any other player besides Bell. Of course, his assignment was a bit tougher, too, as he was tasked with blocking Adalius Thomas. His play wasn't bad, but he, too, needs to improve.
Props to the safeties. I really liked what I saw out of Jairus Byrd. I worried about his ability to tackle in the open field and support the run, but he did very well in both areas. He played as the third safety, and played quite a lot. Byrd's only issue was on the opening kickoff of the game - I'm not sure exactly what he was doing, but as his teammates ran down the field to cover the kick, Byrd was staring at the ground, and realized far too late that he, ahem, was supposed to be moving. NE returned the kick to the 50.
Bryan Scott wasn't great, but he did make 10 stops, and he was in on the coverage responsibilities on Ben Watson's two fourth-quarter touchdowns. So he needs to play better. The best safety on the field for either team was Donte Whitner. No, we didn't get any of the big plays we're craving from Whitner, but in making ten stops (five behind Keith Ellison's game-high 15), Whitner showed outstanding range and nearly had a fumble out of Randy Moss. He'll be just fine at free safety.
I love Fred Jackson. I don't think I need to get too in-depth here. He's one of the most patient runners I've ever laid eyes on. 20 touches, 140 yards, 1 TD. He was outstanding.
Quick - name the Bills' best D-Lineman. In this particular game, I'm calling it a three-way tie between Aaron Schobel, Chris Kelsay and Kyle Williams. Schobel made the big plays (sack, INT returned for TD); his pick-six was one of the most gorgeous plays I've ever seen. He nearly had a second pick early in the fourth quarter that would have prevented an eventual Pats field goal. But Kelsay was a monster in the first half; Nick Kaczur just straight up couldn't block him. Williams was also a force, routinely collapsing the pocket on Brady throws. The line was very active, but I'm curious to see how much of that was just a not-so-great Pats O-Line. The Bucs present a much stiffer challenge next week.
We're really, really going to miss Paul Posluszny. Poz was having a great game prior to breaking his arm. It was nearly as gut-wrenching watching him react to the injury on live TV (I missed it during the live telecast) as it was watching the end of the game itself. I feel terrible for him, but at the same time, the play looked pretty routine; it was difficult to see exactly how the injury happened. It might have happened on an earlier play. Either way, he's already out indefinitely, and he'll require surgery. That's a huge blow to a defense that needs all the help it can get.
I know many of you watch the game back just as I do - so if y'all caught anything on tape that wasn't discussed here, we'd love to hear about it in the comments section.