Before we turn our attentions to the upcoming Week 4 matchup between our dinged up Buffalo Bills and the hated, also-dinged-up Miami Dolphins, we'll take two glances back at the Bills' Week 3 27-7 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
This is your first look back - our weekly Film Session. Stay tuned for this afternoon's Week 3 installment of Ron From NM's ultra-popular Notes from the Bills' O-Line series. Week 3 Film Session begins after the jump.
Things are getting complex for Trent Edwards. Again. Give Gregg Williams a lot of credit - Edwards has beaten his defenses twice before (2007 in Washington, 2008 in Jacksonville), and he finally figured our young quarterback out. The Saints flashed 3-4 looks and zone blitzes, and while Edwards seemed to have most coverages figured out, he struggled to consistently, properly diagnose pressures. When he had time and made the right pressure reads, his receivers weren't open; when Terrell Owens and Lee Evans did manage to run free, Edwards was being flushed or sacked on most occasions. There was zero rhythm to this offensive attack, and that starts with not being able to figure out Williams' pressures.
If you're still looking to point the finger of blame this fine Tuesday morning for the team's offensive woes, split the difference between Edwards and Alex Van Pelt. Buffalo had done a nice job of throwing in some misdirection passing plays and play-action passes in Weeks 1 and 2, but those disappeared nearly entirely in this game. Rather than cut the field in half or check to screen throws, Edwards was forced to take shotgun snaps and read the entire defense. Not only does Van Pelt need to find ways to get the ball to his receivers, but he needs to continue to simplify Edwards' reads. That's where the major regression occurred Sunday.
Man crushes on Andy Levitre are allowed. He, like every lineman, struggled in pass protection on Sunday, but he continues to be the one lineman who routinely flashes dominance. I love watching this kid play football. He's nowhere near the biggest, fastest or even strongest (though he's a beast) player on the field, but he really gets after it. This guy is 100% football player. I'll defer to Ron on the rest of the O-Line this afternoon, but I felt compelled to mention Levitre here.
Terrell Owens' body language. A lot is being made about T.O.'s supposed lackadaisical nature on the field over the past three games, but on more than one occasion I saw him scuffle with DBs post-whistle on run plays. If he's a little loose running his routes, then Lee Evans is right there with him. Move on, folks - nothing to see here. T.O. is OK, and he'll be peachy keen if we can finally get him involved early in games.
We missed Shawn Nelson. As much as I like Derek Fine and value his blocking abilities and toughness, he's not a starting-caliber NFL tight end. We miss Derek Schouman, but on Sunday in particular, we missed Shawn Nelson, too. Nelson's raw and rough around the edges, but he's a receiving threat - something Fine is not. We need Nelson back as soon as possible, because he is Buffalo's only remaining hope of fielding a tight end that can actually hurt defenses the way Schouman was. (Never thought I'd say that.)
Fred Jackson... ... is my favorite player. Rarely have I seen backs with his inexplicable ability to wiggle his way for massive extra yardage. He wasn't great on Sunday, but he did a remarkable job of keeping Buffalo's offense somewhat balanced despite AVP's best efforts to abandon the run altogether. New Orleans bottled him up alright, but they certainly didn't shut him down.
Josh Reed is great. But... I love the role that Reed has carved out for himself. He made some terrific hands catches on third down in this game. I don't even mind that he was Buffalo's leading receiver - but when he's your leader in receiving yards, there's an obvious issue.
This D-Line is playing great. From top to bottom, Buffalo's defensive line is playing extremely well, particularly against the pass. They wore down against the run on Sunday, but with Miami coming up, I'm quite confident they'll fix that issue. Every end - Aaron Schobel, Chris Kelsay, Ryan Denney and rookie Aaron Maybin - got heat on Drew Brees on Sunday. Every tackle - Marcus Stroud, Kyle Williams and Spencer Johnson - played different responsibilities and made plays in the backfield. I said it early Monday morning, and I'll re-iterate it here: Bob Sanders is one heck of a position coach.
Perry Fewell's game plan was masterful, but flawed. Name a defensive formation, and you likely saw it at least once on Sunday. They ran 3-man line looks, they rushed linemen standing up, they zone blitzed, they blitzed in the middle, they blitzed the edges, they stunted, they dropped eight into coverage - seriously, they threw the house at Brees, and for the most part, it worked. Brees made some plays, but he clearly was not the Brees Saints fans have become accustomed to. But they weren't particularly stout against the run the entire game, let alone in the fourth quarter. I suppose if you want the Saints to beat you, you let them do it on the ground, but a bit more resistance would have been nice there. Still, Fewell deserves a ton of credit - his game plan really frustrated an extremely lethal Saints offense for 50 minutes.
I miss Paul Posluszny. Kawika Mitchell has his limitations, which were on full display again on Sunday, mostly in coverage (he looked good blitzing, as usual). As much as I admire the way Ellison has capably assumed on-field quarterbacking duties while Posluszny sits, his physical limitations were exposed by a highly athletic Saints skill position corps. Posluszny is a nice marriage between Ellison's smarts and Mitchell's physicality - and we miss our best linebacker something fierce. Our run D has not looked the same since he's been out.
Oh, and Marcus Buggs? Completely overwhelmed in this game, and he barely played (mostly due to the fact that the Saints ran multiple spread formations and multi-WR packages). Get healthy soon, Poz.
Please get healthy soon, Mr. Whitner. I say that not because I didn't like what I saw from Jairus Byrd - I think he's playing remarkably disciplined football for a rookie playing a new position - but Whitner once again was flying all over the football field against New Orleans. It's only been three games, but he has emerged as a presence in this secondary. He had thumb surgery yesterday and is week-to-week; we need our free safety back as quickly as possible. Byrd will be fine, but he doesn't play as fast as Whitner has been yet.
Don't worry about cornerback. Knowing that Leodis McKelvin is set to miss a significant chunk of time with a fractured fibula, I paid extra close attention to Drayton Florence. Forget about his year in Jacksonville, folks - he wasn't flawless, but he had excellent coverage on the vast majority of his snaps. Yes, I'd much rather see him in the slot, too, but the Bills can play Ashton Youboty outside if they'd really prefer Florence inside, and Reggie Corner is a more-than-capable nickel corner if Florence stays outside. McKelvin, by the way, has been continuously burned by good receivers early in the season. I'm with Kurupt on this one - we won't miss him as much as most would think, though we'll certainly miss the idea that there's someone capable of making plays back there.
This was brutal to re-watch. As in any NFL game, there were good things on the football field, but it is particularly agonizing watching a football game in which 21 penalties were called. Good Lord, those refs were flag-happy. I cannot re-iterate enough that Buffalo needs to play with fewer yellow hankies flying if they want to be serious winners.