Run Defense. Fittingly, the Buffalo Bills displayed all of their weaknesses defending the run in one game. New York Jets rushing stalwarts Brad Smith and rookie Joe McKnight, who made his first start, got wide on the Bills' defense all day. McKnight and Jets fullback John Conner gashed the Bills inside. The 3-4 defense was called for by many Bills fans as some sort of elixir that would stop the run. I contented that scheme isn't as important as talent on defense. I still do. Only Kyle Williams can consistently beat his block. No Buffalo defensive lineman can stack, read the play, shed and close the hole. None of the outside linebackers can set the edge and compress the play back inside. The inside linebackers aren't very good at filling the hole at the line of scrimmage. There's no defensive scheme that's going to fix any of this.
Blocking. Ron will get into the particulars of each player's performance, but this group was so bad that I had to comment. I didn't notice too many missed blocks on the interior, but the edge blocking was noticeably terrible. Specifically, Buffalo needs a tight end that understands what a chip block is and how to integrate into blitz pick-ups. Jonathan Stupar was once a pre-season hero, but he's terrible on picking up the blitz. On one play, he had two blitzers to block, and blocked no one. Fred Jackson is also very guilty of pass protection gaffes. Calvin Pace's sack-turned-interception was a result of the right tackle down blocking instead of coming out to block Pace. Buddy Nix really needs to address right tackle, tight end, and maybe left tackle while he's at it.
Coverage from Cornerbacks. This was supposed to be a position of strength coming into the season. Drayton Florence has been up-and-down; both Jet games were "downs." Terrence McGee has been hurt, forcing Leodis McKelvin into the line-up. McKelvin was riding on Florence's roller coaster, and didn't have a good game either. What makes this worse is Mark Sanchez didn't throw a single pass. Mark Brunell's long dead left arm was resurrected. Braylon Edwards was only targeted twice and only caught one, but it went for 52 yards and a touchdown. Santonio Holmes was targeted once, a 17 yard touchdown. Buffalo should have contained Brunell and Kellen Clemens on the outside, but didn't.
Jairus Byrd. I think Byrd is finally understanding his reads and his positioning with a new defense in front of him. His stat line for the game: 6 tackles (4 solo), one interception for a touchdown, one pass defended, and one pass deflection. He also came close to a forced fumble. Byrd came out off Oregon as a slow cornerback, but played fast due to great instincts. Hopefully his understanding of George Edwards' defense has caught up to a point where he can start to rely on those instincts.
Buffalo entered the season as a lamb and went out as a lamb. The last two slaughters should bring pause to Bills decision makers and fans alike and cause some re-evaluation. The euphoria of the mid-season four wins, Steve Johnson's emergence, Chan Gailey's offense, and Ryan Fitzpatrick's play is overshadowed by the stark reality that this team is average at best playing in a tough division.
Buffalo should have won the Chiefs and Steelers games, at a minimum. It may be a silver lining that they didn't. Buffalo finished with four wins instead of six, and have the third pick in the upcoming draft. Add to that the hope of a team that looked good over a six-game span, and there's reason to look forward to the off-season. As part of the Chargers' organizational decision making team, Nix was part of three top five selctions: LaDainian Tomlinson, Quentin Jammer, and Eli Manning (traded for Philip Rivers). The history of competency with high picks is there. As long as we avoid another Mike Williams, we're going in the right direction there.
Next up: The playoffs, NFL collective bargaining agreement negotiations, maybe free agency, and the draft.