The Buffalo Bills dropped a 17-13 home game to the Kansas City Chiefs yesterday in extra-annoying fashion, and we're all venting about the latest excruciating missed opportunity of the 2014 season this chilly Monday morning. Let's keep that rolling right here in this post, shall we?
No. 1: I'm typically the last guy to jump on the second-guessing-every-coaching-decision bandwagon, but man, is Doug Marrone's act wearing thin. His unwillingness to reveal anything even remotely behind-the-scenes in press conferences is beside the point for me, even though that had already become irritating weeks ago. His excessive conservatism situationally, and over-reliance on a good defense to bail the rest of the team out, has reached absurd territory. I'm a fairly stoic dude when I watch Bills games, but I was among the thousands screaming my throat raw as the Bills continually gave the football away on manageable fourth downs.
This is the NFL in 2014. It is tremendously difficult to play defense in the NFL in 2014, and it is tremendously easy for even iffy offenses to make plays in key spots. That's why success rates on fourth downs at specific points on the field - stats that Marrone has previously cited himself - continue to trend positively in the direction of offenses. If the Bills are going to make the playoffs, they're going to need to try to be far more aggressive in taking that spot in the six-team field. Those situations would be a good place to start. More importantly, the Bills need to do a complete 180 as a situational football team. Too many times they've made mistakes or poor decisions in critical spots, and that's why they're developing the reputation of a good team that lets opponents hang around too long.
No. 2: While we're on the subject of coaching decisions, let's spend some time discussing the continued trend of the disparity between called pass and run plays coming down from Nathaniel Hackett. Buffalo has been bad enough running the football this season that I haven't had much of an issue defending the decision to pass the football over 40 times per game. Yesterday, however, the Bills were back to their old ways on the ground, averaging 5.0 yards per carry on their 22 carries. That was undoubtedly aided by the team's decision to channel the Chan Gailey attack and spread the field more frequently, which they did in an effort to slow down the Chiefs' pass rush. (It worked; more on that in a moment.)
Despite the resurgence in the ground game, Kyle Orton still threw the football 48 times. That happened despite Buffalo's holding a (yes, slim) lead for more than three quarters. I'm all for continuing to be aggressive offensively with a lead, and the Bills moved the football quite efficiently in the second half anyways, but the fact that the Bills continued to throw the football when their self-professed bread and butter, the running game, was clicking sticks in my craw a bit.
No. 3: Orton, to my eye, was the most frustrating part of yesterday's loss. He's hardly the reason they lost; let's that get out of the way. But on three separate red zone throws - one in the first half, two in the second - he had Scott Chandler, Robert Woods, and Chris Hogan open on excellent play designs, and missed the throws by miles. They just needed one more throw from Orton to win that game despite everything else irritating that had gone on, and Orton missed three golden opportunities. My kingdom for a franchise quarterback.
No. 4: No, I take that back. The most frustrating part of yesterday's loss was that the Bills had such a great game plan on offense against Kansas City, again, and could only score 13 points, again. They looked like the Jeff Tuel offense from a 23-13 loss last season. They weren't quite as successful at moving the ball as they were a year ago - give an improved Kansas City defense credit on that front - but the fact that the Bills were able to prevent the Chiefs' pass rush from being too disruptive in Orton's pocket speaks to a well-thought out game plan and solid work from a beleaguered offensive line. Credit where it's due, but my goodness, score some g-dang points against that team.
No. 5: Hey, at least the defense is still good. Buffalo has a shot to stay in the near-.500 territory well into December solely because of that unit. And let's not beat around the bush anymore, either: Marcell Dareus is the best player on the team, and it'll be upsetting if he doesn't crack the All-Pro lineup this season. He set a career high with 7.5 sacks in 16 games played last season, but is now up to 10 through nine games this season. The dude is on fire - and more tellingly, he has made interior running mate Kyle Williams a near afterthought up front.
What else stood out to you, Bills fans?
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