The “Welcome Back” Award
After a four-game suspension and a hamstring injury that cost him three games, The third pick of the 2011 NFL Draft finally made it on to the field for the first time this season. He even made an impact early on, blowing past Patriots center David Andrews to blow up LeGarrette Blount in the backfield on his second snap of the game.
Unfortunately, his hamstring acted up on and off throughout the contest, and he only appeared in 42 of 69 defensive snaps. Still, he managed to record four tackles, including two for a loss, and a sack in his first game since early January. He was a large reason the Patriots only managed 3.1 yards a play on the ground. Hopefully, when the Bills play teams less productive through the air than New England, that presence will help them limit what the other team’s offense can do.
The Ultimate Mismatch Award
Let me set the scene. The Patriots have the ball at their own 47, up 14-10. There’s 4:40 left in the second quarter. The game is still close (although the Patriots had thoroughly outplayed the Bills up to that point). The Patriots offense had stalled on the last two drives, going three-and-out. There’s a chance for the defense to build a speck of momentum and keep the game within a score going into halftime.
The Bills line up in man coverage, with no extra defensive backs to provide help. Robey-Coleman, he of the 5’6” frame, is lined up against Rob Gronkowski, the 6’6” behemoth who is widely regarded as the biggest receiving threat the tight end position has ever seen. Tom Brady, one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game, immediately recognized this, and hit Gronk deep for a 53-yard touchdown to put the Patriots up 21-10.
The Bills probably weren’t winning yesterday regardless of what happened, but...really. Nickell Robey-Coleman is a great player who probably would have been an early-round draft pick if he were seven or eight inches taller, but asking him to cover someone of Gronkowski’s ability...someone who literally stands head and shoulders above him...that’s just not fair.
Heads-Up Play of the Day Award
Legendary Bills punter Brian Moorman was well-known for his running ability. The former college track standout is credited with 13 rushing attempts by Pro Football Reference, including three of 10 or more yards and a long of 34.
Schmidt channeled Moorman yesterday in the third quarter. Down 31-10 and facing fourth-and-15, Schmidt dropped the ball and he was setting up to punt it, but managed to pick it up and hit the sideline for 16 yards and a first down. It wasn’t a pretty run, and in most situations he would have been eviscerated by his coaches for picking up the ball instead of running with it.
When you’re down by 21, though? Whatever. The drive even ended in a touchdown. You keep doing what you do, Schmitty.
Least Valuable Player
Two of PFF’s three worst performers of the week were defensive backs in yesterday’s game. Were it not for Patriots DB Eric Rowe committing three pass interference penalties on long passes, Gilmore would have been the worst defender on the field yesterday.
Gilmore has had some very bad games this year. He was soundly beaten by the Jets receivers in Week 2, and yesterday Brady managed a perfect passer rating when throwing in his direction. He also committed two penalties, both defensive holding, including one on third-and-12.
The man went into the season expecting to be paid like an elite cornerback. Usually, the incentive of a big-money free agency contract makes players play beyond their potential. Up to this point in the season, though, that doesn’t seem to be the case with Gilmore. If he gets a big-time deal, it’ll be on reputation and the hope of a return to form.
Most Valuable Player
The loss of LeSean McCoy to a hamstring injury was supposed to be what did the Bills in yesterday. Instead, everything else seemed to implode, while Gillislee fronted a solid performance from the running game.
“Touchdown Mike” recorded 12 carries for 85 yards, and, you know, a touchdown. His first play was a monster 28-yarder where he made three defenders miss before heading out of bounds. His touchdown was a three-yard trucker up the middle (with help from Jerome Felton). He also caught three passes in safety-valve duty for nine yards.
The coaching staff has been strangely reluctant to use Gillislee to a large extent so far this season. He didn’t record his first carry until Week 3 (he scored a touchdown on a short pass in Week 2), and hadn’t topped six carries in a game until yesterday. Rex Ryan and/or Anthony Lynn were so reluctant to use him against the Dolphins that they preferred to wheel out an unhealthy McCoy instead of giving Gillislee the ball.
Hopefully, that won’t be an issue going forward. Watching him last year, Gillislee struck me as more of a one-note back: he was dangerous when he hit the corner, but anything else was a bust. This year, he’s running up the gut and behind tackles with the same effectiveness that he showed exclusively on the edge last year. If the coaching staff doesn’t involve him in the offense more after that performance, they never will.