The “Appreciate What You Have” Award
On a day in which an NFL-record 12 extra points were missed, and 14 kickers missed at least one try (field goal or extra point), Carpenter was a rare bright spot for his profession.
It was only the fourth game this season where Carp was perfect from the field, but it was a day where his team desperately needed it. If he had missed the extra point, or any of his three field goal tries (including his season-long of 54), the Bengals could have been lining up for a game-tying or game-winning field goal try instead of a desperation Hail Mary at the end of the game.
Of course, if Mike Nugent hadn’t missed two extra points, they might’ve been in the same boat. Carpenter has taken his fair share of criticism over the last couple seasons, but considering the downturn in kicking at the pro and college levels, he’s been fairly consistent at the position.
The Goat Award
The Next Man Up Award
Ryan Groy and Mike Gillislee
The loss of Eric Wood to a season-ending leg injury was a pretty tough blow during the loss to the Seahawks, but his replacement stepped in without missing a beat. Lining up against All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins, Groy more than held his own. Atkins finished with only one tackle, and the Bills didn’t seem limited running the ball up the middle with any of their backs.
On that note, the thumb injury to LeSean McCoy really put the brakes on the Bills’ offense for most of the second half. It seemed like the only player who could move the ball with any regularity was Gillislee, who finished with 72 yards on 14 carries. All of his action came after McCoy left the game with about 90 seconds remaining in the first half. Gillislee has really established himself as a complete back this season, one of the more reliable backups in the NFL.
Least Valuable Player
I almost skipped this category this week, and there were a few other names I was considering putting in here but didn’t for various reasons.
Goodwin, though...this might’ve been the final nail in the coffin for his NFL career, or at least his chance at ever becoming a significant contributor to an NFL team. Once the Bills lost McCoy and Robert Woods in the first half, they desperately needed somebody to step up. Goodwin, who has played in 33 games with the Bills over four seasons, could have solidified his role as a top depth player with a solid performance.
Instead, he managed a measly two catches for 15 yards. Even more, he shared the blame for Dre Kirkpatrick’s interception at the end of the first half. As Charles Davis said on the live broadcast, “Great receivers, they come and attack the ball.” Goodwin didn’t even contest it.
Sammy Watkins should be returning from his injury soon, as early as this week. If the team uses the money that had been earmarked for Stephon Gilmore on an extension for Woods, and decides to keep Percy Harvin around for the long haul, that could spell the end of Goodwin’s career in Buffalo, and probably the end of his NFL career as well.
Most Valuable Player
In case you’ve forgotten, Kyle Williams is 33 years old.
You’d be forgiven for forgetting that when you see how he’s been playing this season. Yesterday was vintage Kyle, who finished the game with four tackles (three solo). That doesn’t come close, though, to describing his impact on the game. The much-maligned Bengals offensive line had absolutely no answer for him or Marcell Dareus.
Andy Dalton was only sacked once, but he wasn’t able to settle down in the pocket very often against the Bills’ pass rush (Lorenzo Alexander also deserves a lot of credit for that). The Bengals also only managed 93 yards on the ground, 20 of which came out of a gimmick formation that saw Kyle lined out on the outside against a cluster of Bengal receivers.
For most of the game, he was nearly unblockable. Even when the interior offensive line (left guard Clint Boling was primarily responsible for blocking Kyle yesterday) managed to keep him in check, he was still forcing his blocker into the backfield. When Kyle wasn’t doing that, he was using his spin move effectively to either force a hurried pass or to push the Bengal running backs out to the edge, when he wasn’t blowing up the play entirely.
It was the kind of performance we’ve come to expect from 95. Hopefully, there are a few more left in him.