The bubble has burst for the Buffalo Bills and their fans: a 2-0 start melted away into yesteryear as the Bills were dominated, 22-10, by the San Diego Chargers in Orchard Park in Week 3. A long week of loss-analyzing begins right now with these five observations from the Bills' first misstep of the 2014 season.
- There's a direct correlation between the dominance and control that San Diego exhibited throughout this contest, and the gargantuan gap between Philip Rivers and EJ Manuel as passers. Rivers has been MVP-caliber in his last two outings, while Manuel regressed notably in the face of some disguised coverages and more pressure than he's faced this season. Buffalo will always be outmatched in games where the quarterback gap is this massive, and to compete in those games, they'll need much more from the running game, the defense, and the special teams.
- Buffalo ran the football 22 times against San Diego, which is a clean dozen carries lower than their per-game average from a year ago. They also had a season-high 70 offensive plays run in this contest. Sure, the Bills were playing from behind for most of the contest, but that rush attempt tally is far too small. This offense will fizzle quickly without any semblance of balance, and the Bills didn't have it at all on Sunday.
- Speaking of those aforementioned new defensive looks that Manuel struggled to adjust to: that's what I'm looking forward to reviewing in this week's All-22 post. San Diego, missing its best pass rusher, consistently had rushers coming free against Buffalo's protections, and Doug Marrone spoke post-game about the Chargers changing up coverage leverages to take away what the Bills had been doing best. Neither Manuel nor the Bills' offensive coaching staff had an answer for what San Diego threw at them.
- The Bills made a trade-off in trying to defend the Chargers' passing attack that was sound philosophically, but ended up blowing up in their faces. On a very windy day at Ralph Wilson Stadium, the Bills focused on rolling coverages toward Antonio Gates, which worked; he caught just one pass for eight yards. That decision left them vulnerable to some other things, however, and Rivers exploited it perfectly; the Bills gave up five passes of 20 yards or more; add in a 31-yard pass interference penalty on Leodis McKelvin, and those six plays accounted for 198 yards.
- Buffalo continued to rotate cornerbacks in this contest, and I'm not sure that doing so is having the desired effect. Corey Graham is the Bills' best cornerback right now by a country mile, but he only played half of the defensive snaps, while a struggling Stephon Gilmore and the routinely-exploited McKelvin (who was brutal) were both at 70 percent of snaps or more. The team also worked Ron Brooks into the nickel corner rotation; he played 35 percent of snaps to the 42 percent for Nickell Robey. At some point, it'd be lovely if the Bills could settle on a pecking order here; there's probably a correct one, too, where McKelvin isn't playing nearly as much.
What else stood out to you, Bills fans?
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