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Immediate reactions: Buccaneers 27, Bills 6

blog by Nick Mendola  • 

There was nothing more Buffalo Bills than what went down with just over a minute of play in the third quarter.

Buffalo trailed 24-6 when EJ Manuel escaped from trouble in the minefield backfield and spun to his left. There the rookie quarterback found a Robert Woods streaking toward the sideline. Woods caught the ball before a hard stationary hit from Darrelle Revis sent the ball free. It was like running into a wall.

The fumble was scooped up by Lavonte David, who brought the ball into Bills territory to effectively finish off the long-shot at a comeback. So, you want your rookie QB to make plays? Yep. And your rookie WR to go into traffic? Yep.

Bad fortune.

Bills fortune.

And yet that play was one of the more exciting in a contest that produced more bad vibes than a flight of black magicians through the Bermuda Triangle. The Bills combined a really poor performance with even worse luck. Hooray, football!

—EJ Manuel was pretty darn poor, yet you can’t light him up until you’ve dealt with an offensive line that’s gone from decent to awful in the snap of fingers.

It’s officially time to discuss whether franchise tagging Levitre and letting Byrd walk would’ve been the right move. The entire unit looks overwhelmed, so it follows that their rookie quarterback played one of his three worst games of the year.

The only question moving forward is whether the first Jets game, Steelers game and this one are going to do an offseason-long battle with his strongest efforts—so far, the Panthers and second Jets game—or whether he’ll bury any positives with two or more like this.

—The risk that comes with fans having to watch their QB play road games on CBS is not immediately knowing what’s going on downfield before the QB takes off to run or is sacked. Is no one open?  There were a lot of Tweets about how jittery EJ Manuel’s pocket presence appeared and that made me scratch my head.

For a while, I saw a guy who didn’t look rattled—rather he didn’t see anything he liked. Later, he made some bad choices and threw bad balls to double down on danger.

It seemed that either his play affected the line or vice versa, because Tampa’s pass rush was having its way with the unit by the time the second quarter was in full throat. Truly ugly stuff from the Wolfpack.

—Those looking to have the back of the quarterback can use the run game for material. Neither Fred Jackson nor C.J. Spiller could get much of anything going. Was Tampa suffocating the run to beg Manuel to beat them? Perhaps, but you’d like your line and two above average at-worst runners to get some sort of job done.

—There was a extended period of time where the CBS feed zapped out during the Bills game, and fans were forced to read along online.

I for one prefer to imagine that the three-and-out Buffalo forced on Mike Glennon, minutes after an 80-yard touchdown run by Western Kentucky’s finest (Bobby Rainey), was the most dominant three-and-out ever followed by the finest field goal drive on Earth.

And our back-up was Kansas City at Washington. Ugh.

Fortunately, we returned to the Bills and Bucs in time to see Mario Williams get juked by Mike Glennon as if the rigid rookie was a 6’6” Barry Sanders, followed a viewing of Nickell Robey being unable to stop Vincent Jackson even with pass interference. I remember a 10-5 loss to the Bucs in the Bills glory years that was less ugly.

—In the first half, Stevie Johnson upped his drop game by making sure to unnecessarily leap for passes, making it near impossible to adjust to inaccuracy, or just play taps with balls. He’s had some improbable catches in his career, so it’s not about throws having to be perfect. He’s an emotional player whose head is not right.

The second half was a much different story, as No. 13 made an incredible catch in the third quarter on a Manuel bullet through traffic. Color analyst Steve Beuerlein made sure to note what a dangerous throw it was for Manuel, which is true, but I find it hard to believe he’d admonish Peyton Manning for completing that pass. It becomes “that’s a pass only Peyton Manning can make.” He made a few other choice grabs as Buffalo failed to engineer an improbable comeback.

—Rainey’s opening touchdown run could be sent on a tape to those who want to give Jairus Byrd a massive deal (though he’s certainly on his game against the pass).

I haven’t checked the analytics to back this up, but he’s appeared average-at-best reading the run game. Kiko Alonso didn’t help himself out as he was off-balance and unable to complete his tackle on the slippery Rainey. Bad form, Bills. Bad form.

—Terribly scary moment for Ron Brooks ends with him walking off the field, which is tremendous. Certainly this is morbid, but there’s always a horrifying thought in the back of my mind during an injury like that… a concern that we might be seeing the ultimate loss. It’s a violent game we watch and we’re able to tune out the danger more than not.

—Dan Carpenter’s been more than fine, Dustin Hopkins could be great and Rian Lindell has struggled a bit in Tampa, but I felt good for the classy kicker knocking a long one through against his old team.

—Leodis McKelvin should lose his punt return duties after his guffaw in the second quarter. He was bailed out by secondary-mate Stephon Gilmore a few players later, but yuck. What’s he done in the PR game this year? The Bills under special teams coach Danny Crossman have watched as McKelvin’s 18.7 yards-per-punt return have sunk to under seven yards an attempt. One of them needs to be removed.

If Crossman wants any look at sticking around when his coverage teams have cost the Bills entire games, he’d be well-served to try Graham or Goodwin.

—On a first down play with just a few minutes to go in the second quarter, Manuel changed a play. After the snap, he dropped back and stared at a facing-forward Robert Woods for what seemed like minutes before having to evade Tampa pressure and softball pitch the ball away.

Feels like that one could’ve been on Woods, but Manuel made everyone doubt the receiver’s fault by badly-underthrowing Graham two plays later. Bad drive, bad quarter, bad half.

—Only one non-“Why aren’t they working?!?” thing to pin directly on Marrone: With Buffalo needing three touchdowns to come back on Tampa in the third quarter, the Bills coach opted to try a field goal which, if good, would have them needing… three touchdowns to come back on Tampa. If that doesn’t scream a vote of no-confidence in the offense…

—The roughing the passer call on Byrd, who was already airborne when Glennon released the ball, was brutal. Wasn’t aiming for knees, and Glennon stepped back to get hit low. Unfun.

—This was the best play I watched from Buffalo during the first half of the Bills game:

 


—Manny Lawson was an underrated pick-up by Doug Whaley & Company. Freak of an athlete/body who has plenty of leadership qualities to go with plenty of game.

—Beuerlein was just brutal. His comments atop the review of Vincent Jackson’s second touchdown were comedy gold. The replay showed both of Jackson’s heels on the white of the end zone.

I’m assuming the entire CBS truck was wondering when he was going to stop, or if it was a joke to match the overall tenor of an ugly game. The NFL studio show in Hell would be Beuerlein joining Rich Gannon, Dan Dierdorf and Gus Johnson… and they would only talk about the Bills of the past 15 years and how hell is only marginally worse.

—Odd to think: the holding call on the 83-yard pass to Spiller likely flipped the script on hundreds of fantasy football playoff games.

Stat-line I liked:
Are you kidding me?
— See above.

Stat-line I didn’t like:
Bills running backs, 17 carries, 38 yards
— Let’s just keep the running game pasted in this slot and call it a year. Ronnie Wingo led the team in rushing average with a carry for four yards.

Game balls:
Marcell Dareus and Manny Lawson
— Perhaps the only two defenders who didn’t provide a massive “woof” moment in the game. Dareus probably deserves to go to the Pro Bowl as a reserve.

Next week:
Jacksonville. At this point, I’d expect the Bills only win to come against Miami… and even then the Dolphins may be playing for something. Jacksonville 25, Buffalo 16.

Lastly:
Later this week, I’m gonna watch a fictional little person do battle with a giant dragon who sleeps in piles of gold and feel like football fans are the real nerds. I need to… for my sanity. Think I’m kidding? Find an argument that 3-plus hours watching the Bills has been more entertaining. Find it. I’ll wait here.

SMAUG.

TAGGED: buffalo bills, football, immediate reactions, nick mendola, tampa bay buccaneers

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