CAPACCIO: Bills-Ravens: Arrow Up/Arrow Down

Sal Capaccio
September 11, 2016 - 6:57 pm

Photo: USA Today Sports

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By Sal Capaccio

Twitter @SalSports

 





Not the way the Bills wanted to start the 2016 season at all.  Also to a team that they may need to beat out in the wild card race at the end of the season.  13-7 the final and with the loss, that means I start with the Down Arrows first:

 

Arrow Down

The offensive game plan 

You can’t win games in the NFL with 160 yards of total offense.  That’s just a putrid number.  The Bills just couldn’t get in a rhythm or moving all day, and when it finally seemed like they were, they followed it up with poor protection, runs stopped in the backfield, or dump-offs that couldn't get enough yardage.  The team that led the league last year in both rushing yards per game and yards per play had a measly 65 yards on the ground and averaged only 2.7 per play.  The Ravens are well coached and made some nice plays, but the Bills made it far too easy on them by never even so much as threatening anything downfield.  I’m generally not one to say how teams should just throw deep all the time, but that’s how Tyrod Taylor made a living last year and a big reason he had a good enough season to warrant the contract extension.  So it shouldn’t be foreign for Greg Roman or him to call these plays or try them.  But it seemed the furthest thing from their minds Sunday.
 

3rd down offense

This goes hand-in-hand with what I just wrote above.  It’s hard to gain first downs when you’re not throwing the ball to the first-down marker.  The Bills were a bad 3-for-13 (23%) overall here.
 

Tyrod Taylor

15-for-22 for 111 yards is a first half line, not a full game line in the NFL.  But it was more than just the stat line.  See above.  Taylor never really tried to take chances, which again, was his hallmark last year.  He did escape nicely a few times, including a nice pass to Charles Clay.  But think about that - the longest pass of the day came on a busted play and was for only 33 yards, including the run after catch.  The next longest was 19 yards.  And when he did get loose, Taylor often looked to throw it and missed his receiver by throwing too high.  Those could have been very important and good gains.
 

Offensive Line

Rex Ryan said after the game that part of the issues of not throwing the ball more aggressively downfield was because they did not get good enough protection.  I agree, at least early on in the game.  Losing Cordy Glenn and Jim Dray for the second half didn’t help, but there were simply too many missed assignments and lack of execution overall by what should be one of the strongest areas of the team.  Again, only 2.7 yards per rush and overall only 3.3 yards per offensive play are just really low numbers and blame falls on several areas.  The OL is certainly one of them.
 

Clock management/wasted timeouts

Last year, it was the defense that had communication issues we kept seeing every week.  In this year’s opener, it was the offense that took too long to get plays in, make substitutions, and ultimately have to burn timeouts at times they shouldn’t have to.  And it cost the Bills in the second half, because they only had one timeout remaining late when they needed to save some time down one score.  Then after Jerel Worthy was injured, that last timeout had to be used, by rule, because it was inside 2:00 to play.
 

Penalties

Well, here we go again.  The same issue that arose so often last season showed up again.  And while I don’t think Nickell Robey-Coleman or Jerry Hughes should be blasted for trying to make plays and being called for questionable 15-yard penalties, overall the numbers were just too high once again.  8 for 89 yards, through Sunday’s afternoon games, the third highest in the league over the weekend for both.  The Bills led the NFL last season in both categories, averaging 8.94 penalties per game for 78.06 yards per game.  Sunday they were right near that same average in total penalties and 11 yards higher in yardage penalized.  Not a good start to an issue that they tried to end.

Dan Carpenter

One field goal attempt, one miss.  Carpenter had a terrific camp and preseason, but that miss from 49 yards out gave fans instant flashbacks to last year’s struggles.  The kick would have tied the game early in the third quarter, then who knows how the game plays out from there?  He has to make that.

Arrow Up

Jerry Hughes

#55 was all over the field for the Bills defense and it showed on the stat sheet.  He filled it up.  Hughes finished with 6 total tackles, 2 sacks, 2 tackles for loss, 2 QB hurries, and 1 huge fourth-down stop as he dropped into coverage to get to the running back in the flat.  Hughes is now a true outside linebacker in Rex Ryan’s scheme and he’s embracing it, and using his athleticism to make plays in all different ways.
 

Leger Douzable

The defensive end had a very good performance that seemed to go under-the-radar.  He finished with 1.5 sacks, 1 tackle for a loss, and led the team with 3 QB hurries.
 

Secondary coverage

I know, they gave up a 66-yard TD pass.  But that was a bad matchup that Ryan admitted afterward he never should have allowed to happen.  Overall, the secondary did a tremendous job all over the field on Ravens receivers.  Cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Stephon Gilmore combined for 12 tackles and 3 passes defended.  Gilmore was beaten once by Breshad Perriman, but Perriman made a great play on what appeared to be good coverage.  They kept Steve Smith in check.  He had 5 catches for only 19 yards, and Perriman and Kamar Aiken combined for only 3 grabs.
 

Colton Schmidt

The Bills punter was money all afternoon, frustrating Devin Hester by not punting to him, but while doing that still putting three of his seven punts inside the Ravens 20 yard line.  Baltimore’s average starting field position for the game was only their own 23 yard line.  To put that into context, the median average drive start in the NFL last season was the offense’s 27 yard line, and an average start of the 23 yard line (for the whole season) would have been the second worst in the NFL. 
 

The Big Picture

The first game should never be a referendum on that season.  For example, the Bills won their first game in each of the last two seasons and fans felt good and they still missed the playoffs.  But as stated at the start, this is the type of loss that could come back to haunt the Bills at the end of the season when it comes to wild card tie-breakers.  If they're even near that discussion by the time. 

But, the bottom line is, this performance was certainly concerning and uninspiring.  The good news is the defense really did look much better than a year ago - communication, alignment, execution.  Everything just looked better.  They allowed 13 points on the road.  That should be good enough to win almost any game.  The bad news is the offense looked less than pedestrian.  From the gameplan to the QB to the line, it simply wasn’t a good performance. 

A lot has to be figured out and corrected before their next game.  But that next game comes in only four days.  Quick turnaround, but always better to be playing those short weeks at home, especially against an opponent you’re familiar with.  As I write this, the Patriots have a 3-point lead on the Cardinals.  If the Cards can come back to win, every team will be 0-1 in the AFC East for the first time ever (I’m not really sure if it’s ever, but it has to be, right?).  Even if the Pats win, the Bills and Jets, both at 0-1, are staring at a very critical early-season game.  It’s good for the Bills that it’s at home, in front of a loud crowd on a night Bruce Smith will have his jersey #78 retired.  It will be a tough environment for Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets offense, who didn’t handle it so well in early January with their season on the line.  That’s not quite the situation here, but it certainly feels similar - for both teams - already. 

Isn’t this fun?

 

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