by Mario "Game" Granata
Well, the Buffalo Bills were able to accomplish one goal on the road to ending the longest playoff drought in the NFL, and that is to play a meaningful game in December. Leaving out the historical significance of playing on December 7th, the Bills were able to fall short of defeating one of the Super Bowl favorites in the Denver Broncos this past Sunday 24-17, but the 7 point loss is closer than the game would indicate. Here are a few observations from the game.
Kyle Orton/Nathaniel Hackett – With the Buffalo Bills now 7-6, and still ‘mathematically’ alive in the playoff race, the work of the offense was very painful to watch for Bills fans. Many will directly point to the ‘slide’ by Kyle Orton losing a yard where he seemed with a little elbow grease he could have made a first down. It appears to this writer, that he didn’t want any part of ‘going for it’.
Speaking of going for it, when the Bills decided to go for a 4th down at the Broncos 39-yard line early in the first quarter, by not making it, gave Peyton Manning a shorter field to work with. Did someone not tell Hackett or Marrone that the air is lighter in ‘mile high’ and that Dan Carpenter can kick from 50+? What would have that meant to the overall landscape of the game? Maybe it would have put some pressure on the Broncos. Maybe it would have told them that the Bills don’t have to travel far to secure points. Whatever it was, it opened the door for the Broncos, and the Bills, a team that isn’t built to play from behind, in a hole that they never recovered from. Honestly, if getting Freddy Jackson 14 targets was in the game plan, maybe Marrone should hit up Monster.com for some Offensive Coordinator resumes.
Peyton Manning vs. Jim Schwartz – As highlighted in a previous article at Hashtag Sports, Peyton Manning has played a defensively coordinated defense of Jim Schwartz 14 times when Manning was in Indianapolis and Schwartz was at Tennessee. In those contests Manning has just as many 300+ yard games as he does sub-200 yard games. If you were to mention to me that Manning would throw 20 passes, be picked off twice, and held to under 200 yards, I would have told you that the Bills upset the Broncos. This was not the case, as the Bills offense was unable to capitalize on their field position. Manning, as he did in his previous games against Schwartz, relied on the running game to secure a victory, and ultimately did in the Buffalo Bills.
Penalties – Now, many of the Buffalo faithful will point to the penalties that the Bills accumulated (11-98) and just where were these calls made. The phantom call on Nickell Robey on Wes Welker, the 15-yard unsportsmanlike on Jerry Hughes, and the two penalties on the interception returns are the ones that come to mind. The call on Stephon Gilmore was going to get called no matter what. The play was a throwback to yesteryear when football was football, but in the New NFL, that play is going to get flagged 9 times out of 10, no matter what happens. But, when you are a winning team, like the Broncos, those calls go your way, and since the Bills have been toiling in the basement of the NFL, they are not going to get those breaks. Honestly, I would like to have seen the calls on the interceptions, because during the telecast, they weren’t shown. That being said, as a team, the Bills can’t give nearly 100 yards to the Broncos, and expect to win the game.
All in all, this game showed just what the Buffalo Bills are: a team that has an ineffective offense, and a championship caliber defense. That seems to be the theme for the Bills in the past decade-and-a-half, and unless there are some changes made offensively, this will continue to be the norm in the 716. Check any team that has won the Super Bowl, or been playoff bound in the past 20 years, and you will see a defense that is tops in the league, and an offense that makes plays when they need to. The Buffalo Bills, which look like a hybrid of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens Offense and the 2007 New York Giant Defense, are not there yet, and might not be there for the rest of 2014.