Buffalo Bills vs. Detroit Lions: Live Grades & Player Analysis
The Bills got on the board early with a fantastic first drive by the starting offense. Once the starters sat, Detroit put 28 unanswered points on the board in the final six minutes of the first quarter. The Bills came storming back to take the lead following a Marcus Easley 100-yard kick off return for a touchdown. However Moore and Joique Bell led the Lions down the field for the game-winning score.
Thank you to all who came out tonight. We'll be looking forward to seeing you during the regular season.
Overall - B-
Fitzpatrick looked great in his short stint in the ball game. Thigpen started slow and finished slow, but the middle of the game was solid. Tarvaris Jackson didn't do much during his three and out, but that was to be expected. I know it was only one drive, but I feel more confident about the first-team offense leaving this game than I was entering it.
Q4 – C
Thigpen didn’t do much before he was substituted for Tarvaris Jackson. We knew coming in Jackson would come in for a little bit tonight, but anyone that was expecting anything from the newly-acquired is foolish. He fumbled his first snap under center and threw a pick to Spievey. Some Bills fans are going to get all upset about that, but they shouldn’t. Wait until the guy gets a few practice reps in the system before we make a judgment. Thigpen came back into the game to run the two minute drill and threw another pick, ultimately sealing his fate.
Q3 – B+
Thigpen has been ever-improving as this game has worn on. The mistakes are still there; the ones that led the Bills to pursuing Tarvaris Jackson in the trade market. However he did plenty of good things in the third, leading the Bills on two touchdown drives. One of the touchdowns was a pass to Dorin Dickerson in the back of the end zone on a nicely drawn up play.
Q2 - C
Thigpen has settled down in the second quarter. He’s still had a few poor throws, but he was also the victim of a few drops. Defenses don’t respect his ability to get the ball downfield so they stack the box. Luckily for the Bills they won’t have to survive his bad play much longer.
Q1 - C
Fitzpatrick showed an awareness and chemistry with his receivers that he hasn’t displayed all preseason. He was decisive and deliberate with the ball, which led to an impressive first drive against the Lions’ starters. The drive was capped off by a great touchdown throw to Stevie Johnson, over Stevie’s back shoulder so the defender had no chance. Tyler Thigpen had a rough first quarter, stalling on his first drive before throwing a pick six on his second. His fate has likely been sealed with that pick.
Overall - B-
The offensive line gave the quarterbacks times to throw the ball all night. The starting line did the best in run-blocking, to be expected, but the backups struggled with that aspect of the offense. None of the skills players other than Spiller, Stevie and Dorin Dickerson had nights that were all that good.
Q4 – C
Bills didn’t have much time on the field offensively due to the kick return touchdown by Easley. When they were aren’t they didn’t look very good. Thigpen should have hit Dorin Dickerson for a long touchdown on his only drive, but over shot him by a few feet. Dickerson is really the only player to stand out to me tonight on the offense. That kind of speed and size out of the H-back position is a luxury, but can be used effectively by Chan Gailey. None of the other receivers have had great nights. Too many drops.
Q3 – B+
The second string offensive line looked solid in comparison to last week. They’ve blocked well in both aspects of the game tonight. Rookie guard Mark Asper has had great push in the run game, although his prospects of making the team are slim coming into tonight. Johnny White has had a variety of nice runs, but again he’s a player squarely on the outside looking in. Buffalo won’t keep four running backs barring something crazy. Dorin Dickerson caught a touchdown pass and leads the team in catches on the night with three.
Q2 – B
Tashard Choice looked pretty good on a few runs. He still gets stood up too often after the initial contact. Dorin Dickerson is a player that I’ve been pushing for all offseason and he’s displayed solid receiving ability tonight. He’s one of those players on the roster bubble heading into this game and he’s only doing himself a favor by making the most of his opportunities. Settling for a field goal at the end there is disappointing.
Q1 – B
The offense grade will be based on that first drive when the Bills marched right down the field. C.J. Spiller was very good on the drive, as was Donald Jones. Fitzpatrick went 5-for-5 distributing to his two top two receivers twice each. Scott Chandler also had a nice catch on a play that broke down a bit because of pressure from Willie Young.
Overall - B-
Good things and bad things. Defense got put in bad spots early with their backs against the wall, deep against the end zone they were protecting. Bradham and Jarron Gilbert were probably the two best non-starters on the defensive side of the ball. Gilbert was supposed to be a deep sleeper a few years ago for the Bears, but hasn't materialized to this point. Maybe the super-athletic defensive tackle will slide in to a depth spot on the line.
Q4 – C
Defense got tired in the fourth. They let former Bills UDFA Joique Bell run rampant on them after special teams grabbed the second lead of the game for Buffalo. No one will blame them for being fooled by the bootleg touchdown by Kellen Moore because it even confused the camera crew.
Q3 – B+
Not much change from the second quarter. The Bills defense has held Kellen Moore in check since he entered the game at the end of the first. Rookie linebackers Nigel Bradham and Tank Carder have been very active. They look like guys who will be making the roster over Scott McKillop.
Q2 – B
The defense buckled down in the second quarter with some room to breathe. Justin Rogers used his head –literally—to save a touchdown. Leodis McKelvin also became the hero of the second quarter with his jarring hit on Maurice Stovall that broke up a touchdown. The run defense needs a bit of work.
Q1 – C
The defense played fairly well on the first drive. Arthur Moats whiffed badly on a Mikell Leshoure catch in the flat that likely would have ended the drive. The Lions offense stalled a bit before Calvin Johnson torched second-year man Aaron Williams. I can’t fault for Williams for that because Johnson is un-guardable. The rest of the quarter they were placed in bad spots because of offensive and special teams gaffes.
Special Teams: B+
Overall - B+
I wish I could give this unit an A for the way they finished, but the start was too awful for that to happen. Brad Smith was awful returning the ball. I know the Bills say they are keeping him around as a third quarterback, but if isn't effective in the run game or the return game I'm not sure he's worth keeping around. Maybe he's one of those surprise cuts tomorrow? Easley and Roosevelt were both effective returning the ball, but there is a good chance neither makes the roster. Roosevelt is more likely to do so however. Rookie kicker John Potter and punter Shawn Powell did well, but Powell is stuck behind a Pro-Bowl caliber punter.
Q4 – A
Life is good when you can return a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, which fringe roster player Marcus Easley was able to accomplish. Easley also added a catch on the two point conversion following the return. He could be headed for the practice squad. TJ Graham also added a solid return. I hope his track speed makes him a dangerous returner in the NFL in the near future. Naaman Roosevelt has found a bit of a niche as a solid punt returner. Not sure he’s going to make the squad, but he’s done about all he can.
Q3 – B
John Potter kept both his kicks short in the third quarter. He has to consistently get the ball out the back of the endzone for him to be worth a roster spot. Shawn Powell has a future in the NFL as a punter, just not with the Bills at this time. Not sure the Bills will want to keep a punter on the practice squad, but he might be worth the look.
Q2 – A
A bit of a turn around in the second quarter for the Bills special teams after a miserable first period. Justin Rogers looks like he should be one of the two return guys. He didn’t get much breathing room on his one return, but I can see why he was tops in the league in return average over the final four weeks in 2011. The aforementioned hero McKelvin continues to make difference-making plays, blocking the Lions field goal attempt. John Potter also continues to show why the coaching staff is even considering spending an extra roster spot on a kick-off specialist.
Q1 – F
Nothing went well for this unit in the first. Brad Smith had two pathetic returns, one of which he gave back to the Lions following their first touchdown. That started the onslaught of scoring in the final six minutes for the Lions. Marcus Easley also dropped a ball on a return.
Overall Grade - A-
Why not? The game was mostly about scouting guys for the final five or six roster spots. There were no terrible coaching mistakes that would have had Gailey vilified by fans in the regular season. I believe that Gailey can have a successful season if he remains dedicated to a balanced offense and doesn't interfere with the defense. He's one of the great offensive minds in the game right now, but he has the tendency to get cute with play calling. Stick to what they do well and the Bills are in for a successful season.
Q4 – A
Again not much to say here. Tough decisions ahead for the coaching staff for sure. Not sure anyone played themselves into a definite roster spot in the final tune-up.
Q3 – A
Two touchdown drives. No points on the board for the opposition. Limited penalties and mistakes. Can’t complain.
Q2 – B
It’s pretty hard to grade coaching during the final preseason game with a majority of the playmakers on the bench. The guys minimized the mistakes in the second quarter, which is a direct result of coaching. Not in-game coaching but coaching nonetheless.
Q1 – B
It’s pretty hard to grade coaching during the final preseason game with a majority of the playmakers on the bench. Gailey called a great first drive, but coaching can’t make up for stupid mistakes by guys on the field.