San Diego Chargers vs. Buffalo Bills: Full Report Card Grades for Buffalo
After two strong games to start the season, the Buffalo Bills suffered their first loss of the season with a 22-10 defeat to the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers jumped out to a 10-0 lead thanks to a strong performance by Philip Rivers. He finished the game with 256 yards and two touchdowns.
The Bills offense struggled for most of the day, aside from their one touchdown drive in the third quarter. The struggles will be pinned on EJ Manuel, however they did not show the same kind of run-pass balance they did the first two weeks. The offense finished the day with only 20 rushing attempts compared to 40 pass attempts.
This was a disappointing loss for the Bills as they head into a tough stretch with two road games and a matchup with the New England Patriots. The following slides will provide grades for each position based on the Bills' loss to the Chargers on Sunday.
This game showed that while EJ Manuel has made some strides this season, he is not ready to be given the reins to this offense. The Bills were not able to get the run game going and turned to Manuel to move the ball through the air. He finished the day 23-of-39 for 238 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
Manuel seemed to regress in this game, seemingly being OK with dumping it off to his running backs and not looking to his wide receivers down the field. When he did hold the ball to try and give his wide receivers time to get down the field, he would have Chargers defenders in his face. He got sacked three times and hit four times.
At the end of the day, Manuel was not able to move the offense down the field consistently, and the only positive that can be taken away from this game was that he did not turn the ball over. This is why I had to give Manuel the grade I did.
The combination of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller were almost non-existent on the ground today as the Chargers defense shut down the run game. The top-two running backs combined for only 59 yards on 16 carries, however that number looks even worse when you consider one of those carries was for 17 yards.
If this Bills offense hopes to be taken seriously, it will need to rely on the run game. The combination of Jackson and Spiller is too talented to only get 16 carries. It remains to be seen if the lack of run plays was because of how ineffective the running backs were or if the coaching staff called more pass plays with them behind the majority of the game.
Jackson and Spiller weren't completely neutralized as they accounted for 115 receiving yards on 11 receptions and the one touchdown by the Bills. Hopefully this game will be an eye-opener for the Bills and they get back to running the ball next week.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
The wide receiver and tight end positions are the hardest ones to grade because their production is reliant on EJ Manuel. Does the blame for their poor performance fall on Manuel's shoulders not being able to see the field? Or does the blame fall on the wide receivers not being able to win their matchup with the Chargers secondary?
This game I would have to put the blame on Manuel, who was not able to make accurate throws down the field when he did look at wide receivers. In the second quarter, the Bills were driving and on a third-down play, he threw a pass down the sidelines to Sammy Watkins but Chargers Brandon Flowers had inside position and was able to break up the play, as shown in the picture above.
Unfortunately, this was all too common for Manuel as he missed Robert Woods on a throw later in the game down the sideline that forced Woods to jump and get knocked out of bounds. Manuel did them no favors, but the wide receivers really were not able to do much when they did catch the ball.
The Bills offensive line, similar to the rest of the offense, did not have a banner day. It was clear that they were going to struggle with the defensive front of the San Diego Chargers in both run and pass protection.
The team lost Chris Williams, the starting left guard, in the first half and replaced him with Kraig Urbik for the remainder of the game. The front five were not able to get any push when run plays were called and seemed to be regularly pushed back.
If Williams' injury is long-term, it will be interesting to see what the team does to address the position. Cyril Richardson was inactive for today's game so he was not available, but I would imagine that he will have a chance to get the starting job next week. The rookie guard played well in preseason and will compete with Urbik for that starting spot.
The Bills defensive line had a great chance to have a big game with injury issues along the Chargers offensive line. The front four did not dominate the way the defense needed them to. The Bills secondary has been a weak spot of this defense. If Rivers had time in the pocket, like he did Sunday, he was going to pick them apart.
The Bills were able to get one sack, four hits and five tackles for a loss. A majority of those tackles came in the fourth quarter when the Chargers were looking to kill the clock. All in all it wasn't a bad day for the defensive line, but with the talent that is in this group more should be expected from them.
The linebackers have been full of injuries and inconsistency. The Bills have yet to have their expected starting linebackers (Keith Rivers, Brandon Spikes and Nigel Bradham) play together this season. They have had to rely on rookie Preston Brown more than they would have liked in the early going.
For the second week in a row, Brandon Spikes did not have an impact on this game, finishing the day with only three solo tackles. The middle linebacker from New England was expected to anchor the middle of this defense this season. Due to personnel mismatches, this hasn't been the case as Spikes has been forced to be off the field due to his liability in pass coverage.
The other two linebackers today (Brown and Bradham) spent the majority of the day flying around the field with 23 tackles, but similarly to Spikes is a liability in pass coverage. The team certainly missed Kiko Alonso this week, who is the team's best linebacker against the pass.
Due to the Bills' inability to get to Philip Rivers in the pocket, the Bills secondary were ripe for the picking by Rivers. Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin struggled for most of the day in both coverage and even struggled in run support, missing tackles.
One player who did have a good game, and a good season so far, is safety Aaron Williams. The former cornerback turned safety is really starting to come into his own entering his second season at the position. He finished the day with 14 total tackles and was regularly seen at the line of scrimmage supporting the run defense.
Williams' play, though, doesn't take away from how bad the pass coverage was today, and that is why they end up with as low of a grade as they did.
If there was one thing that went right for the Bills today, it was their special teams unit. The play of Colton Schmidt has been unbelievable this season, and against the Chargers was no different. He finished the day with five punts, averaging 45.2 yards per punt and had two punts downed inside the 20.
The punt coverage team has been equally as good so far this year. Chargers' punt returner Eddie Royal fielded three punts and was only able to pick up six yards.
Dan Carpenter continued another week of being consistent and doing what he has to when his number is called. He connected on his one field-goal attempt of 45 yards and one extra point.
The coaching staff looked outmatched by San Diego. Early on in this game it seemed like the Bills were being reactive instead of proactive to what the Chargers were doing.
The Bills were down only two scores for a majority of the game, and you have to question their decision to abandon the run as quickly as they did. This team does not have a quarterback who can win games with his arm right now, and they need to put more emphasis on the run game.
The other huge issue in this game were the penalties. This comes down to making sure your team plays disciplined. The Bills finished the day with 11 penalties for 101 yards and a number of those penalties came at the worst possible time.
The coaching staff has a tough task ahead this week as they will have to try and let the poor performance carry over to next week in Houston. If the coaching staff can correct some of these issues, I would raise their grade a bit.
|Wide Receiver and Tight Ends||C+|
The Buffalo Bills entered this game wanting respect for their record and to be taken serious. The game today was a serious step backwards as they had a chance to beat the Chargers, a playoff team from a season ago.
The good news is that there are still 13 games left and this game isn't the end of the world. The Bills are a young team, still trying to learn how to win games. There will be these bumps in the road but how they respond will be the key. Hopefully they can put this game behind them and focus on getting back to playing winning football.