Bills vs. Dolphins: 5 Things We Learned in Bills' 35-8 Loss
The Buffalo Bills today were thoroughly mauled by the Miami Dolphins, 35-8. The Bills appeared to be sleepwalking through most of the game, and after a promising opening drive, things quickly went downhill from there.
As depicted in the cover slide, this was the typical snapshot of the game. A Bills receiver would get his hands on the ball and would be immediately hit by two Dolphins defensive backs who seemed to be out on a head-hunting mission all game long.
The Bills followed an opening drive that generated a field goal to going five straight three-and-out drives. The Bills starters were getting injured left and right due to the wet field conditions, and it may take Chan Gailey five minutes in the postgame press conference just to cover the status of all the injured players from today's game.
We will now address the five things we learned from today's game, but I suspect it won't be pretty.
Why Did the Bills Think Andy Levitre Could Play Center?
Andy Levitre was playing this year at an All-Pro-caliber left guard. He also played as an acceptable left tackle. But somebody in the Bills organization had to have the foresight to realize that he wasn't an acceptable option for center in a spread offense.
I was initially alarmed in the first quarter of the telecast when announcer RIch Gannon shared that there had been a problem in practice where a number of Levitre's snaps during the week were winding up low and to the left of Ryan Fitzpatrick. What?
How on earth can you let your starting quarterback, in whom you just invested many millions of dollars, go into battle with a center that has trouble hiking the ball to him?
Somebody that was in the know—Chan Gailey, Buddy Nix or Joe D'Alessandris—had to be able to step up and figure out that they had to go out and sign an emergency center when the Bills placed Eric Wood on IR, because it was clear in practice that Levitre could not play center.
All game long, the snaps from center were an adventure. If Ryan Fitzpatrick is running a short passing game that is based on timing, and he never knows where the ball is going to be hiked, it throws off his timing and the timing of the entire play. As a result, the Bills wound up going 0-for-12 on third-down conversions. It was just that bad all day long.
What Happened to Brad Smith?
The Buffalo Bills signed Brad Smith to a multi-year contract because of the versatility that he brought to the Bills offense. I don't know exactly what has happened, but it appears that Smith is either in the dog house or has stopped trying to be a part of the team.
The Bills had been regularly going to Smith to run the Wildcat offense during the first five or six games of the season, whenever they were faced with a 3rd-and-short or 4th-and-short situation. Now, for some mysterious reason, whenever the Bills are faced with those situations, they don't bring him in any longer to run the Wildcat.
The strange thing is that he was converting those opportunities at a very successful ratio. Today, with the ball at the 1-yard line, the Bills had two chances to score a touchdown, and that would have been a good opportunity for Smith to come in.
Instead, the Bills handed the ball off to C.J. Spiller, who seemed to ease up towards the goal line, and the Bills were stopped short.
Then, we turn to Smith and the kickoff return game. In 2010, Smith was ranked No. 5 in the NFL, as he had 50 kickoff returns for a total of 1,432 yards, which is an average of 28.6 yards per return. The Jets were No. 1 in kick returns in 2010, and they are still No. 1 in 2011 despite losing Smith to the Bills. Joe McKnight is leading the Jets and is also leading the NFL.
It appears that Smith's kick return ability was more a product of the system in New York than it was individual ability. In four kickoff returns today, as the Dolphins were kicking the ball short, Smith's returns brought the ball out to the 18-, 17- and the 20-yard line. The one good return he had was called back due to a penalty.
Finally, we turn to the Brian Moorman punt that was blocked. Smith is lined up in the spot in front of Moorman to protect him from somebody getting through the line. Today, Smith allowed Chris Clemons to come in untouched, leading to Moorman's punt being blocked, which resulted in an easy touchdown for Miami. Clearly, Smith was asleep on the play and was going through the motions. Time to earn your paycheck, Brad.
How Many Healthy Players Can Line Up Against the Jets?
From Terrence McGee, Fred Jackson, Donald Jones, Brad Smith, David Nelson and Steve Johnson, there were at least six Bills players that were either hurt in the game or came in with injuries that became worse.
There is a grave concern right now for how many Bills players will be able to suit up next Sunday when the Bills go to face the New York Jets. The wide receiver corps is almost wiped out, so you can imagine that C.J. Spiller and Brad Smith will be asked to play receiver, and they may be pressed to use Ruvell Martin there as well.
It remains to be seen how serious the injuries are to players like Jones and McGee, but from what we saw during the telecast, it would seem that both players may be gone for some time.
The Bills seemed to lose their spirit or will to fight today, and with each passing game, and losing key members on both sides of the ball, the team is slowly but surely losing the ability to compete.
Is This Now a Lost Season for the Bills Team?
The Bills were a great story up to their 5-2 start, but ever since the shutout of the Washington Redskins in Toronto, things have been steadily going downhill from there.
The Bills defense outscored the Miami offense in the second half, 2-0. Of course, the Miami special teams outscored the Bills offense in the game, 7-6.
The Bills made the Miami Dolphins look like a Super Bowl contender. The same thing happened with the Dallas Cowboys last week. The Bills offense has become too predictable, and the Bills are having trouble with their timing in the passing game.
The defense continually gave up yardage in big chunks in the first half, and defenders were unable to see the pass in the first half because their back was turned to the quarterback. That was how Aaron Williams and Kelvin Sheppard were both burned on long passes, because they had no idea the ball was coming.
The Dolphins had been historically brutal in the red zone this year, but the Bills allowed them to score one touchdown after another today without that much resistance. I am not happy in piling it on, but have to tell it like it is.
When the Bills got down close, they couldn't convert and looked unorganized. C.J. Spiller learned a lesson about not running through the goal line, and the Bills never looked for their big targets in the red zone, Scott Chandler or David Nelson, which was a surprise.
Has Chan Gailey Lost His Effectiveness?
During the first seven games, Chan Gailey seemed to be pushing all the right buttons. The Bills had the ball bounce their way, but in this current three-game losing streak, the Bills are playing at a new low level under Gailey.
They used to fight to the final gun, but I saw too many guys today that were going through the motions. I don't know if Gailey has lost this team, but they are not the same team that I was proud to watch in September and October.
With the way that the offensive line has had to shuffle around, the way that key defensive players like Kyle Williams, Shawne Merriman, Terrence McGee, George Wilson, Chris Kelsay and Aaron Williams have been out due to injuries, the Bills simply don't have the depth to be able to stop opposing offenses any longer.
The Bills recorded one sack on the day and made Matt Moore look like the second coming of Dan Marino. To give you an idea, Moore had a QB passer rating of 133.3. Trust me, he is not that good.
Brace yourself, Bills fans, but it is possible that the Bills might not be able to win another game for the rest of the season. The way it looks now, the Bills will be working with a patchwork offense and defense for the rest of the year. Seldom-used players like Johnny White, Tyler Thigpen and Kirk Morrison were getting snaps today.
I don't know how Chan Gailey is going to be able to light a fire under this team for the final six weeks, but I am afraid that the playoffs are no longer a consideration. Again, it bothers me to be so negative, but I just don't see a silver lining right now, as hard as I try to look.
Keep the faith, Bills fans; we have no other choice.