Sunday, October 26, 2014

5 Things: Bills 43 Jets 23

1. Turnovers: (Jets 6 Bills 0)

This is the most predicative stat in football when it comes to wins and losses. It's not QB rating, it isn't yards, and it isn't sacks. It's turnovers. Both Jets quarterbacks had bad games, though Vick was able to move the ball in the first half with his legs. (more on that later) Geno Smith threw interceptions on three consecutive possessions in the first quarter. About as bad a game as I've ever seen from a NFL quarterback. Vick was picked off and fumbled twice. Even still, with a 4 - 0 turnover edge in the first half, the Bills only led by 7 at the half. (24-17) Why?

2. Three and outs.

The Bills simply couldn't convert on third downs today. ( I believe they finished 2 for 12) The reasons for this extend to the fabulous Jets front seven (as good as it gets in the NFL. Amazing) and the poor showing by the interior of the Bills offensive line. Their running game was non-existent, which meant their play action was also non-existent. And their were times when it looked llike Orton simply held the ball too long in the pocket. When you have a six to nothing turnover edge, and when you start six times in the opponents territory, 43 points isn't enough. Have to do better in this regard going forward.

3. The offensive line

I've been hammering the O-line for the past few weeks because their guard play has been abysmal. As in, all world awful. However, Urbik started today in place of of the rookie Henderson, who was little more than a pylon in Minesota, and played okay. The problem today was Eric Wood, their normally solid center. Understand, the Jets' Wilkerson (defensive rookie of the year last year) is a force, but Wood got blown off the ball consistently, which meant their running backs had nowhere to go. If your center gets beaten that badly, the play is over. Period. That's the worst game I've ever seen from Wood. I expect him to be better going forward.

As an aside, football is interesting to casual fans because it's easy enough to follow the ball on a given play. However, if you want to see what's happening from a more analytic perspective, watch the line play. That is, do not watch the quarterback. Take your eyes off the ball and watch the line. On television, you can't see downfield anyway. So watch the lines. This is where the game is won and lost. It always takes me longer to watch a Bills game because so often I'll rewind a play if i missed what happened on the line. I should add that Glenn has been very solid at left tacle, and the other rookie (also Henderson) has been steady on the right side. The problem is in the middle, which is why they can't run the ball.

4. Defense

This game belonged to the defense. The defensive line goes eight deep. Four of those guys are pro-bowlers. At the end of the first half Vick got the Jets into good position by using his legs. In the second half, I kept an eye on the Bills D-line to see how well they stayed in their lanes. (When you have an exceptional running QB like Vick, you can't cheat, take faster angles to get to the quarterback, because if you miss, he can get around you for a big gain. This is much harder than it looks, since every defensive lineman is trained to get to the QB) Only ONE play in the second half did the Bills lose contain (Jerry Hughes) and picked up four sacks. They were disciplined. And they were dominant.

But as great as they were, what has me really excited is the linebacking play of Preston Brown, the rookie from Lousiville. 'For SO many years the Bills struggled with their linebacking play. But with Bradham and Brown and Alonso coming back next year, they have a terrific group of LB's for the first time since 2000. I'm convinced that it's the improved play of the linebackers that has them in playoff position going into week nine. Well, that and this guy...

5. Sammy Watkins 

So much was written about the Bills giving an extra first round draft pick for this guy. It is an EXTREMELY high price to pay to move up five spots in the draft. I'm telling you, it was worth it. Yeah, yeah, sticking his arm in the air and slowing down and getting caught was a good teaching moment (sorry, it wasn't showboating, it was celebrating) but 3 catches, 157 yards and a touchdown later, he was the difference. Forget he's a rookie, he's a star right now. His route running and hands are far beyond his years. This guy is going to be great.

I should mention Kyle Orton, who threw four touchdowns and didn't turn the ball over. He's not perfect -- he still holds the ball too long in the pocket sometimes and he isn't mobile at all -- but he has guts. In the first half, on a third and seven he took a shot down the field. It ended up being a Bills three and out, but he's not afraid to throw it down the field. That same willingness led to the "should have been Watkins TD throw."

The Bills look dangerous to me, even without their top two running backs. There's much to fix, but they have a really good defense, a star receiver, a QB who can make the throws and a strong kicking game. Right now, they look like a playoff team.