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Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Bills' report card vs. Jets

By Mike Rodak

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Offering unit-by-unit grades following the Buffalo Bills' 27-20 loss Sunday to the New York Jets:

Coaching: B-minus (Last week: B) From a game-management perspective, it was another clean week for head coach Doug Marrone. There were no notable issues with clock management or challenges, and penalties -- which were a major issue dating back to the preseason -- weren't as significant a factor on Sunday. The area where some pointed after the game was with play-calling. The Bills stayed fairly conservative, sticking with a ground-based attack against the Jets' stacked box and blitzing. That didn't work out so well.

Run Offense: D (Last week: B-plus) Fred Jackson did an excellent job on his 59-yard run on third-and-1, a heads-up play by the veteran to bounce the run outside and catch the Jets, including rookie Sheldon Richardson, who was celebrating, off-guard. But otherwise, the Bills' three running backs -- Jackson, C.J. Spiller, and Tashard Choice -- managed 21 yards on 18 carries. That's about as ineffective as a running game can get, and it put pressure on the rest of the offense to perform.

Pass Offense: C-minus (Last week: B-minus) There were two glaring problem areas here: pass protection and accuracy. The offensive line is led by center Eric Wood, a team captain, who committed two holding penalties (one accepted) in the game, emblematic of the struggles this unit faced Sunday. They allowed eight sacks, 16 quarterback hits, and 12 tackles for a loss. Not what you're looking for. Ditto for EJ Manuel, who looked like a rookie. Some of his throws were wildly off the mark, including one in the third quarter that hit an official standing beyond the end zone pylon. Manuel threw more to his receivers than he did in the first two games, and the results weren't there: Steve Johnson had six catches (13 targets), Robert Woods had two catches (10 targets), and T.J. Graham had one catch (5 targets).

Run Defense: C-plus (Last week: B-plus) The Bills' first half grade is higher here. Through two quarters, they held the Jets to 56 yards on 20 carries, with no runs longer than 10. But the flood gates opened in the second half, when Bilal Powell racked up 109 rushing yards. The loss of Marcell Dareus in the third quarter played a role, but the Bills have one of their best reserve options at that position in Alan Branch. The front seven has now struggled against the run in two of their first three games.

Pass Defense: C-minus (Last week: B) Opposite from the run defense, this unit played better in the second half, when they were more effective in stopping the Jets' offense on third down. Geno Smith was 6-for-12 in the second half after going 10-for-17 in the first half, which was an improvement. Linebacker Kiko Alonso and safety Jim Leonhard also came up with interceptions, helping to keep the game within reach. But the overwhelming negative here were big plays. The Bills allowed four catches of 40 yards or more. Tough to win when that happens, especially when managing no sacks and just two quarterback hits.

Special Teams: B (Last week: B-minus) Not the best day for Shawn Powell, who had three punts fall as touchbacks. The Bills are down to their second options at both punt returner (Leonhard) and kick returner (Marcus Easley), and in their limited opportunities, neither could get much going. The positive from this unit was Dan Carpenter going 4-for-4 on field goals, although three of them (23 yards, 26 yards, and 37 yards) were kicks you would expect an NFL kicker to make.