With the Buffalo Bills driving for a touchdown in the final two minutes of the game, it seemed like they would finally win a game on the road against the New England Patriots. It's been a long time since Buffalo beat a good team on the road when it mattered. The Bills started at their own 20 and Ryan Fitzpatrick drove them down to the Pats' 15. On second down, Fitzpatrick tried to hit rookie T.J. Graham on a post in the end zone, but the ball went right to safety Devin McCourty. New England would hold on to win 37-31.
At first I blamed Fitzpatrick for the throw, since it was right to McCourty. After watching the replay I noticed that Graham ran behind the safety, which made no sense. Graham admitted he should've run the route in front of the safety. If he did that it would've been an incompletion at worst.
Someone posted a screenshot of the play on Twitter and it shows Stevie Johnson open down the left sideline for a possible touchdown and C.J. Spiller wide open at the 12. Spiller likely would've been tackled inside the five and the Bills had no timeouts left. I think it's interesting Fitzpatrick went to Graham, who hasn't proven anything yet.
On the plus side, the defense held New England to just one touchdown after halftime and forced two punts. If the secondary didn't drop two interceptions the game may have turned out differently.
Chan Gailey's run/pass balance again makes me scratch my head. Buffalo called 25 designed running back runs and 46 passes. I understand Fitzpatrick played well, but why make him pass the ball so much?
Penalties were costly and the Bills finished with 14 penalties for 148 yards, including two pass interference penalties in the end zone. The biggest culprits were the secondary and offensive line.
A win would've put the Bills in a good position to get back in the playoff hunt. Now they're odds of ending the playoff drought are miniscule.
Quarterbacks: Up until the interception, Fitzpatrick played his best games of the season. The quarterback finished 27 of 40 (67.5 percent) for 337 yards, two touchdowns with one interception. Most of his throws were on target and he didn't throw into coverage very often. The interception at the end of the game obviously cost the team a win. Fitzpatrick did fumble on a sack early in the game. He could've quieted the public pressure to bring in a new starting quarterback if the team pulled the win out today. Grade: A-
Running backs: Spiller was again fantastic, but Gailey didn't seem to notice. The back carried nine times for 70 yards (7.8 yards per carry) and caught four passes for 61 yards (15.3 average). He turned plays that should've gone for nothing into big plays repeatedly. The first defender to get to Spiller rarely brings him down or even puts a hand on him. Jackson looked good aside from the two fumbles, one of which was a killer coming at the 1-yard line. The second fumble was due to taking a hit to the head and it looked like he may have lost consciousness. You can't blame him for that one. Jackson was tough to bring down and displayed good vision. I just wish he would protect the ball or go down sooner when he is fighting for extra yardage. Jackson finished with 16 carries for 80 yards (5.0 average) and two touchdowns and four catches for 35 yards (8.8 average). Why didn't Spiller get more touches than Jackson if he was that much more effective? Grade: A-
Wide receivers: Donald Jones played his best game of the season with six receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown. He did drop a ball on the final drive that cost the team a gain of at least 15 yards and a timeout. Johnson looked back to full speed, catching six balls for 86 yards. Graham caught one pass for 11 yards and ran the wrong route on the interception. Lee Evans was contributing at this point in his rookie year. Grades: B+
Tight ends: Scott Chandler again was almost unstoppable against the Patriots. He caught five passes for 65 yards and a touchdown. The play before the interception was just out of Chandler's reach over the middle of the field. Lee Smith caught a short pass, but committed a false start penalty early in the game. Grade: B
Offensive line: Early on, Cordy Glenn and Chris Hairston couldn't block anyone and everyone seemed to commit a penalty. The unit got its act together and did a fine job in run blocking and allowed three sacks all game. Fitzpatrick was hit an additional two times. Grade: B+
Defensive line: Kyle Williams was the best player of the bunch, recording half a sack, a tackle for a loss and three quarterback hits. Marcell Dareus broke out of his slump with five tackles, half a sack, two tipped passes and a quarterback hit. Mario Williams and Kyle Moore were hardly noticeable. Alex Carrington recorded a tackle for a loss. Tom Brady finished with 237 passing yards, which is very low for him and the Patriots rushed for 117 yards. Grade: C+
Linebackers: Nick Barnett recorded six tackles, but none were for a loss. He was the problem on some long passes and runs. I'm not even sure if Kelvin Sheppard and Nigel Bradham saw the field. Bryan Scott added four tackles, but dropped an interception early in the game that should've been an easy catch. Danny Woodhead caught four passes for 46 yards. Grade: D
Secondary: While Brady didn't put up huge numbers, George Wilson and Stephon Gilmore both committed pass interference penalties in the end zone. Wes Welker shredded Justin Rogers for 74 yards. I thought Leodis McKelvin played well with a pass breakup and a key tackle short of the first-down marker. Grade: C
Special teams: The kick coverage allowed a 32-yard return to Julian Edelman, but otherwise, the coverage units did a nice job. Shawn Powell averaged 50 yards per punt and Rian Lindell made a 41-yard field goal. The Bills' returners didn't do anything. Grade: B-
Coaching: I'm glad Chan Gailey went for it on fourth down instead of kicking a field goal. I don't get his decision to limit Spiller's touches so much. He should be getting more work than Jackson. Other than the unbalanced run/pass ratio, Gailey called a good offensive game and Wannstedt's defense made good adjustments at halftime. The number of penalties was incredible and that falls on coaching. Grade: C+
What are your grades for the Buffalo Bills? Post a comment or let me know on Twitter @MPN_DanGoldman