Monday, September 22, 2014

Week 3 Observations: San Diego Chargers 22, Buffalo Bills 10

WGR's Joe Buscaglia wrote about it, and we'll restate it here.

EJ Manuel's stat line looks fine if you only look at his numbers.  But there's a lot hidden in those numbers.  Let's compare numbers, shall we?

First, EJ Manuel:
23/39, 238 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT

Now, Phillip Rivers:
18/25, 256 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT

You can already see some of the trouble with Sunday's game.  But look tighter.  Manuel's average yard per attempt was 6.1 yards, compared to Rivers 10.4 yards per attempt.

The Buffalo Bills played it safe on a windy day at the Ralph, relying on short passing plays more often than not.  The Chargers defense came ready to play a week after taking down the defending Super Bowl champions, forcing EJ Manuel into three sacks that lost 33 yards.  

If you include those three sacks, EJ Manuel picked up an average of 4.8 yards any time he dropped back to pass.  

Another rough moment for EJ Manuel came in the closing minutes of the 4th Quarter, when he was flagged for intentional grounding inside the end zone, which by rule gives San Diego a safety plus the ball back.

But the loss cannot be pushed onto EJ Manuel's shoulders alone.  There were questionable decisions being made on the sideline, first coming when the Bills on a 4th and 6 when the San Diego Chargers were flagged for offsides as well as a foul after the punt.  The Bills opted to accept not the offsides that would have become a 4th and 1, but to accept the other foul instead.

Then, after the safety in the fourth quarter, there was no attempt by Doug Marrone to have the Bills kicker attempt an onside kick.  Instead, the free kick went down the field so that the Chargers could kill more clock.

By the time the Bills got the ball back, the damage was already done.  On the last series, EJ Manuel went 6/12 for 75 yards and failed to show he has the potential at this stage in his young career to be a threat with the ball with less than two minutes to play.

Meanwhile, three hours later a quarterback known for two-minute drive heroics flashed his magic once again, pulling his Denver Broncos to a tie and forcing overtime against the Seattle Seahawks.

It'll be nice if Buffalo can have that kind of threatening quarterback.  But it'll be even nicer if the Bills can connect with their costly draft pick, Sammy Watkins.

Watkins, picked 4th in the draft by the Buffalo Bills after trading their 1st and 4th round picks in next year's draft, had only two catches for 19 yards, both of which came in the 4th Quarter.  

As I wrote during the preseason, it takes time for Watkins and Manuel to develop chemistry, but it seemed like some of that chemistry was off on Sunday.  Some of it was Manuel's error, misthrowing on several occasions, but some of it can also fall on the shoulders of Watkins.

In all, Schopp and the Bulldog in the postgame is correct.  The Bills got beat by the better team.  But, the Bills also beat themselves.

They have a 2-1 record.  It's not like they have an 0-3 record.  But with that first game against the Patriots lurking in three weeks, things that caused the Bills fits on Sunday are items Doug Marrone need to bring up in practice this week before making this weekend's trip to Houston.

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