By Scott Brooks
Here's our grades for the Buffalo Bills after their 27-24 OT loss to the Bengals Sunday...
"He did what he was asked to do." That's what head coach Doug Marrone said after the game about Thad Lewis. In his first career NFL start, Lewis wasn't horrible, and at sometimes was fun to watch. He scrambled from time to time, and connected on a few deep balls (something EJ Manuel hasn't really done yet). The highlight of Lewis' performance was the drive he put together late in the 4th quarter. Down 7, Lewis connected with TE Scott Chandler for 25 yards and then on the ensuing play threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Marquise Goodwin to force the game into overtime. Lewis finished 19-32 for 216 yards. There were just a couple of blemishes for Lewis. A fumble in the third quarter that led to a Bengals touchdown, and his inability to hit some open receivers on the weak-side. All things considered, the Bills got a good performance from a guy who was just on the practice squad a week ago.
Running Backs: C-
Eh. The Bills could have used more from the guys in the backfield. With Thad Lewis under center, you would think they would want a big game from Jackson and Spiller. Both had trouble getting going. Spiller finished with 55 yards on the ground, Jackson only 35. Credit the Bengals defense, though. They shut down the running game of the Patriots a week ago, and did pretty much the same in Orchard Park Sunday. Bills fans (and fantasy owners) still awaiting a big game from Spiller. It could happen next week against the Dolphins. Miami giving up an average of 105 rushing yards/game this season.
Wide Receivers: B-
Stevie Johnson was a no go Sunday, so Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, and TJ Graham all needed to step up. And they did at times. TJ Graham had a nice game with 4 catches for 74 yards. Goodwin and TE Scott Chandler both with catches in the endzone. Marrone was happy with the play from the WR position beacuse they got open. He, like every Bills fan at The Ralph, just wishes Thad Lewis had connected with them more often. As for an update on Stevie? He was a game-time decision, he had worked out on the field before kickoff, but his lower back wasn't very forgiving. We'll see if he'll be back against the Dolphins. My gut tells me he won't.
Special Teams: B+
It's my favorite stat from the game. Dan Carpenter booted a 51-yard kick through the uprights in the second quarter Sunday. That's his third successful kick from 50+ yards already this season. Last year, Rian Lindell was only allowed to ATTEMPT two kicks from that distance. It looks like Carpenter was a good pick up for the Bills with the injured Dustin Hopkins on IR. Punter Brian Moorman made his return to Buffalo, signing with the Bills last Sunday after the team cut Shawn Powell. When asked about Moorman's performance Marrone simply said, "He was great." Moorman had two punts downed inside the 5-yard line against the Bengals. The coverage team on Moorman's only punt in overtime was the only downside. Cincy's Brandon Tate returned the ball 29 yards to put the Bengals in field goal position to win the game.
They couldn't stop the Andy Dalton led Bengals offense. Cinicinnati had 483 yards. Dalton finished with 337 yards passing with three touchdowns. Despite Jim Leonard picking off Dalton in the first half, the Bills secondary as bad. The worst was when the Bengals converted on a 4th and 15. And that's with Stephon Gilmore and Jarius Byrd back in the line-up. Credit Gilmore, though. The guy was wearing a club on hand and was trying to break up passes and tackle. It couldn't have been easy. Mario Williams and Kyle Williams were invisible, each just recording a half of a sack.
Buffalo was supposed to be the underdogs. They weren't supposed to have a chance. The Bengals started this year as a favorite to win the AFC, and the Bills got the game to overtime. Thad Lewis showed some positives,but he did have x-rays on his foot after the game (results coming back negative). The foucs now? The defense has got to fix whatever fooled them from Bengals offense. There's still a lot of work left to do for this young and injured Bills team, but I will give them one thing. They have made the first six weeks of Bills football very fun to watch. Next up, the 3-2 Miami Dolphins, who are coming off a bye week.