Game 7: Specials Teams Spectacular in Win
They were truly special as other units also excelled.
by Steve Saslow
The special teams were truly special for the first time since the Super Bowl era. It was a phenomenal effort by every phase of the special teams as the return units scored a touchdown and setup two other touchdowns in the 38-14 win over the Cardinals. The defense put together another stout effort while the offense salted the game away in the fourth quarter. Put it all together, a solid all around performance. Here are our position by position grades:
Drew Bledsoe did not have good stats but he did manage the game perfectly for the weather conditions. He only completed 8 passes for 81 yards but did what he had to do to get the ball in the end zone. He had one pass that should have been picked off. His two touchdown passes were nice play calls. Grade A-: It isn't the numbers, it is the production.
Willis McGahee grounded out the tough yards. He finished with 102 yards on 30 carries for only a 3.4 yard average. He did find the end zone twice which was a welcome site for the Bills. Travis Henry saw very little action and carried the ball once for two yards. Daimon Shelton caught one pass for two yards. Grade B+: Yards were tough to come by but they came at the right times.
With only eight completions, it wasn't a big day for this unit but it didn't have to be. Eric Moulds caught three of the passes for 40 yards including a beautiful catch for a touchdown. Lee Evans caught one ball and wasn't a factor. Josh Reed didn't play offense as he was hurt on the opening punt return. Mark Campbell was used more as a blocker than receiver. He was held without a catch. Tim Euhus was called for a holding penalty negating a McGahee touchdown. He made up for it by catching the first touchdown pass of his career on the next play. As usual, Sam Aiken dropped the only ball thrown to him. Grade C+: With Reed hurt, don't you wish they still had Bobby Shaw?
Jonas Jennings returned and led a unit that did not give up a sack for only the second time in Bledsoe's Bills career. They gave him plenty of time to throw most of the game and the few times he was pressured he got rid of it. They didn't open up too many holes in the running game. A few holes were made by Justin Bannan who surprisingly saw some time at guard and made a key block on one of Willis McGhahee's touchdowns. So did Sam Adams who saw a couple of goal line plays at guard. Grade A-: Might have struggled opening up holes for the running game but a sackless game is something to celebrate.
The tackles were causing a tremendous push up the middle and causing havoc all day long. Sam Adams was active as he was in on six tackles but much more effective than the stat sheet indicates. He was constantly in Josh McCown's face. The one roughing the passer against him was one of the worst calls of the season. He did nothing wrong. Ron Edwards had a nice sack. Pat Williams was in on two tackles. The middle of the line did get a great push but did leave holes for the running game in the first half. They closed those holes in the second half. Aaron Schobel was held sackless but was in on five tackles. His offsides penalty was a costly one as it negated a fumble recovery by Ryan Denney. Chris Kelsay had just one assistant. Grade A: Were dominant up front keeping the Cardinals offense at bay.
London Fletcher was a tackling machine again as he had 14 tackles. Takeo Spikes had six tackles but was active in the backfield on many occasions. Jeff Posey was quiet for most of the game but did get a hit on McCown that forced a ball lose. Grade A: Part of a balanced, dominating defensive effort.
Nate Clements did another great job in pass coverage and added a sack to his great day. Terrence McGee played once again for the injured Troy Vincent and did a decent job in coverage. Lawyer Milloy was unassuming in this game but did a fantastic job as he was in on 10 tackles and defended two passes. Izell Reese was unusually active in the tackle game with six. Coy Wire had a late sack in the dime defense on a blitz. Grade A: Allowed only 101 yards in the air. Not bad.
Where do we start? What a fantastic day for this unit. Brian Moorman wasn't bothered by the winds. He kicked a 68 yarder with the wind at his back but constantly hit them 40 yards into the wind from deep in his own territory. He finished with a 44.1 yard average. Terrence McGee had his second kickoff return for a score this year and finished with a 38.3 yard average on three returns. Nate Clements had a huge day returning punts. He averaged 16.4 yards on five returns including 40 and 34 yard returns in that setup touchdowns. The coverage units did a fantastic job allowing only an 8 yard average on two punt returns and just a 17.3 yard average on four kickoff returns. Rian Lindell hit his only field goal attempt and kept his perfect extra point streak alive. Grade A++: The best by this unit since the Super Bowl days.
Mike Mularkey did a fantastic job of playing the right game in the elements. Bobby April had a perfect gameplan. The fake reverse on a third quarter punt return was just the thing to get Nate Clements jump started. Putting a second punt returner back there after the first punt was held up in the wind was a perfect call. Jerry Gray once again made the right adjustments in the run defense holding them to 31 yards rushing after halftime. Grade A: Perfect all around effort.
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