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Week 1: Defense Wilts In The End Of Tough Loss
Solid performance ends with familiar result from last year.
by Steve Saslow

The Bills executed their gameplan well but when things got tight at the end of the game, it looked like the same old Bills from 2003. The Defense dominated most of the game but tired after the Offense could produce only 10 points. The team didn't show any toughness at the end and collapsed on the final play for a devastating loss. Here are our position by position grades:

Quarterback:

Drew Bledsoe went 17 of 26 for 153 yards as he ran the new Mularkey offense very efficiently. He did get credited with a lost fumble on the lateral that Eric Moulds should have come down with. He took one sack when he appeared to have Daimon Shelton open in the end zone but coverage was closing fast. Grade B+: Turnovers and penalties kept the scoring down, not the QB.

Running Backs:

Travis Henry ran hard but only averaged 3.3 yards per carry against a very tough run defense. He finished with 75 yards on 23 carries. Willis McGahee played most of the fourth quarter after Henry was suffering from leg cramps. He did a similar 3.4 yards per carry finishing with 31 yards on 9 carries. Daimon Shelton did a decent job of run blocking and was open for a split second for an apparent touchdown but Bledsoe was sacked. Grade B: Gained the tough yards all game long.

Receivers:

Eric Moulds seems to be healthy as he led the team with eight catches but for only 75 yards. A 9.4 yard average. He scored the lone touchdown when the Jags forgot to cover him. He put the ball on the turf twice, once on a lateral from Bledsoe and another time inside the red zone. The Bills lost possession both times. Josh Reed and Lee Evans each caught two balls. Reed gained 18 yards, Evans 12. Evans did recover a Mark Campbell fumble. Campbell caught one pass for 27 yards but dropped another besides the fumble. Ryan Neufeld also dropped a pass. Grade C-: Very inconsistent effort, they have to hold on to the ball.

Offensive Line:

For all the talk, the offensive line played a pretty good football game. They did a great job in pass protection as Bledsoe had a lot of time to throw and was only sacked once, unfortunately that was near the end zone. Chris Villarial was called for a costly holding penalty when the Bills were trying to run the clock out. Mike Williams appears to be playing back into shape as he was soundly beaten on numerous occasions by Michael Spicer. Didn't open up huge holes in the running game but were efficient. Grade B: Did better than advertised but plenty of room for improvment.

Defensive Line:

This unit was pretty quiet and didn't get too much pressure on the quarterback. They did help keep Fred Taylor in check with some solid run defense. Aaron Schobel was quiet gaining only three tackles. Sam Adams made some plays earlier as he gutted it out with a toe injury. He finished with four tackles and knocked down a pass. Pat Williams was very quiet as he was in on two tackles. Chris Kelsay was very active early in his first start as he put some pressure on Leftwich. Ron Edwards had a half of sack. Grade C+: Was the weak link on defense, but not too bad.

Linebackers:

This unit made some big plays. Takeo Spikes made six tackles and was very active but he was one of the trio beaten for the winning score. London Fletcher also was in on seven tackles but was called for a costly delay of game penalty on the final drive. Jeff Posey had six tackles but was quiet in pass rushing. Grade A-: The best unit on the team.

Secondary:

Troy Vincent did a solid job in his Bills debut as he led the team with eight tackles and seemed to be in the right place at the right time all day. Nate Clements went from hero to goat in this one. He had a big interception that setup the Bills touchdown. He then tried to go for a fourth down interception on the final drive when a knock down ends the game. Coy Wire was active playing for Lawyer Milloy as he was in on seven tackles but he, along with Spikes, and Izell Reese were beaten on the final score. Reese had the first interception by a Bills safety in nearly three seasons, that setup a field goal. Pierson Prioleau had half a sack and was very active as he played more than expected. Grade B+: Final drive cost this unit an A grade.

Special Teams:

Brian Moorman averaged 44.6 yards on five punts including an 80 yarder. He did allow a punt from the 38 yard line go into the end zone. Rian Lindell showed again that he can't be trusted outside the 40 yard range as he missed a makeable 42 yarder while hitting from 25 yards out. Nate Clements was the punt returner, and he had one return for five yards. Terrence McGee handled kickoffs and averaged 21.5 yards on his two returns. One of them he should have taken the touchback on. Grade C: Very average play from this unit.

Coaching:

Mike Mularkey had a solid gameplan in his debut and it nearly gave him a victory. The team showed lack of mental toughness down the stretch and Mularkey has to take a hit on that, since he said he'd have them ready to play mentally. He says he wants smashmouth football and they did run it a lot but he passed from the one instead of pounding it in the end zone. Punted from the 33 yard line, very conservative. Grade C+: Conservative gameplan should have been enough to barely win but it wasn't.



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