NFL Wire News

Playoff push can’t mask Bills’ need for better QB play

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Once the giddiness over the Buffalo Bills’ somewhat shocking victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday wears off, the stark reality of Buffalo’s situation will come back into focus.

It was certainly a great win, a signature victory for second-year head coach Doug Marrone, but the Bills’ chances of making the playoffs remain slim, especially because part of the equation means they would have to win at New England in the season finale in a stadium where they have never won.

But perhaps even more pressing is the ineptitude of the Buffalo offense and the play of quarterback Kyle Orton. For the seventh time this year, the Bills scored one or no offensive touchdowns in a game, the 21-13 conquest of Green Bay the second time under Orton that the offense did not score a touchdown. Incredibly, the Bills are 4-3 in those games because their defense has been so good.

And this time, the offense was bailed out big time Sunday, not only by a superlative performance by the defense against the No. 1 offense and quarterback in the NFL, but by the special teams, which also played a huge role by scoring 19 points.

Still, it’s clear as the day is 24 hours long that the Bills will have to look, once again, for another quarterback in the offseason because they can’t continue to overcome sub-par play at that position every week.

“We’ll just keep on getting better,” Orton said after completing 14 of 27 passes for 158 yards with one interception. “I think that’s the only focus that you can have. Feel good that we got the win, but realize there are a lot more things we can do to get better. It’s a battle every week of execution. The good offenses just execute play in and play out. We’ll work our butts off to get to that point.”

It may not be possible with Orton, and it may be too late, too. Early-season losses at home to San Diego and Kansas City – teams they are vying with for wild-card berth – are now looming very large because with a 4-6 AFC record, the Bills are buried in the tiebreaker procedures even if they were to pull a minor miracle and beat the Patriots in the last game.

Orton took over for EJ Manuel in October and won three of his first four games, but his play, despite a 3-3 record in November and December, has taken a sharp decline. He’s not solely to blame, but he’s the epicenter of the trouble.

“Same thing, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot,” said running back Fred Jackson. “That’s something we cannot do, especially against good teams. We did that again today, we’ve got to get that fixed. We know that, we’re well aware of it, and that’s just what we’ve got to get done.”

The Bills can probably beat the woeful Oakland Raiders this week without doing a whole lot of scoring, but that won’t cut it at New England where the Patriots are close to unbeatable.

NOTES: RB C.J. Spiller was cleared to return to action and coach Doug Marrone said Monday that he would be added to the 53-man active roster later this week. Spiller has been out since suffering a broken collarbone on Oct. 19, and he was placed on the injured reserve/designated to return list. He has been practicing the last two weeks, and is now medically cleared, though Marrone wasn’t positive whether he would be active on game day in Oakland. The practice week will determine that.

REPORT CARD VS. PACKERS

PASSING OFFENSE: D — Yet another lousy day for QB Kyle Orton, who just hasn’t played well down the stretch. His two biggest plays were a 28-yarder to Sammy Watkins, who made a fantastic catch (his only one), and a 40-yarder to an uncovered Bryce Brown. Orton was sacked three times, and all three were probably his fault because he couldn’t move in the pocket. With Orton struggling, his receivers did very little. Robert Woods had two catches for 22 yards, same as TE Scott Chandler.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus — The Bills rushed for 113 yards which didn’t look great, but they ran it 33 times and that helped keep the Packers off the field as the Bills had 33 minutes of possession. Fred Jackson pounded out 71 tough yards, and seven first downs were achieved via the ground. Brown (20) and Anthony Dixon (26) also contributed, and the offensive line wasn’t terrible, with the exception of LT Cordy Glenn, who had three penalties.

PASS DEFENSE: A-plus — Aaron Rodgers came into the game as the hottest and best quarterback in the NFL, and he left wondering what happened. The Bills’ pass rush sacked him only once, but it was a big one by DE Mario Williams that resulted in a fumble and a safety. The Bills got pressure with their front four and covered with seven, and that made a difference as Rodgers had career-worsts for passer rating (34.3), completion percentage (40.4), and incompletions (23). SS Bacarri Rambo picked him off twice after Rodgers had thrown three all season. The Bills had 10 pass breakups.

RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus — With Rodgers struggling as he was, it was puzzling that the Packers didn’t try to run it more. They gashed the Bills for 158 yards, including 97 by Eddie Lacy, with a 6.3-yard average. Green Bay’s line was able to create some sizable holes and it’s something to be concerned with for the Bills. The Packers had six runs of at least 12 yards.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A-plus — If the defense didn’t win the game for the Bills, the kicking teams did. Dan Carpenter made four field goals, Marcus Thigpen scored Buffalo’s only touchdown on a punt return, Mario Williams blocked a field goal, Colton Schmidt had three punts inside the 20 and Marcus Easley had a big tackle on the final punt that pinned the Packers deep and led to the game-clinching safety.

COACHING: A-minus — Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz clearly had some knowledge of the Packers from his five years as Lions head coach and he had Rodgers frustrated all day with his coverages. This was the worst game of Rodgers’ career. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett was sabotaged by the play of his quarterback and the Bills managed only 13 first downs and 253 yards while not scoring an offensive touchdown. As for head coach Doug Marrone, he now has his signature win.


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