Re-Focused: Week 14, Browns at Bills

| December 15, 2010

Two years ago, this matchup saw Jerome Harrison’s coming out party, courtesy of a 72-yard TD rush which proved the difference for the Browns in a close game.

This time around there wasn’t the same spark of individual brilliance from a “skill” position, but instead some key performances from the “workers” that were the telling difference between the Bills & the Browns on a cold, rainy day in Orchard Park.

Ironically enough, the Bills held an opponent to a season-low six points despite a so-so day from team leader DT Kyle Williams (+0.9).

Browns: Three performances of note

Alex Mack (+3.5) came out of Cal with a rep as one of the best centers in years, but hasn’t really shown that sort of form consistently to date in his pro career. Even though he will likely receive no column inches in the press for it, Sunday’s performance was one of his best and possibly his most impressive performance of his career to date. Kyle Williams came into the game destroying all in front of him, but Mack played a crucial role in keeping Williams and the rest of the Bills’ defensive tackles quiet on the day. An outstanding performance destined to go unnoticed.

HB Peyton Hillis (-1.1) ran the ball with the same attitude, intensity and power with which we have become accustomed this season but he forgot one thing, the most important thing, in Orchard Park this Sunday:Hold on to the football. Hillis racked up 108 yards on 21 carries, breaking two tackles and dragging the Bills for 68 yards after first contact. However, he also put the ball on the ground three times, marring another strong performance running the ball.

After a very strong last November, Abram Elam (-3.4) marked his second start in December with the worst grade of his we’ve seen since the start of 2008. This came mainly as a result of three missed tackles. Elam yielded 34 yards on two receptions with a pass defensed in coverage but it was his work, or lack thereof, in run defense that played a crucial role in the Browns’ defeat to the Bills.

Bills: Three performances of note

Eric Wood (+3.1) returned to center, his college position at Louisville, and looked impressive there shifting inside from guard. In his prior 20 starts at right guard, he had only bettered his grade from Sunday as center once, a grade of +3.8 against the Bears in Week 9 this season in Toronto. Wood’s performance against Ahtyba Rubin was very impressive, controlling and moving Rubin both laterally and vertically within the box to create space for Fred Jackson and the Bills’ interior running game.

With a touchdown pass in each of the Bills’ final three games of the 2010 regular season Ryan Fitzpatrick (+2.1) will surpass Jim Kelly for the most consecutive games with a scoring throw in franchise history. This is the sort of consistency Fitzpatrick has brought this year, demonstrating that the Bills may be able to pass on a rookie QB in this year’s draft and look to build with the Harvard man  for the short-term future. Fitzpatrick got off to a slow start after replacing Trent Edwards but has played seven good games in his last nine.

Linebacker Akin Ayodele (+3.1) put in his strongest performance of the season for the Bills on Sunday, playing well both as a run (+1.3) & pass (+1.7) defender, his strongest overall game since Week 1 of last season (+3.3) for the Dolphins in Atlanta. As with the rest of the Bills’ defense, Ayodele has struggled this season with the flux in the schemes. There may be questions as to whether Ayodele or Paul Posluszny is the better player at the heart of the Bills’ LB corps, but more performances like this will at least vindicate the decision to keep Ayodele there, for now.

Rookie report

Joe Haden (+1.9) continues to impress for the Browns, targeted only three times, yielding only one reception for two yards and knocking a pass down… T.J. Ward (-2.2) struggled a little in pass coverage, not necessarily as the primary target (where he yielded 2 catches for 42 yards) but his support wasn’t what it has been at times in his rookie semester.

The Bills’ C.J. Spiller (+1.2) showed some impressive flashes in the running game but won’t be able to breakout until the  blocking on the edge improves. … Donald Jones (+0.6) picked up a pair of catches for 14 yards as his quiet rookie season continues. … David Nelson (+0.6) registered an 11-yard TD reception on the sole pass thrown his way on Sunday,… Naaman Roosevelt (-0.1), graduate of the University of Buffalo, registered his first 5 offensive snaps of his NFL career for the Bills but didn’t see a pass thrown his way. … Torell Troup (-0.8) didn’t back up his best game of the season from his last game against Pittsburgh, returning to mediocre performances. … Arthur Moats (-0.1) struggled in run defense (-1.1) and pass coverage (-0.9) but beat Joe Thomas for a crucial strip-sack of Jake Delhomme.

Random note

Former Washington Redskin Chad Rinehart split time at RG with Cord Howard and comfortably outperformed the rookie offensive lineman. Rinehart registered a +3.0 overall grade on 37 snaps to Howard’s -0.8 on 33 snaps. This performance was enough to earn Rinehart the spot full-time at RG for this Sunday’s game against the Dolphins in Miami.

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