Both of these teams go into their respective bye weeks on the back of a hard fought game that could have gone either way at the end. With the scores level and New York at the Buffalo five, easily Eli Manning’s worst pass of the game could have been intercepted to take the fixture into overtime (or worse).
However, as was probably fair, the Giants kicked a short range field-goal to leave Ryan Fitzpatrick just too much to do. Two underthrown balls which actually did get intercepted were certainly his undoing, whilst it’s a measure of just how far the Bills have come, that even with these and a quite abysmal display at cornerback from Drayton Florence, they were so close at the death.
So what went well and which areas will the teams need to work on over their weeks off.
Buffalo – Three Performances of Note
A weakness no more
Last year in our annual offensive line assessment we rated the Buffalo Bills as 24th in the league. This was up from 30th in 2009 but there really was no indication that they’d improve so much, so quickly this year. Yet here we are with every regular starter bar right tackle Erik Pears “green rated” overall (and even he is far from a disaster), and able to overcome the loss of not one but two left tackles. This brings us nicely onto a guy who is playing guard better than anyone else in the league right now, Andy Levitre (+1.1 in this game), and how he was able to step across and play LT in this game when Chris Hairston (who was already replacing Demetrius Bell) went down.
All that aside, the star in this game was actually right guard Kraig Urbik (+4.1). He was once again perfect in pass protection (as he has been all year) and did some solid work pulling for the run. A really good example of this was the way he got through the hole, to the second level and sealed in Michael Boley with 9:10 left in the 2nd quarter.
The only downside of course is that even if this level of performance continues you shouldn’t expect to see any of these guys in Hawaii. If the voters were too dumb to include Kyle Williams last year, what chance Levitre?
When you pick someone with the 3rd selection of the draft you don’t just want them to play solid football, you expect them to eventually take over games, and for the first time that is what Marcel Dareus (+5.1) did in this game. He’s put together “half” performances in the past; getting pressure but doing little as a run defender, but here he was the full package. He registered five hurries (of which one was nullified by a penalty) but importantly also gave Kevin Boothe more than he could handle in the running game.
Things are coming together well for him and when Kyle Williams gets back on the field and into gear the Bills look to have the foundation of a quality defensive line.
With so many positives you knew there was a “but” coming and it’s a big one; that aforementioned performance from Drayton Florence (-5.9). Let’s start straight off by saying I don’t think he’s a bad player – in fact he started the season well – but he certainly had a bad day on this occasion. It’s not often numbers tell the whole story but perhaps here they do.
In 35 passing plays he was targeted six times, gave up a catch every time, allowed 129 yards and a QB rating of 118.8 into his coverage. However this wasn’t the worst of it. He was flagged on three separate occasions for pass interference accounting for another 45 yards, and missed a tackle in the running game to boot. Ouch.
N.Y. Giants – Three Performances of Note
Bradshaw carries the load
There would be a lot of teams that may struggle when a player of Brandon Jacobs stature goes down (he was inactive in this game), but I’m not sure the Giants aren’t actually slightly better off. Ahmad Bradshaw (+3.2) is such a good all round player I’d like to have him on the field as much as possible, and here he got 83% of snaps; his season high. Clearly, as can be seen from 104 yards and three short yardage touchdowns, he ran the ball very well but it was his pass protection that stood out for me once again; another perfect day while being left in to block 14 times.
It’s interesting to note that this game featured the top two half-backs in the league in that regard because as great as Bradshaw is Fred Jackson is every bit as good.
Ballard Sneaks Up On You
Quietly, perhaps even surreptitiously, Jake Ballard (+1.5) has become a tight end who looks like he may be able to fill the void left by Kevin Boss. He’s not setting any alarm bells ringing or even getting the geekiest of fantasy buffs breathing hard over their computers but he is playing well and garnering more playing time as the season progresses. His percentage of snaps by week is 48, 53, 66, 72, 73 and here 94.
So far this year he’s shown he’s a receiver that catches everything thrown his way (15 of 17 targets with no drops), is a good pass blocker (perfect on 24 snaps in protection) and is developing as a run blocker.
In this game he caught all of the five passes he was the target of for 81 yards and if that continues don’t expect him to stay a secret for too long.
A number of members of the defensive backfield played well in this game but nickel safety/linebacker Deon Grant (-2.3) wasn’t among them. Against teams who like to throw he gets a lot of playing time (95% of all snaps here) but his lack of range can be exploited as it was in this game. The two most notable examples were Fred Jackson’s 80 yard TD run where he took such a bad angle on the play he wasn’t even in position to miss a tackle, and the David Nelson post route for 32 yards. Regardless of whether Antrel Rolle was supposed to hand off the big slot receiver (I think he was), the safety with responsibility for the other side of the field got to him first. I’m fairly sure if teams see the Giants playing two high safeties and he’s one of them, they’ll fancy their chances and take a few shots deep or in front of him.
– If Drayton Florence’s numbers weren’t great, Terrence McGee’s (+3.5) were more so. 11 targets, 6 receptions, 56 yards, a pass defended and five stops.
– Eli Manning actually had a better QB rating under pressure than not; 112.5 vs. 87.8
– The Giants didn’t do a lot of blitzing in this game; they brought extra players on only 3 occasions
PFF Game Ball
If the Bills had won we’d be sending this to Marcel Dareus but given the final score Ahmad Bradshaw shall have the spoils.
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