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From the Booth: Rams at Bills

Posted Dec 11, 2012

The Bills tried a different approach Sunday in their game against St. Louis.  They were determined to keep the running game going, the way they did against Jacksonville the week before.  But the Rams are not the Jaguars, and Buffalo’s “heavy” offensive lineup was not able to replicate its’ success on the ground.  That’s one of the topics we’ll review as we give our observations from the Bills Network Radio Booth.

  • The Bills employed extensive use of their “heavy” formation against St. Louis, with “22-personnel” (2 backs and 2 tight ends).  TE Lee Smith says they call the formation “22-Z” with just one wide receiver on the field.  After running for 232 yards against the Jaguars, the Bills were encouraged enough by those results to try to ram the ball down the throats of the Rams.

“That was part of the game plan going in,” said Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick on Monday, “being able to ground and pound a little bit.  That was something other teams had done, and it would allow us to get the ball to Fred and C.J., to get them touches in the run game. “

But the Bills “22-personnel” could not deliver consistently.  Spiller got two yards on the ground on the first play from scrimmage.  Fred Jackson got two yards on the ground on the next possession with the same personnel.  It was a day-long struggle to open up holes for the two backs with the Rams consistently putting eight men in the box when the Bills lined up in their “heavy” formation.

“They did a good job,” Fitzpatrick said after the game.  “They’re definitely a physical team up front.  We had some that worked, some that didn’t.  Unfortunately, we weren’t as productive there as we thought we would be.”

The most successful running plays the Bills have run this year seem to come out of the spread formation.  The fact that they loaded up for the run, and then were unable to produce consistent yardage out of the formation, ranks as one of the main reasons for the loss against St. Louis.

  • Upon further review, the holding call on Kyle Moore on the second quarter Stephon Gilmore interception play may not have been that bad.  Gilmore ran the interception back 62-yards for a touchdown, but the score was wiped out by the hold.  The Bills later settled for a field goal.

    When asked about the penalty Monday, Head Coach Chan Gailey was succinct:  “It was a penalty.”

    After looking at the NFL.com “All-22” video, it does look like Moore grabbed the back of a Rams player trying to get into position to stop Gilmore.  It looks like a good call.
  • Sunday’s game was by far the most difficult game the Bills have had in pass protection so far.  Ryan Fitzpatrick was sacked five times, the most sacks the Bills have given up in a game in years.  The Rams took advantage of the first-time starters on the Buffalo offensive line by running several stunts and twists up front.  DE Chris Long had a lot of success looping around inside of the defensive tackle to get to Fitzpatrick.  And when he wasn’t sacked, Fitzpatrick was hurried repeatedly, including the last play from scrimmage for Buffalo, an underthrown ball that was picked off by Jo-Lonn Dunbar of St. Louis.
  • Buffalo’s defensive collapse in the fourth quarter was stunning, considering what went on before.  The Bills held St. Louis to a total of three yards of offense in the first quarter.  They were in control of the game for most of the way.  The Rams third quarter touchdown drive came about when they altered their approach and went to a quick passing game, with three-stop drops by QB Sam Bradford. 

    The 84-yard drive that put them ahead in the fourth was helped along by a couple of improbable plays.  TE Lance Kendricks made a spectacular catch on a seam route on 2nd and 10 from the Rams 32, a play that picked up 22-yards.  Austin Pettis made a great grab of a Bradford pass thrown side, when the Rams converted on 4th and 1 from the Buffalo 37.

    Of course, George Wilson had two chances to end the drive with potential interceptions.  But most of the credit should go to Bradford, who stood in the pocket and delivered some outstanding throws in the face of pressure.  The game winning touchdown pass to Brandon Gibson came with the Bills sending extra pass rushers at the young quarterback.  It may go unnoticed, with neither the Bills nor the Rams in serious playoff contention, but his performance Sunday will go a long way towards building the confidence of Bradford, the former first overall pick in 2010.