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From the booth: Chiefs at Bills

Posted Nov 5, 2013

Some stray observations from the radio broadcast booth following Sunday’s 23-13 loss to Kansas City.

-The game will long be remembered for Sean Smith’s 100-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter, with the Bills poised to take a big lead. It was a 14-point swing and the play and the setup to the play is worth reviewing.

Start with the Bills trip into the red zone, which has become a bit of a dead zone for the Buffalo offense in recent weeks. After a Fred Jackson run to the one yard line, the Bills were just one yard away from the end zone and a 14-point lead.

On 2nd and goal from the one, the Bills lined up in a short yardage, power formation, with three tight ends, a fullback, and running back Fred Jackson. And they threw out of this formation, with Scott Chandler coming off the line and dragging linebacker Derrick Johnson with him. Jeff Tuel’s pass to Chandler was late, but Johnson interfered with Chandler, setting up first and goal at the one. But a timely pass from Tuel might have produced the touchdown the Bills needed right away.

On 1st and goal at the one, Buffalo stayed in its power set with triple tight ends and the backs in the “I”. KC linebacker Akeem Jordan simple made a great play, nailing Fred Jackson at the line of scrimmage for no gain.

2nd and goal from the one and the Bills chose to spread it out. This time, NT Dontari Poe beat his man off the line of scrimmage and stopped Jackson.

So now it’s third and goal, and the Bills kept their “11” personnel on the field.  They lined up all three wideouts to the right side, T.J. Graham and Robert Woods far right, with Stevie Johnson in the tight slot. The play appeared to be designed to give Tuel his first look at Graham, who crossed paths with Graham outside in an effort to pick each other’s defender off momentarily. But unexpectedly, Chiefs DB Sean Smith froze at the line of scrimmage, leaving Stevie Johnson uncovered in the end zone.

The snap to Tuel was slightly low, which probably meant the rookie QB felt hurried to get the throw off.  Instead of looking at a wide open Stevie Johnson, Tuel threw immediately to the spot where Graham was headed.  That’s where Smith was standing, and the rest is history.

It was a major failure and it added to Buffalo’s recent struggles inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. The Bills went 0-3 on TDs in the red zone Sunday, and they’re now second to last in the league in red zone touchdowns. They’ve hit pay dirt just 11 times in 26 trips inside the twenty, for a TD percentage of 42.3%, second to last in the league.

Bills Coach Doug Marrone said Monday his coaching staff is looking for answers in the red zone, and actually keeping an eye on what other teams are doing around the league.

“We’ve gone around and looked at a bunch of things around the league, what’s trending around the league, the teams that have been successful,” he said. “And we’ve got to see if that suits what we can do and if we can do that, that’s what we’re looking at right now.”

-On the other hand, Buffalo’s defense is one of the league’s best, when it comes to preventing opponents from scoring touchdowns in the red zone. The Chiefs were unsuccessful in one trip inside the twenty in the game, and the Bills have allowed their opponents to score touchdowns just 46.7% of the time. That’s good enough for 6th best in the NFL.

-There may never be a better example of how much turnovers mean than Sunday’s game. Despite dominating in almost every other statistical category, the Bills -3 score on the takeaway/turnover ratio spelled doom for them.

This year, the Bills have only won the takeaway/turnover battle in three games (New England, Baltimore, and Miami). They’ve won two of those three games. Buffalo is 1-4 when they lose the takeaway/turnover fight.

Doug Marrone has told his players all year long that statistics show the team that wins the turnover battle and outrushes its’ opponent is almost guaranteed to win that game. So far, that only applies to one Buffalo game, the win against Baltimore, when the Bills were +2 in turnovers and outrushed the the Ravens by 174 yards.

-After racking up penalties at an alarming rate in the first few games of the season, the Bills have the yellow flags under control now. They picked up 6 penalties for 48-yards against the Chiefs. Over the last four games, Buffalo has averaged 5.5 penalties per game, with an average of 43.3 penalty yards per game. In the first five games of the year, the Bills averaged 8.4 penalties per game, with an average of 74.4 yards per contest.

-It’s worth mentioning that the Bills are headed for a more favorable stretch of opponents in the final seven games this year. They’ve only got two opponents who have winning records left on the schedule, the 7-2 Patriots and the 5-4 Jets. The overall winning percentage of Buffalo’s remaining opponents is .344 (20 wins, 38 losses).