For the second straight week, the Bills' defensive unit gave up big plays through the air, resulting in a 45-3 blowout loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
Starting cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and Aaron Williams simply could not stay with the 49ers' balanced offensive attack, as they were part of a pass defense that gave up 310 passing yards to a team that ranked 30th in the league coming into the game, averaging 179.3 yards.
"Well, I thought we executed it extremely well, and receivers were just really getting open and doing a fine job, really running strong," said 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco passing game. "There were some fabulous catches made and some really good routes, and they were just getting it and going. And Alex (Smith) was really on the money all day and the protection was excellent."
Smith had a career best passer rating in the game at 156.3, and his 303 yards passing were just seven yards shy of his career high. Smith also completed eight passes for15 plus yards, including two for touchdowns.
Gilmore was surprised by the pass defense's performance.
"I'm shocked," said Gilmore. "I thought we prepared well in practice, but we came out and played alright in the first half, but the second half I don't know what happened."
Head coach Chan Gailey agreed the second half was a disaster.
"We probably have got more things right now happening in the second half that were wrong than I can stand up here and list in a few minutes," said Gailey. "There are several things that are issues and if the offense doesn't go out and perform then the defense is back on the field and it kills the defense against a physical football team. It all works together. You don't lose that bad just one way."
With the game tied at three early in the second quarter, Smith fired a strike to wide receiver Kyle Williams on a back shoulder throw. Kyle Williams dodged an Aaron Williams tackle and sprinted to the end zone for a 10-3 advantage. The 49ers would not relinquish the lead for the rest of the game.
"That was the quarterback," said Harbaugh. "We practice back-shoulder throws and things like that, but we'd never done it on that play, that particular play. That was great improvisation by both Alex and Kyle."
The scoring play shifted momentum the 49ers' way and it would not tip back to the Bills side for the rest of the way.
"It's not hard you've just got to do it," Gilmore said. "Plays are going to happen, good plays and bad plays. You've just got to put it behind us and try to make a play. That's what we've got to learn to do."
After tight end Scott Chandler lost a fumble on the Bills' 28 with 29 seconds to go in the first half, Smith used one pass to put the 49ers up two scores. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree faked inside and took his route to the corner when Gilmore peeked at the quarterback for an easy catch in the left corner of the end zone to make it 17-3.
"My eyes were bad on that play, but they schemed us on that," Gilmore said. "I could've made a play. The whole defense played bad. It wasn't just a certain person. The whole defense played bad."
On the second play of the fourth quarter, Smith found wide receiver Mario Manningham wide open on a short pass to the right side of the end zone to put the game out of reach at 31-3. Manningham put a good fake on Williams to the inside, turning Williams around before cutting back outside where he had ample space for Smith to get him the ball.
"That was outstanding," said Harbaugh. "Did a great job selling the slant and then coming out of it. And to get yourself wide open like that, that's an outstanding route."
Though there were some blown coverages, safety George Wilson, much like last week, saw missed tackles lead to extra yards after the catch.
"We've got to tackle," said Wilson. "The offenses are good enough in this league where they're going to make some plays. All offenses have their playmakers. We've got to be able to tackle and minimize the gain, so we can line up and play another down.
"When you miss tackles and they bleed you for yards after contact or after the catch, it gives them a shorter field. Then they have you on the ropes. Just fundamentally, we have to be able to tackle."