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From the Booth: Bills at 49ers

Not much to look at—the video from Sunday's Bills loss in San Francisco. The tough, physical Buffalo Bills who controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, in wins over Kansas City and Cleveland, is a distant memory.

For the last two weeks, the Bills offense and defensive lines have been dominated by their opponents, New England and now San Francisco. And in the Niners game, Buffalo's young defenders made several key errors that led to the rout.

  • Here's some observation on the Bills-Niners game from the radio broadcast booth, and after reviewing the game on tape:

I like the fact that Chan Gailey was aggressive late in the first half, and tried to move the ball downfield with: 46 left and the Bills training 10-3. Buffalo had all three of its time outs. They needed to pick up about 50-yards to get into viable field goal range for Rian Lindell. When Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Scott Chandler 11-yards downfield, they had enough for a first down. And if Chandler hangs onto the ball, the Bills now needed another 40-yards of offense with: 30 left. 

The issue is, Chandler's got to hang onto the ball. Patrick Willis made a great play tackling the big tight end from behind and stripping the ball out simultaneously. The first of two Buffalo turnovers was extremely costly, but I like the decision to try to move into field goal range and get some momentum going into the second half.

Instead, the Niners got the ball and the momentum. Typically, after a takeaway, offenses will take a shot downfield against a rattled defense that has to hustle onto the field.  But in this case, there was a long replay delay before the Niners ran their first play. The Bills defense should have been ready—especially since there was very little chance the replay review would overturn the on-field call.

On the very next play, Stephon Gilmore lost his coverage on Michael Crabtree who ran an excellent post/corner route. Alex Smith delivered a perfect pass, and the Niners went up 17-3 going into halftime. 

I think those two plays, the Chandler fumble and the Alex Smith touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree, were the key plays of the game. But I salute Chan Gailey's decision to be aggressive with his offense going into halftime.

  • Gilmore's blown coverage on the Crabtree touchdown was but one example of several bad plays made by the young players on Buffalo's defense. 

Second year man Aaron Williams had some rough moments, most notably on the 4th quarter touchdown pass from Smith to Mario Manningham.  Williams appeared to jump on an inside step Manningham made, and left the veteran wideout wide open.

Third year LB Arthur Moats seemed to struggle with Niners TE Vernon Davis, taking a false step in the first quarter on a play that led to a 53-yard pass completion.

Second year LB Kelvin Sheppard may have been a victim of his own over aggressive play, over pursuing on some running plays, and getting engulfed in some blocks by San Francisco's quality offense line.

The point is, when we looked at how strong Buffalo's defense might be during the preseason, we may have underestimated how young and green some of the key players would be.  Five of the Bills 11 defensive starters have three years or less experience in the NFL. The younger Bills need to play more disciplined and more intense every play to stop the bleeding on the defensive side of the ball. * The Bills moved DE Mario Williams around more in the Niners game than they did in the first four, using him at right defensive end as well as on the left side.  The switch didn't seem to have much impact. Williams finished the game with two tackles and two quarterback hits. * Poor tackling haunted the Bills again this week, just as it did in the Patriots game when they missed 14. Against San Francisco, the Niners racked up big yardage after the catch. In their first four offensive series in the first half, when they built a 10-3 lead, San Francisco got a total of 75-yards after the catch, symptomatic of a Buffalo defense that has broken down when it comes to tackling fundamentals. * The loss cannot be pinned solely on the backs of the defense. The Bills offensive line struggled to block San Francisco's front seven, and never got a handle on the Niners active, athletic inside linebackers, Patrick Willis and Novarro Bowman. * Ryan Fitzpatrick suffered through another subpar performance.  He over threw and under threw receivers in critical situations. The Chandler fumble was not his fault, obviously, and Donald Jones appeared to drop a touchdown pass at the one yard line early in the second quarter. But the Bills need more consistent throws from Fitzpatrick if they're going to break out of their massive slump.

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