Bills-Chiefs report card: Passing game fails to make enough plays - The Buffalo News

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Bills-Chiefs report card: Passing game fails to make enough plays

By Tim Graham


» Grading the Bills


The Bills ran for 241 yards, their highest output in almost four years and the most in defeat since the U.S. bicentennial. C.J. Spiller was a game-breaker again. His sprained left ankle responded well to a week of rest. He was a threat to bust a long gain every time he touched the ball. He had runs of 61 and 29 yards. Fred Jackson tacked on 77 yards.


Marquise Goodwin’s 59-yard TD sprint and solid pass protection from the offensive line saved this from a failing grade. Jeff Tuel’s pick-six at the Chiefs’ goal line was inexcusable and swung the game. T.J. Graham lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. Tight end Scott Chandler had the dropsies. But at least the Bills kept Tuel clean: zero sacks, zero quarterback hits.


Jamaal Charles is one of the NFL’s wickedest backs. The Bills kept him in check for much of the game, but he gashed them a few times in the second half. He ran 11 times for 64 yards after halftime. Three of his second-half runs went for at least 10 yards.


The Bills’ secondary kept everything in front of them Sunday. The Chiefs had one pass play of 20 yards, tight end Anthony Fasano’s lone catch. Charles caught six passes for 6 yards. Dwayne Bowe was busy, but he had a long of only 12 yards. The Bills sacked Alex Smith twice, causing him to fumble once.


Leodis McKelvin finally went the distance on a punt return, but his 89-yarder was recalled on Nigel Bradham’s illegal block. Buffalo’s coverage team handled some dangerous returners. Punter Brian Moorman had a pedestrian afternoon. Dan Carpenter kicked field goals of 26 and 30 yards.


Play-calling entails more than drawing up the perfect play. An offensive coordinator must also consider the personnel’s ability to execute it. Tuel looked like an undrafted rookie making his first NFL start when he threw right to Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith on third-and-goal from the 1. But I liked that Doug Marrone went for it on fourth and 2 from the Chiefs’ 36-yard line in the third quarter. Marrone lost another challenge, but the gamble of picking up a 42-yard gain while trailing in the fourth quarter was worth the try.

» Grading the Chiefs


Charles ran 17 times for a relatively quiet 90 yards. But he kept the chains moving, especially in the second half. Even though the Chiefs’ offense had two fewer possessions and kneeled out the final 1:27, it held the ball for only 28 seconds less than the Bills did. The Chiefs had only one negative rush all game, a Dexter McCluster reverse.


Alex Smith is about as boring as it gets, but he wins. Smith threw for 124 yards and no touchdowns, but he didn’t toss any interceptions either. His two top targets, Bowe and Charles, combined for 13 catches and 73 yards. McCluster gave coach Andy Reid indigestion with a drop while wide open for what would’ve been a long gain in the second quarter.


The Chiefs entered the game ranked 28th in average run per carry, and the trend continued. The Bills averaged 6.3 yards a pop, 2.6 yards more than the Chiefs averaged per pass play. The Chiefs did record four tackles behind the line of scrimmage.


The Chiefs failed to record a sack, but their pass rush had an impact on the game. Showing an all-out blitz is what made Tuel throw that critical pick-six to Sean Smith. Rookie cornerback Marcus Cooper, a seventh-round draft choice, had a strong game with three of his team’s seven pass breakups.


Ryan Succop kicked field goals of 27, 41 and 39 yards without a miss. He recorded five touchbacks. Dustin Colquitt was important to flipping the field six times. He boomed some majestic punts, grossing 52.8 yards and netting 45.0 yards.


Reid continues to win with a simple formula: Don’t turn the ball over, manage field position and wait for the other team to make a blunder. The Chiefs have feasted on backup quarterbacks all season. So when the Bills jumped out to a 7-0 lead and made it 10-3 in the second quarter, the Chiefs didn’t flinch.


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