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Tyler Dunne’s Bills Report Card: Defense, special teams set the tone

» Grading the Bills

RUNNING GAME

B Hot and cold. LeSean McCoy didn’t exactly start with a bang at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Part of the problem was the offensive line, part of it was McCoy himself missing cuts but the veteran averaged only 2.4 yards per carry on 17 attempts. One Matthew Mulligan penalty did wipe out a 12-yard touchdown run. The good news? The Bills might have a fifth-round steal in Karlos Williams. The strong, explosive rookie deserves a regular role in the offense after his impressive 26-yard touchdown run. He’s a load to tackle in open space.

PASSING GAME

B In 2015, not many teams will pass the ball 35 percent of the time, but this is what offensive coordinator Greg Roman wants to do. He pounded the run, distracted Indianapolis with a diverse set of formations and constant motion by Percy Harvin, and quarterback Tyrod Taylor made plays downfield as needed. His 51-yard touchdown to Percy Harvin – in stride, in one-on-one coverage – was a thing of beauty.

RUN DEFENSE

A- Linebacker Nigel Bradham said the Bills knew Indianapolis was hurting at running back and that for all of their own exotic blitzing, success still starts with stopping the run. Frank Gore looked every bit of 32 years old in this game with only 31 yards on eight attempts. Most important, the Bills left the Colts with bruises.

PASS DEFENSE

A- Cornerback Ronald Darby’s August malaise aside, quarterbacks like Andrew Luck should have a field day against any defense that loses its starting safety and cornerback. Yet when Corey Graham went down with a possible concussion, his replacement Bacarri Rambo left briefly and Darby was in and out with cramps, the level of play never dropped off. Buffalo’s secondary as a whole covered well (Luck completed only 49 percent of his passes) and closed fast.

SPECIAL TEAMS

A So much for Dan Carpenter needing to apply for unemployment. The veteran kicker, who went 3 of 6 in the preseason, drilled kicks from 41 and 45 yards. Punter Colton Schmidt was equally impressive with a net of 46.2 yards on his five punts. Indy’s average field position? Its own 19-yard line. And, of course, a fumble recovery on a muffed punt sealed Buffalo’s win

COACHING

A Head coach Rex Ryan had Luck confused from the get-go with his disguising, stunts, blitzes and coverage schemes. What appeared to be seven men rushing could be four and vice versa. Buffalo finished with only two sacks and five hits on Luck, but the quarterback was constantly flustered. Ryan also deserves credit for calling out the fans to make Luck’s life “miserable” on Wednesday.

» Grading the Colts

RUNNING GAME

C- Luck’s first four pro seasons are starting to look a lot like Dan Marino’s career. Where’s the help at running back? Trading a first-round pick for Trent Richardson was a disaster. Now, the Colts are banking on a back with 2,442 career carries to be The Man. Risky business. Of course, Indianapolis didn’t even try to run the ball much, either.

PASSING GAME

D This MVP candidate has also been susceptible to the occasional clunker. Sunday was reminiscent of Luck’s struggles against Mike Pettine’s 3-4 scheme in Cleveland last season. He threw high and behind receivers, and never exploited a secondary battling injuries.

RUN DEFENSE

B The Colts never let McCoy gain the corner and they did an OK job of maintaining contain on the mobile Taylor. But the tackling attempts on Taylor’s 31-yarder (Jalil Brown and Clayton Geathers) and Williams’ 26-yard touchdown (Jerrell Freeman, Mike Adams) set the game back by at least 15 years.

PASS DEFENSE

C- Zero sacks, zero hits on Taylor, zero interceptions. Taylor was in command on his 19 pass attempts. The Colts took away Watkins, but were a step behind Harvin (88 total yards). Cornerback Darius Butler was beat off the line by Harvin on the score and, other times, the Colts forgot about tight end Charles Clay.

SPECIAL TEAMS

D Any late comeback attempt was squashed on Phillip Dorsett’s late fumble and Donte Moncrief also had a 5-yard kick return. Maybe Dorsett stars one day, but this was a rough debut for the rookie out of Miami (Fla.).

COACHING

F The Colts all but abandoned the run, dropping back to pass on 17 straight plays in the first half. Puzzling considering it was still a close game at the time. Even Pagano admitted the Colts will not “survive by the pass only.” Indianapolis was dazed and confused and kicked out the door.

email: tdunne@buffnews.com

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