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Tim Graham’s Report Card: Bills’ effort is sub-par in all three phases

» Grading the Bills


C.J. Spiller returned. He should have taken another week off. Bills coach Doug Marrone skewered his offensive line for their performance. The Bills had their worst rushing day in 17 years and their fourth-worst all-time. Spiller ran four times for minus-4 yards, fumbled and committed a false start. Fred Jackson was the leading rusher with 10 yards on six attempts.


Marrone blamed the O-line here, too. He claimed you couldn’t evaluate Kyle Orton because he was under constant duress. Orton was scattershot and threw two interceptions, but he had three touchdown passes. The last one – he silenced the Coliseum with a 30-yard dart to Robert Woods – came with 69 seconds left. First-round pick Sammy Watkins scored his first touchdown in seven games on a 42-yard throw into the end zone.


Oakland has the NFL’s worst rushing offense but went for 140 yards. Buffalo allowed a pair of 25-yard runs, two of the five longest carries this year. At the start of the season, Jim Schwartz’s defense was lauded for improving against the run. But for the past two months it has gotten shredded. Only twice in the past nine games has a Buffalo opponent rushed for fewer than 125 yards.


Which one of these quarterbacks posted the best passer rating against the Bills: Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning or Derek Carr? The rookie had the best day even though he completed only half of his throws. The Bills sacked him once, hit him four times and broke up four passes. Aaron Williams and Corey Graham were beaten on 50-yard plays.


You had a feeling Dan Carpenter would win the game, but he never got the chance. He did make a 54-yard field goal as the first half expired. But punter Colton Schmidt had a shanktastic performance. Kickoff specialist Jordan Gay had a much better onside try this week, but the Bills were offsides anyway.


The Bills’ season was in the balance. A loss would extinguish their postseason hopes. So they were outplayed by a hapless Raiders franchise that seemed more inspired despite playing only for pride. Schwartz’s head-coach stock is slipping. Nathaniel Hackett might be on the verge of calling his last game next week. So might Marrone.

» Grading the Raiders


Defensive tackle Kyle Williams said the Raiders exploited some of Buffalo’s run blitzes for big plays. Oakland entered the game averaging a league-low 73.8 rushing yards and nearly doubled that. Latavius Murray ran 23 times for 86 yards, and Darren McFadden looked like an all-star with a 6-yard average.


Carr went 17 of 34 for 214 yards and two short touchdowns with zero interceptions. Carr completed throws to eight targets. Oakland’s offensive line kept him clean for the most part. A botched shotgun snap led to a Carr fumble. Kenbrell Thompkins made five catches for 90 yards.


Buffalo rushed for 13 yards. Six of its 13 carries were stopped behind the line of scrimmage. What more needs to be said?


The Raiders did some good things here. They sacked Orton twice, hit him six times and intercepted him twice. The Raiders had five pass breakups. But coverage slacked off enough at times to keep the Bills close. DJ Hayden was burnt and lost trying to cover Watkins on the early 42-yard touchdown strike.


Sebastian Janikowski is a left-footed mule. He kicked field goals of 45, 36, 38 and 49 yards before sending a late 49-yarder wide left, leaving the door open for the Bills. Former Bills coordinator Bobby April’s kick and coverage units were solid. No big breakdowns, no penalties and they recovered the onside kick.


Interim coach Tony Sparano is making a strong case to remain in charge. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson called a fantastic game, especially considering he made it look easy with the NFL’s lowest-ranked offense against a supposedly elite defense with its season on the line.


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