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Jim Kubiak: Derek Anderson did not have a lot of minuses, but the one he had really hurt

Jim Kubiak will be analyzing the play of the Bills quarterbacks throughout the season for Kubiak is the all-time leading passer at Navy, has played in the NFL, NFL Europe and the Arena Football League, and been a coach and executive in the AFL. He spent eight years as the radio analyst for the University at Buffalo and runs the Western New York Quarterback Academy to help develop the next generation of quarterbacks.

Quarterbacks are graded each quarter using a “Doing Your Job” grading system for every play. The Buffalo Bills QB performance grade against the Patriots was 83.5 percent.

Greek philosopher Aristotle is credited with the phrase that perhaps best describes the Patriots, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” The interaction of elements, when combined, produces a total effect that is greater than the sum of an organization's individual parts.

This synergy — offense, defense and kicker Stephen Gostkowski — was the deciding factor as Buffalo turned the ball over twice in the second half, putting the closely fought contest out of reach for the Bills, who fell to 2-6.

The synergy was again lacking on the Bills' side as the offense was able to contribute little to help the defense.

Derek Anderson, making his second consecutive start, demonstrated leadership and accuracy in his 61 plays from scrimmage. His overall performance, footwork, sense of timing, ball handling, and sound decision-making ability graded out to an admirable 83 percent in a loss that should have at least been 18-13 instead of the 25-6 verdict.

Much like last week, Anderson was proficient and solid in all but three of his plays. We graded him for three minus plays:

  • Missing LeSean McCoy on a wheel route in the second quarter on a first down play at midfield. The ball was thrown wide of McCoy.
  • A fumbled snap in the third quarter. That can’t happen. The Bills had forced a three-and-out and had first-and-10 at the Patriots' 35.
  • And obviously, the pick-six sealed the Bills' fate.

Anderson’s productive execution had the Bills in position to win in front of a frenzied Monday Night Football crowd.

Following the Patriots’ failed two-point conversion attempt in the fourth quarter, the Buffalo offense had to answer. Anderson looked like the veteran leader the Bills had hoped for upon signing him just 20 days ago. He marched the Bills down the field on seven plays, completing five passes on the drive.

On the eighth play, Anderson threw a perfect “go” route to tight end Jason Croom that could have tightened the score to 18-13. This throw and apparent touchdown gave hope and life to a Bills’ offense that would have put them in striking distance to win. The catch was reversed on review and the missed opportunity cost the Bills dearly.

The very next play resulted in a false-start penalty by tight end Charles Clay. This created a third-and-15 situation. This also generated a perfect opportunity for the Patriots defense to fool Anderson. New England lined up in a two-deep safety coverage, with man-to-man principles underneath the safeties. At the snap, the Patriots rotated Devin McCourty from his safety alignment to “rob” the middle of the field. Derek Anderson did not see the “robber."  McCourty intercepted Anderson’s intended throw and returned it for a defensive touchdown.

Statistically, the Bills and Patriots played to a dead heat. New England converted on third down on five of 14 times, while the Bills converted four of 14 times. New England averaged 5.4 yards per play, while the Bills averaged 5.3 yards per play. The Patriots ran for 76 net yards and Buffalo ran for 46. Tom Brady was 29 of 45 for 324 yards, with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Anderson was 22 of 39 for 290 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.

The difference was not found in the individual efforts, but in the collective ability to not make mistakes. It is this foundational element that makes the ordinary extraordinary in football at this level. It is this near-flawless execution of the quarterback basics that sets teams apart. It is this element that Anderson and the Bills should be aiming for as this young team continues to grow and develop, and that will ultimately define their future successes.

The difference between winning and losing at this elite level of competition in the NFL is razor thin. It is not the great plays that decide outcomes but the lack of poor plays. This fact was again highlighted in the comparison between Anderson and Brady. It was not either quarterback’s great plays that won the game, but the ability to avoid the negative plays that established the victor.

Another important element uncovered in the quarterback analysis of Anderson was the concept that a group of players, with the right mindset and focus, can offensively or defensively become more than the sum of their parts. Offensively speaking, an argument could be made that most of the Patriots players would be less productive on their own. But the system and style they choose to play suits their abilities, making the group more successful than one would expect looking at each individually.

Anderson and the Bills offense are struggling to score. It appears that Brian Daboll has yet to be able to find the identity of who and what he wants the Bills offense to be, and who he can actually depend on to get this done. Instead, the offense is a group of players concerned about carries or catches, rather than getting lined up correctly or staying onsides.

There needs to be more “us” and less “I” from the Bills offense in order for the “whole” to be more the the sum of the “parts.”

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