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Manhandled in Minnesota: Vikings Deal Bills Reality Check, Blowout Style

Yikes.

It had a promising start.  Vikings QB Brett Favre’s day lasted only three plays before being knocked out of the game with a shoulder injury thanks to a hit from Bills rookie LB Arthur Moats.  Drayton Florence’s second interception of the first quarter resulted in a touchdown and an early 7-0 Buffalo lead.  Then, the mauling in Minnesota began.

This was a litmus test for the Bills.  And boy, did they fail with flying colors.  I think I knew a game like this was coming.  Let’s face it, over the past four or five weeks the Bills had been playing well above their heads.  After such an embarrassing start,  it seemed as though they’d started to figure things out.  Three overtime losses all by three points, a pair of consecutive wins and a marvelous comeback in Cincinnati and you kind of got the feeling  that this was the real Buffalo Bills’ squad and not the one that started the year with one clunker after another, leading to a hideous 0-8 start.

We hadn’t seen this effort from the Bills in quite some time, since they were dismantled by the Jets back in Week 4.  The Vikings were hungry.  They played with a determination that was last seen in New Orleans during the NFC Championship game.  Even with the early loss of Favre in the game, you could tell this was a vastly different Vikings team than they’ve shown all season.  It seems as though the firing of Brad Childress has breathed new life into Minnesota.  It showed.

Indeed, the Vikings dealt the Bills a damaging reality check in their 38-14 trouncing.  In the NFL, you can only play over your head and play close-but-no-cigar games for so long before things begin to catch up with you.  It was crystal clear that Minnesota was severely underachieving, playing miles below what they’re capable of.  And the Vikings’ talent fully exposed the Bills.

Trailing by seven, the Vikings preceded to score 38 straight points.  By halftime it was a laugher, 31-7, thanks to a 24-0 outburst by Minnesota in the second quarter.  This time, there would be no Cincinnati Shocker Part II.  The only shocking thing was that entering Sunday’s game, the Vikings managed only three victories on the season.

If you’ve followed certain pieces on here, you know that I’ve referred back to what Chan Gailey stated when he first took over the head coaching position, about how in his words, you don’t need “stars” to win football games.  Well, that’s exactly what the Bills were, are and have been missing for a long time: stars.  In these types of game, when the other team is vastly superior talent wise, guts and execution will only go so far.  If you don’t have the talent to match up, you’re going to get run over. 

Maybe what’s a bit puzzling to me is that a week ago when they were shunned and given zero chance against Pittsburgh, the Bills nearly went step for step with the Steelers.  Now, when it’s perceived they belonged on the same turf as the Vikings, it took about 20 minutes or so for Minnesota to devour the Bills. 

The Bills looked out of whack all day.  They never got into a rhythm on offense.  Ryan Fitzpatrick had just nine passing yards in the first half and spent a large portion of the afternoon checking down and scrambling away from an endless supply of purple jerseys.  He was only sacked once, which is miraculous in itself, given the fact the Bills’ offensive line got their lunch handed to them.

Demetrius Bell was basically ineffective against Vikings’ end Jared Allen.  It was a true mismatch, a stud all-world defensive end against a seventh-round selection the Bills are hoping will pan out and man the left tackle spot.  A couple of familiar faces reminded the Bills of what they lost:  DT Pat Williams and CB Antoine Winfield.  Williams, along with defensive tackle mate Kevin Williams were a nightmare to handle.  Winfield’s interception helped set up a Vikings score.  It didn’t help the Bills’ cause by losing starting center Geoff Hangartner and reserve lineman Kraig Urbik with knee injuries.  Missing OG Eric Wood just made matters worse.  Injuries are starting to kill the Bills once again, just like they did a year ago.  Now it appears both Hangarter and Urbik might be done for the season.  Backup Cordaro Howard was inserted back into the lineup and the Bills were forced to use rookie tackle Ed Wang, who saw his first NFL action.

You have to give Chan Gailey credit.  He’s done a good job of keeping the ship together.  It would’ve been easy, even understandable had the Bills packed up shop after starting 0-8.  They’ve improved.  They’ve show glimpses of hope.  And they’ve shown resolve by not giving up after a terrible start.  But there comes a point where sometimes the coaching and slap-and-glue-keep-it-together jobs coaches do only takes you to a certain point, and then it’s up to the big time players.

Granted the Bills’ best players are gems on day two of the draft.  WR Steve Johnson has turned out to be a seventh-round steal.  DT Kyle Williams was a fifth-round choice.  RB Fred Jackson was an undrafted free agent.  Fitzpatrick, like Johnson, went in the seventh round.  Finding late-round diamonds-in-the-rough hasn’t plagued the Bills.  Their top tier picks, however, just aren’t cutting the mustard.

Aaron Maybin saw the field for all of nine plays after being inactive for over a month, thanks largely to the littany of injuries at linebacker.  DT John McCargo was pressed into his first action of the season.  C.J. Spiller had 36 total yards on nine touches.  It was a particularly awful day for DB Leodis McKelvin, who was torched for a 31-yard TD pass to Vikings receiver Sidney Rice, flagged for a costly pass interference penalty near the goal line and fumbled a kick off return that lead to a Minnesota score.  Making his day was the performance of Rice, who showed his former 2009 self with 108 yards receiving and two touchdowns. 

Buffalo was badly exposed by Minnesota in just about every way a team can be exposed.  Maybe you saw this one coming.  Maybe you didn’t.  Nonetheless, the Vikings reminded us all just how far the Bills must climb in order to get back to respectability and back into contention.


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2 Responses to “Manhandled in Minnesota: Vikings Deal Bills Reality Check, Blowout Style”

  1. Chris_Miller says:

    Frank,
    Looking ahead to 2011, if there is one as far as the NFL is concerned, where would you like the Bills to focus?
    You hit the nail on the head regarding the need for higher caliber talent. Heart and guts can only get you so far, and once you lose close games and get embarrassed in a few other, you start to lose the heart and guts too.

    Taking a look at Scout Inc.’s Top 32 draft picks, the top 10 includes 7 defensive players. The Bills are ranked 32nd against the run and definitely could use some help there. As far as improving the offensive line, you have to get to picks 10 – 20 before OT talent even shows up on the radar. Play makers in the top 10 include QB Andrew Luck and wide receiver A.J. Green. The 10 – 20 spots include QB Jack Locker and RB Mark Ingram.

    Where do the Bills start? How many pieces do you think they can fit together to make a major improvement for 2011?

  2. Hey Chris, thanks alot for you comments I always welcome any and all opinions regarding the Bills. I love to get a feel on a wide range of spectrum of thoughts about the Bills.

    Now that’s out of the way, lol, for me I think the choice is simple: I think you have no choice to upgrade both lines and since there is no real top caliber lineman worth taking should the Bills be picking inside the top 5 in April’s draft, that leads me to believe they’ll have 3 options:

    Option 1 – Andrew Luck, QB Stanford. The clear cut concensus as maybe the best QB and player in the draft. Now a lot hinges on whether or not the Bills will even have a chance to select Luck. Clearly, Carolina will have a big decision to make, whether they feel Clausen can be their guy and then it’s a matter of getting help around him. Cincinnati is another team to watch. If they decide to blow it up, which appears highly likely, starting over with Luck is a great building block.

    Option 2 – a pair of defensive tackles, Auburn’s Nick Fairley and Alabama’s Marcell Darieus. I don’t there’s a vast seperation between either player and personally, I’d be glad if the Bills took either. The run defense has been porous and terrible going on two years and it’s been long overdue for an overhaul. I think their linebacker corps. is also a big reason why the run defense has been dreadful, but again picking inside the top 5 isn’t typically a landing spot for linebackers.

    Option 3 – Best player available. Depending on things shake out the rest of the year, the Bills could find themselves in a precarious position. Let’s say they pick outside the top 5, like at No.6. And Luck, Darieus and Fairley are gone. Then what? This is where a guy like Georgia’s WR AJ Green comes into play. Now, is that the ideal selection for the Bills? Probably not. But I can’t say I’d be disappointed if he’s the consolation prize should the Bills miss out on Luck, Failey and Darieus.

    Option 4 – Defensive end/Outside Linebacker. This is another spot the Bills desperately need an upgrade at. Aaron Schobel remains the team’s best pass rushing threat, and well, he’s retired. DT Kyle Williams lead the team in sacks. They haven’t been able to generated a consistent pass rush in a long time. Names to keep an eye on are Clemson DE Da’Quan Bowers, North Carolina’s Robert Quinn and Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn.

    For me the choice is simple: if Luck falls to the Bills, take him. If he’s gone, they have no choice but to upgrade on defense. If that’s Fairly or Darieus that works for me. That’s where I would start. To fix the run defense, they need run stoppers.

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