The Buffalo Bills ended their season with a 6-10 record, losing to the New England Patriots in their season finale. Bills fans experienced heartache, joy, and close calls. Here are some of Buffalo’s best and worst of 2013.
Red Zone Issues. Although Dan Carpenter did well kicking field goals for the Bills this year, Buffalo had consistent problems scoring touchdowns in the red zone. Buffalo is second last in the NFL in touchdowns in the red zone. A few more touchdowns inside the 20 could have resulted in a couple more Buffalo wins, and a possible trip to the playoffs. The Bills must fix this if they want to be in the hunt for the post-season next year. Buffalo has had many chances to put teams away. However, settling on field goals has negated some of those opportunities.
Quarterback Questions. With a 42.3 percent QB rating for the year, E.J. Manuel’s numbers have not convinced the jury of Buffalo fans that he is the franchise’s future. Missing 6 season games with on-going knee injuries, Manuel has not been on the field enough to show the NFL what he can do.
Should Buffalo stick with their first round draft pick?
QB Thad Lewis proved that he is a solid back-up, going 2- 3 on the season. Unfortunately ball protection has been a problem with Lewis, ending his year with 3 fumbles and 3 interceptions. Although he has a better completion percentage than Manuel, 61.9 percent versus 58.8 percent, his overall QB rating is 29.9 percent.
Lewis seemed more comfortable throwing the deep ball than Manuel, something Manuel needs to change next year. Manuel has all the makings of a great quarterback. He does not get rattled easily and has shown much maturity. More work on fundamentals and letting Manuel’s arm fly will be the key factor for Manuel leading Buffalo to wins next season.
Play calling. The Bills’ play calling could use some improvement. On many 3rd and 1’s, Buffalo decided to air the ball. With the solid footwork of Fred Jackson, a running back who consistently gets 3 or 4 yards, Jackson needs to be used more on those third and shorts.
Bad play calling bit the Bills against the Atlanta Falcons three weeks ago. Choosing to not rush on a third and one cost Buffalo, Stevie Johnson fumbling the ball after his catch. Buffalo’s playoff chances plummeted with that loss. Would Fred Jackson have held onto that football, propelling Buffalo to post-season play?
Special Teams. Special teams has performed poorly this year, opponents getting excellent field position on kick returns and punts. Buffalo’s own field position was not up to par, often starting inside their own 20 yard line. Much improvement on special teams is needed. In the season finale against New England, Bills’ special teams allowed LeGarrette Blount to have two exceptional kickoff returns, totaling 150 plus yards.
Third down conversion rates. Problems converting third downs have been a struggle for Buffalo all year, especially in the second half. Not moving the chains combined with red zone challenges makes for less possession time for the Bills’ offense.
More first downs= better offensive rhythm.
Did the Bills’ defense pick up the slack?
Without a doubt!
Defense. Buffalo’s defense ended the season with 57 sacks, the most in the NFL. Kiko Alonso wowed fans with 100 plus tackles. Mike Pettine’s defense kept the Bills in many games this year with 22 interceptions and some forced fumbles. The Bills struggled stopping the run this year. Jairus Byrd, Mario Williams, and Kyle Williams are all headed to the Pro-Bowl. Kudos to the defense!
Fred Jackson. Fred Jackson’s play was exceptional this year, ending the season with 836 yards. He also slid into the number three spot as the Bills’ top running backs with 5,000 career rushing yards. Jackson proved he still had much juice left in him, scoring an incredible balancing-on-the-one-yard-line-before-running-into-the-end zone touchdown against the Patriots in the fourth quarter. Buffalo finished their 2013 season with the second highest rushing yards in the league.
Division Record. Buffalo ended with a commendable 3-3 division record, a decent finish in the AFC East. They beat the Dolphins twice, which helped to knock them out of the playoffs. The Bills also blew out the Jets, socking it to QB Geno Smith in their second meeting of the season.
E.J. Manuel and Robert Woods. E.J. Manuel managed to establish a great chemistry with rookie WR Robert Woods. With a healthy Manuel playing all 16 games next year, Buffalo fans are hoping for more out of this great connection. Stevie Johnson and Marquise Goodwin also burned some defenders with stellar receptions.
The Bills cap their season with a 6-10 record.
2014 season prediction: Bills 10-6.
Signing off for the 2013 season, I’m Erica N.