Sunday’s contest against the Houston Texans was probably Buffalo Bills fans’ worst nightmare. The quarterback their team dumped a couple years ago, Ryan Fitzpatrick, outplayed the current QB, EJ Manuel, as the Texans won 23-17. For the second straight week, the Bills needed Manuel to bring them from behind to pull out a win, and for the second straight week he failed. He not only wasn’t up to leading a winning fourth quarter drive, he also was directly responsible for at least a ten point swing in the score as he handed Texans’ superstar J.J. Watt a gift-wrapped 80 yard interception return for a touchdown while his team was already in field goal range. The play wasn’t a desperation forced throw into coverage, it was a simple swing pass to a back that he lofted into Watt’s hands. It was just another example of Manuel’s inability to see the field and read the defense. Manuel also had numerous inaccurate throws during the game in which he missed open receivers and blew chances to keep drives alive. He still seems to be overthinking the game rather than just playing. In fact, his best play of the day came on a play when he scrambled out of the pocket and found Mike Williams wide open for an 80 yard score. Coach Doug Marrone seems content to live with the lumps (and losses) that the team will have to put up with while Manuel learns, even though his job could be on the line with the impending ownership change. In Manuel’s defense, he has had a better start to his career so far than such legends as Terry Bradshaw, Troy Aikman, John Elway and even Peyton Manning, but with the immediate success of recent young QBs like Joe Flacco, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Andy Dalton, there isn’t much patience shown by fans these days. Also in Manuel’s defense, his offensive line didn’t protect him very well, and for some reason the offensive strategists had him throw the ball 44 times, while Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller totaled only 22 carries (for a respectable 93 yards). This was a dubious game plan considering Houston had surrendered almost 200 yards on the ground the previous week against the New York Giants.
The play of their young quarterback wasn’t the only reason the Bills lost on Sunday. The defense, although they probably played well enough to win if they’d gotten some offensive help, allowed Fitzpatrick to make just enough plays, with timely scrambles and completions, to pull out the win for his team. The defensive game plan was to shut down Houston’s rushing attack and force Fitz to win the game with his arm, a position he’s never been very good in. The Texans’ rushing attacked produced next to nothing, yet Fitzpatrick didn’t get smothered by the defense, which still is a long ways from being dominant. The “Amish Rifle” instead got his team the win. What’s discouraging about allowing a journeyman like Fitzpatrick to beat them is wondering how will the defense cope with legitimate passing threats on their upcoming schedule – Matthew Stafford, Tom Brady and Minnesota’s new starter, Teddy Bridgewater.