Buffalo Bills: Can Nate Hack it?

He has drawn the Ire of most Bills Fans recently. - Photo via www.syracuse.com

He has drawn the Ire of most Bills Fans recently. – Photo via http://www.syracuse.com

Last week the Bills crushed the Jets 43-23. Kyle Orton was 10 of 17 for 238 yards and threw fourTDs! Sammy Watkins had three catches for 157 yards and one TD. He had two long catches that went for 84 and 61 yards. The defense caused six turnovers and forced Rex Ryan to bench Geno Smith before the 1st quarter was over. With Fred and CJ out, the running game suffered, only gaining 67 yards and averaging two YPC. Would you be surprised if I said after the game fans were calling for Nate Hackett to be fired? Is it all Hackett or is Marrone partly to blame for the offensive decisions? I’ll let you decide.

 The Jets game was the last straw for some fans . Photo via www.syracuse.com

The Jets game was the last straw for some fans . Photo via http://www.syracuse.com

The Jets game stirred up a hornets nest because the Bills went ultra-conservative mid-way through the 2nd quarter trying to protect a mere 10 point lead. The Bills seemed to be predictable running a lot on first and/or second down with multiple series being run-run-pass. Even the commentators mentioned it and that’s not the first time commentators have said on air we’re predictable. Let’s break down the play calling from about the 10 minute mark in the 2nd quarter until the 4th quarter. When you look at the game as a whole they ran 32 times and passed 17 but had the lead the entire game. When you look at the series they ran on 1st and 2nd down and then passed on 3rd they did that 7 times. Those 7 drives resulted in 2 punts, 3 field goals and 2 TDs. The Bills turned their 6 turnovers into 2 punts, 2 field goals and 2 TDs. I think Bills fans were upset by the punts and field goals off the turn overs because of where the drives started. One TD was from an INT that Aaron Williams returned to the 2 yard line. Hackett said after the game they were trying not to turn over the ball. Turnovers were plaguing the Bills the prior 2 weeks. The Bills did hit big plays to Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins. The offense scored 5 TDs and 3 field goals. The over-all numbers tell a different story than the fans perception.

Week 7 against the Vikings was another poor performance on offense come off a week where many fans were disappointed with the loss to the Patriots. The Bills couldn’t do anything for 58 minutes of the game. Then woke up and were able to win it on a last second TD to Sammy Watkins after a long 2 minute drive where they had some luck and some great plays. On paper the Bill should have wiped the floor with the Vikings. The Bills did loose Fred Jackson to a groin injury and then CJ Spiller to a broken collar bone shortly after. Goodwin was out with a hamstring injury but Sammy Watkins was dominating. So why did the Bills have such a hard time with a Rookie QB playing in his first road game?

The Patriots did a great job of shutting down Buffalo's run game! - Photo via duelingcouches.blogspot.com

The Patriots did a great job of shutting down Buffalo’s run game! – Photo via duelingcouches.blogspot.com

In week 6 the Bills were destroyed by the Patriots. Even though this was a huge game as the Bills new Owners were welcomed. The Patriots were coming off an embarrassing loss to the Chiefs and then a strong win against the Bengals and the division lead was on the line. This was quite possibly the biggest game for the Bills since the 2004 Steelers game in which the Bills would have made the playoffs if they beat the 2nd and 3rd stringers of the Steelers. Marrone and Hackett decided the best game plan to beat the Patriots was to sit Mike Williams and roll with some kind of magical 3 TE package, which was never used during the game. They also decided to use Watkins as a decoy instead of trying to get him the ball. In a game that should have displayed an aerial assault with 4 and 5 receiver sets Hackett‘s game plan just stunk.

Week 5 against the Lions was only a win because Detroit’s kicker was terrible! This was Kyle Orton’s first start against a Detroit defense that was the best in the league at the time. Orton didn’t do much in the first half but was able to make plays down the field in the 2nd. The Bills seemed content trying to run up the middle against the league’s best front four. Instead of trying to spread them out to open holes they went max protect. The Offensive line was awful in the game as well. Is that the coach’s fault or is that execution by the players?

Week 4 saw the squandering of a must win game. This loss was all on EJ Manuel which caused his benching in favor of Orton. In my opinion Orton should have played the 2nd half of this game and we might have won. EJ missed passes right and left. The game was sealed when EJ basically threw the ball right to J.J. Watt who returned it 90 yards for a TD. When you watch the game film the passing plays were there, EJ just couldn’t make the throws.

The Charger game was another weak point for the BIlls Offense. - Photo via www.sandiegosportsjunkies.com

The Charger game was another weak point for the BIlls Offense. – Photo via http://www.sandiegosportsjunkies.com

Week 3 against the Chargers was another game we lost due to EJ. EJ just couldn’t make the throws when needed. The Offense couldn’t keep the Defense off the field. The score wasn’t overly lopsided as it was only a 22-10 loss, but the running game couldn’t do anything and EJ’s top receiver was Fred Jackson again as he checked down instead of looking down field. He also laid out Goodwin who got destroyed catching a pass EJ shouldn’t have thrown to him. After the game it was revealed that the coaching staff was telling EJ to play it safe if scrambling. There were several plays EJ choose to slide at least 5 yards from contact or run out of bound a few yards from a makeable first down. Coaching players not to lose is not the way to win.

Week 2 against the Dolphins was the best game of the Season for the coaching staff. This was an emotional charged game as the Bills said goodbye to Mr. Wilson revealing his new golden name on the wall of fame. Fans celebrated a cancer free Jim Kelly and a potential sale to Kim and Terry Pegula. The Bills dismantled the Dolphins in one of the most impressive games I’ve seen from the Bills in years. This game supercharged the fan base as the Bills pulled a 180 from the end of preseason. The win also gave us the Division lead, even though it only lasted a few weeks.

Week 1 saw us upset the Bears. Another game of luck as Alshon Jeffrey was destroying us for 1 ½ quarters then got injured and was out for the rest of the game. Brandon Marshall was injured in the second half though he stayed in but wasn’t effective. The bears did more to lose the game then the Bills did to win it but the Bills were able to send the game into overtime and kick a game winning field goal. There were some nice plays and EJ made some big throws. The offense looked good only because it was so bad in preseason!

The preseason was atrocious. The First team offense failed to score a Touchdown against other teams first team defense the entire preseason. The only time they looked decent was in the second half of the Tampa Bay game against their 2nd team defense. The excuse of the preseason was that the Bills just run a vanilla offense and don’t game plan. It was an excuse that got old quick as we’ve heard that all before. Some issues carried over into the regular season like poor running game and EJ Manuel’s inaccuracy. Our Defense looked great and so did out offensive line. Unfortunately the Offensive line play really dropped off but the Defenses play got better. The fear of a regression on Defense due to the loss of Mike Pettine as DC was put to rest as Coach Schwartz is doing an amazing job.

Can Hackett Hack it? - Photo via www.rantsports.com

Can Hackett Hack it? – Photo via http://www.rantsports.com

So, what’s the answer to can Hackett Hack it? In my opinion he can’t. The Bills have the players to be a good team but Hackett tries to be in control too much. They don’t allow the QB to manage the game on the field. They give the QB two plays to choose from even if neither play will work. That’s a big problem with our running game. When a defense is ready for the run we still run. There’s also stretches of predictability in play calling often running on first down or series of run-run-pass. Consistency is a problem as well. When the Bills do something well they back away from it and if something isn’t working they keep trying it hoping for a different result. As the NFL is progressing toward a passing league and up-tempo offense the Bill are regressing to a run first time ball controlling offense. Marrone and Hackett were sold as the next best thing to Chip Kelly and they are far from it.

To be fair Hackett has had to use 4 QB’s over the last 2 seasons. Both seasons saw injuries to the Bills two top backs. Their identity has changed several times. The Bills have yet to establish an identity on offense. They think they are a running team but they can’t run. They seem to have a good passing game but they don’t try to pass a lot. Hackett has two weeks to figure out the Run game and offensive line issues. Perhaps with the emergence of Orton the identity moves to more of a passing team than a running team. Maybe that fixes the running game issue. If we can get teams into more of a passing defense than a run defense it could open more lanes for our RB. Hackett doesn’t have any more rope. The Bills need to win at least 5 of the next 8 games. The Raiders and Jets are the only two games you can say should be wins. The Chiefs, Dolphins and Browns match up with us well. We close out against the Broncos, Packers and Patriots which you can assume are losses. If the Bills are serious playoff contenders they need to show it and it starts this week against the Chiefs.

So what do you think Bills nation? How do you feel about Hackett and the game plans from week to week? Can the Bills get to 10 and 6? Will they make the playoffs? As always let me know what you think on here and follow us on Facebook and twitter @wgoinbuffalo and me @jasonsins. 8 games left, let’s do this Buffalo!

By: Jason Sins


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