D+ Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller split carries again, and both struggled behind a patchwork offensive line. They combined for nine attempts and 10 yards in the first half. On the Bills’ first trip into the red zone, Jackson lost his career-worst fourth fumble of the season. Spiller had two 13-yard runs on the opening drive of the second half, then had one more touch the rest of the game.
C- Fitzpatrick had a strong performance before the final drive, when he threw an interception. He was 23 of 27 for 225 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions when the Rams took the lead with 48 seconds to go. He was picked off on a third-and-19 play with 12 seconds left. Fitzpatrick was charged with a fumble in the third quarter, but a challenge likely would’ve turned the play into an incompletion.
B+ Buffalo had its fourth straight game of allowing fewer than 90 rushing yards, its longest streak since 1999. Buffalo stopped a ground attack that was tied for 13th in the league in yards per game and 10th in yards per carry. Steven Jackson and Daryl Richardson combined for 23 carries and 77 yards, a modest 3.3-yard average. Of St. Louis’ 10 longest plays, a 12-yard Jackson gain in the second quarter was the only planned run.
B-In the first half, the Bills were heat-seeking missiles, and Sam Bradford was the sun. Dave Wannstedt dialed up an aggressive attack that even sent cornerback Leodis McKelvin on a blitz to nail Bradford on a third down in the first quarter. Mario Williams had a sack and forced a Bradford fumble. Bradford completed fewer than half his throws, but the Bills couldn’t stop him on the winning drive.
D I’m docking the Bills for not having a kicker they trust to kick 52-yard field goals. Yes, it’s a coaching/front office decision, but an inability to kick field goals of that length proved costly in a game decided by three points. Rookie punter Shawn Powell let an extra-point snap slip through his hands on Buffalo’s third-quarter touchdown. McKelvin was decent on his returns.
F Spiller, one of the NFL’s most brilliant runners, had eight touches. Gailey once again declined to try a 52-yard field goal, calling a timeout – rather than take a delay-of-game penalty – so he could punt from his 34. Gailey played for a field goal before halftime, rather than try for a TD. He didn’t challenge a 7-yard loss on a fumble that replays indicated was an incomplete forward pass.
C-Take out Bradford’s 13 scrambling yards, and the Rams’ rushing output was even less inspiring. Jackson averaged only 3.4 yards a carry. Richardson averaged 1.3 yards. The Rams finished with five rushing first downs. They played much of the fourth quarter without left tackle Rodger Saffold. But on the start of the winning drive from their own 16, Jackson had runs of 9 and 7 yards.
B-Bradford was outplayed by Fitzpatrick for much of the game. Bradford’s final stat line wasn’t as good either. But with the game on the line, Bradford and his receivers emerged. Minus top target Danny Amendola, Bradford completed 5 of 11 passes for 68 yards and the winning TD plus a two-point conversion. He converted a fourth-and-1 and a third-and-10 through the air on that drive.
AThe Rams made the Bills one-dimensional. The Rams obviously were so good at stopping the run that Gailey gave the NFL’s leading yards-per-carry back one run over the final 22 minutes. The Bills entered with the league’s fourth-best run game, and their backs were held to 51 yards. The Rams allowed just three rushing first downs and recovered a Jackson fumble.
B+Fitzpatrick had a remarkable completion percentage and a 93.9 passer rating, but the Rams exploited the Bills’ raggedy offensive line and teed off on Fitzpatrick often. The Rams recorded five sacks – the most by a Bills opponent this year – 11 quarterback hits and three passes defensed, including Jo-Lonn Dunbar’s game-sealing interception with 12 seconds to play.
C-Atomic-legged rookie Greg Zuerlein wasn’t a factor, kicking only one extra point. Johnny Hekker mishandled a snap early in the fourth quarter that led to a scrambly, 0-yard punt to Buffalo’s 49-yard line. The Rams’ coverage units could’ve been better, allowing McKelvin to average 28.5 yards on two kickoffs and 11.0 yards on two punts. The Rams did nothing special on their returns.
B Unlike on the Bills’ sideline, whenever Jeff Fisher made a critical call, it seemed to work out. The Rams converted a fourth down on the winning drive. They made their two-point conversion. The Rams had the edge in most team stats: total yards, rushing yards, third-down conversions, turnovers, red-zone efficiency. The Bills had negligible leads in passing yards, time of possession and penalty yards.