Immediate Reactions: Houston Texans 23, Buffalo Bills 17

Through three quarters, it looked like so many Bills quarterback performances we’ve seen over the past decades. Errol Jalen Manuel had a few moments of strong play, a variety of debatable plays, a completely dubious error and chance after chance to make up for it.

And he didn’t. Time and time again, Manuel failed to make good decisions. If there was good EJ and bad EJ, this performance fell into the latter. With a line that wasn’t blocking and receivers who were dropping passes — Sammy, what was that??? — the Bills felt dead in the water.

Ask yourself this: Did you ever feel like they were going to come back?

– The Bills didn’t deserve a win, but ask yourself this, too:

Quoting myself, as the kids say, “for the win”.

– Ask yourself third, fourth and fifth things: have you really thought about whether Kyle Orton is better than Manuel? Have you seen him play before? Kyle Orton?

– Nathaniel Hackett’s early play calling was pretty tough to take, as it felt like he went pass-pass-pass-pass-pass, OOOH A RUN WORKED. NOW ONLY GIVE OR PASS IT TO FRED. As it went on, they seemed to get a better handle on how they wanted to attack Houston, but still got pass-happy when running could’ve done the trick. It’s not two-dimensional if you fail to alter between each dimension.

It also helps that the receivers stopped dropping passes (and that Manuel, for parts of the second quarter, was more accurate). Look, at this point it’s clear that Manuel isn’t a pinpoint guy, but Watkins first drop was awful, Mike Williams wasn’t the “he’ll get any ball” grab he’s lauded for and Watkins’ second was somewhat-excusable. Of the three drops, the third is the only I’m considering a Manuel problem. That’s not cool.

The fourth drop, Mike Williams on the 3rd and 11, was early contact from the Texans defensive back (although still, Manuel shouldn’t have been throwing behind the first down marker. Perhaps that has to do with our next point).

– JJ Watt had the Bills absolutely shook-up. From taking two timeouts — at least one of which was Watt-related — on their first red zone drive to the false start against Cordy Glenn, Buffalo looked more concern with the pass rush than should be humanly possible.

– I wrote this midway through the second quarter, before a certain cornerback slapped me right in the face: “Leodis McKelvin must be an absolute lock-down corner in practice, because he is ritually-abused during games.”

Then McKelvin rose above DeAndre Hopkins to tear the ball from the outstretched arms of the wide receiver to intercept Ryan Fitzpatrick. Even if the ball touched the ground, which it may have, the defensive play to knock the ball away was suitable to prove me silly for a minute.

Let’s conveniently ignore the rest of his game, especially the third-quarter holding penalty that negated a Mario Williams sack.

– Buffalo’s touchdown drive late in the half was brilliance in calling from Hackett and implementation from his offense. Once they neared the red zone, Buffalo used their backs until it was clear Houston would have to respect them. Passing and running. And then Manuel’s pass to Watkins was where it needed to be to secure six points. Good work, fellas.

– There was a long incompletion to Watkins right after the interception that appeared like Manuel missed a wide-open Watkins, but the replay showed that Watkins was ‘picked’ while the ball was in the air. It adjusted his route maybe a half-yard short, and the ball hit Watkins’ hand. It happens, but Twitter exploded with comments like, “EJ needs to stick his hand in a lawnmower to set the Bills free.”

– Corey Graham has had a good season, but was absolutely roasted by Hopkins on the late first-half touchdown. Graham played the short ball and didn’t have the make-up speed to get a hand on the under-thrown Fitzpatrick pass.

– Manuel’s dump-off to Woods with no timeouts in the middle of the field was a very poor decision to end the half, and his pass to Watt to start the second half was even worse. Wow. Just a world-class poor play by Manuel, and it cost the Bills their lead.

– Kyle Williams made amends for his ill-timed — aren’t they all? — enchroachment penalty with a big sack of Fitzpatrick to limit Houston a field goal. At that point, did you have the confidence Manuel would make amends for his error?

– Preston Brown and Keith Rivers not touching Foster on the third down catch with under three minutes to go in the game was monumentally bad.

Three things I liked…

1. The running backs
2. The run defense
3. Pre-injury Nigel Bradham

Three things that troubled me…

1. Manuel
2. McKelvin
3. The offensive line

Game ball(s)…

Jackson and Spiller

– Who else?

Well this isn’t fun.
– Not at all.

Next week…
To Detroit, where Calvin Johnson will likely gain 300 yards. From 2-0 to 0-3, I’m afraid. Prove me wrong. Detroit 38-24.


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