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Game 5: Team Puts Together Winning Effort
Defense doesn't let up; Offense cranks it up.
by Steve Saslow

Well they finally put it all together. The offense had their best half of football of the season in the second half and the defense played tough down the stretch as the Bills pulled out their first win of the season with a solid team effort 20-13. Here are our winning position by position grades:

Quarterback:

Drew Bledsoe managed a solid game. He threw two bad passes. His first pass of the game would have been a scoring bomb to Lee Evans who was wide open but he overthrew him thanks to a heavy wind at his back. He also threw into double coverage once and was lucky not to have it intercepted. He threw the ball well most of the game despite the terrible windy conditions. He finished 15 of 28 for 212 yards and a touchdown throw to Mark Campbell. Grade B+: Made good throws at big times.

Running Backs:

Willis McGahee got the start for the injured Travis Henry who was active but did not play. McGahee didn't disappoint, he had 111 yards on 26 carries and three catches for 31 yards including 13 on a big shuffle pass on fourth down. He wore down the Miami defense down the stretch and had a big 31 yard run to help run out the clock. Joe Burns saw some action in his place and ran four times down the stretch for 22 yards. Grade A: Let the running back controversy hit full steam.

Receivers:

Eric Moulds had a big game with five catches for 99 yards including a big catch on the final game killing drive. He did talk Mularkey into wasting a replay challenge on a play when he clearly dropped the ball. Lee Evans dropped one pass and was wide open deep on the first play of the game but Bledsoe overthrew him. Josh Reed caught one pass, but it was a nice catch and went for the Bills first first down of the game. Sam Aiken dropped the only ball thrown his way. Mark Campbell had a touchdown grab for the second straight game and finished with a season high four catches. He was called for a phantom holding penalty that took away a 10 yard Bledsoe scramble for a first down. Grade C: Dropped a few balls in this one.

Offensive Line:

Playing without Jonas Jennings and Trey Teague this unit did an outstanding job in pass protection. Marcus Price and Mike Williams took turns keeping Jason Taylor off of the stat sheet. Bledsoe had plenty of time to throw all day, even when he was blitzed. He was sacked only once. The run blocking wasn't strong early but they did the job down the stretch with the help of solid running from McGahee. Grade A: Best showing for this unit in a long time.

Defensive Line:

Aaron Schobel had his second huge game in a row. He finished with a team high eight tackles and 2 1/2 sacks. He was constantly causing havoc in the backfield also forcing a fumble. Ron Edwards made his case for more playing time with two sacks as he saw some action ahead of Sam Adams. Pat Williams had his best game of the year with five tackles and a half of a sack. The two headed duo at left end didn't do too much, although Chris Kelsay had one pressure of Fiedler. They did allow many holes for Sammy Morris to run through in the first half but buckled down in the second half. Grade B+: Overcame weak run stopping in first half.

Linebackers:

Takeo Spikes was all over the field in the first half. He had an 11 yard interception return for a score and almost picked off two more passes. London Fletcher was quieter than usual with only six tackles. Jeff Posey was in on three tackles. Grade B+: Very active but over pursued in the running game many times.

Secondary:

This unit did a solid job but weren't very busy as Jay Fiedler rarely went downfield. Terrence McGee had seven tackles, Nate Clements was in on five tackles but dropped a pick that would have surely been returned for a score. Pierson Prioleau did a solid job against TE Randy McMichael. Izell Reese was guilty of a terrible pass interference penalty in the end zone but the defense stiffened. Grade A: Didn't need to do much, but did what they had to.

Special Teams:

Brian Moorman did a great job of punting despite the windy conditions. He finished with a 53 yard punting average including a beautiful 47 yarder into the wind from his own end zone. Terrence McGee averaged 23.5 yards on two returns. Rian Lindell was two of three on field goal attempts. He never should have attempted the 43 yarder into the wind that came up short. He never had a chance. Nate Clements had one punt return for 7 yards. The coverage units were solid all day. Grade B+: Did a nice solid job in the victory.

Coaching:

Mike Mularkey gets kudos for his first NFL win. Jerry Gray made the right adjustments at halftime to shut down the Miami running attack by putting eight men in the box and daring Miami to beat them through the air. Questionable replay challenge when Mularkey listened to Moulds on the clearly incomplete pass. Gutsy call going for it on fourth and five after the failed challenge and getting the first down. Grade B: A win is a win is a win.



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