Estimated reading time: 7 minute(s)
The Buffalo Bills are 2-0. Two wins, zero losses. Two wins against playoff teams from 2007. One was a blowout, one was a come-from-behind win on the road. Both were very solid wins.
Aren’t you a little bit surprised?
I am forever a fan of my team, and just generally an optimist in life. So, I always think my team can win. Indeed, I did pick them to win today (by a score of 21-17, no less) but as game time approached, my confidence was wavering.
It was going to be very hot… that was not in the Bills favor. Jacksonville was going to be ready – injuries or no injuries – to defend their home turf, and avoid starting the season 0-2. The crowd and home-field energy would be with them. Jason Peters would be starting… would that throw off any rhythm the offense had from the pre-season? And, did I mention it was extremely, ridiculously hot?
The Bills got the ball first, and really controlled the game on their opening drive. They passed and ran at will. Marshawn Lynch scored on an 11-yard TD run to cap the drive that covered 82 yards. When the defense also managed to dictate the play on Jacksonville’s first possession, it almost seemed it would be a rout.
But Jacksonville is good. And they proved it. They stayed with the Bills. They moved the ball very efficiently, getting Garrard outside the pocket (weakened by injuries to the offensive line). They played in an up-tempo, “hurry up” offense that did not allow the Bills much in the way of substitutions. They connected on many quick-hitting, ten to twelve-yard passes that kept drives alive. It was a great game plan.
The momentum really started to shift in their favor on their final possession of the first half. They put together a good drive (6 plays, 46 yards) that ended with an interception by Terrence McGee near the goal line, but the damage had already been done. That drive wore out our defense. No time to substitute, covering lots of ground quickly… you could see the heat starting to get to them.
Then, thanks to the “defer” choice from the beginning of the game, the Jags got the ball to start the third. So, the defense was out on the field again, and for much of the same. Quick hitting passes, and a bit of success on the ground for Jacksonville. Not only were they moving the ball, and threatening to score, they were also really wearing down our defense. The “hurry up” pace in the super heat was really starting to show. The tackling was sloppy, and the Bills were now the ones having the pace and play dictated to them.
Brilliant Move of the Day
The long first drive of the second half by Jacksonville was punctuated by a Maurice Jones-Drew TD run to tie the game at 10. It was a great drive, and already I was saying, “Our offense might be a tad rusty. They’ve been sitting for a very long time now, going back to the first half.”
Well, perhaps Jack Del Rio heard me. In a bold (and brilliant) move, the Jaguars surprised the Bills with an on-side kick following the previous extra point … and they got it! What a great call! The tired Bills defense now had to take the field again, and the Jags took it to them. They ran right at them, daring the Bills to stop them. And, mostly, they could not. Taylor, then Jones-Drew, then Taylor. The Bills were being dominated by the team who had definitely seized the momentum.
The defense stiffened, and held Jacksonville to a 50 yard field goal attempt. Kicker Josh Scobee blasted the ball through the uprights, hitting relatively high on the net behind the posts. Easily could have made the kick from another ten yards away.
On the following drive by the Bills despite a few good plays, Jason Peters on his first game back made a very big mistake and got beaten very badly by a rookie defensive end, who came around Edwards’ blind side and knocked the ball out of his hands. Fumble. Turnover. Jags ball.
The momentum – thanks to good play and good coaching – had definitely completely swung in Jacksonville’s favor.
Good Teams Weather the Storms
The Buffalo Bills of previous years would have been out as soon as the “tide turned.” Once this shift in momentum happened, the Bills usually would begin to accept the inevitable. And when they did, it would usually play out that way. They would lose.
But not today. Not these Bills.
Donte Whitner declared to the world that these Bills would be in the playoffs. It’s their time to win. He believes it, and he plays that way. The great thing is, his confidence is apparently infectious.
The Bills never felt they were out of it, and you could see every time the offense took the field again, they played with confidence. They converted third downs. In fact, six out of eleven. The defense did their part as well. Though the Jags had a good game plan, the defense only allowed them to convert on two of eleven third down attempts.
Players like Ashton Youboty made several key plays. Youboty had a sack, and some big open-field tackles to thwart Jacksonville drives. Kyle Williams had a big sack of Garrard to do the same. LB Paul Posluszny was all over the field and making big tackles. And offensively, RB Fred Jackson did not have much production on the ground, but had 7 catches for 83 yards. Big yards. Lee Evans included 4 grabs for 77 yards. Including a super huge catch late in the fourth quarter.
And what can you say about Edwards? 20-25 for 239 yards. Finished with only one TD pass, but for the second straight week… threw no picks. His passes were accurate, and had lots of zip on them today. And beyond the physical play, he really does have the poise, presence… whatever you want to call it. He is confident, and efficient, and productive.
The entire game was played very well by the Bills, minus some over-pursuit by the defense, which sometimes led to shoddy tackling. The Bills played will in all phases of the game, just as in week one. But there was one moment that proved to me that this team is going to be different than previous versions of the Buffalo Bills.
Down 16-10 with under five minutes to go in the fourth quarter of a game on the road, played in near 100-degree heat… the Bills have the ball and are driving. They get one first down. Then convert a third down to get another. Finally they are faced with a becoming-critical 3rd-and-6 from the Jacksonville 44 yard line. It’s too far for a FG, and the Bills need points. They need to convert this to keep the drive going.
Edwards drops back, surveys the field. The pocket is beginning to collapse around him, but he stands in, finds his target, and launches a perfect pass to the left sideline where his speedy receiver Lee Evans has beaten his man. Evans hauls in the catch for 37 yards and a first down at the Jags’ seven yard line. On the next play, Edwards throws a perfect pass to the back corner of the end zone to rookie James Hardy, who was drafted to do precisely that.
Bills lead 17-16, and with one drive – really one play – took back all the momentum the Jags had built from the end of the second quarter up until then.
Confidence For a Reason
This Bills team is not just cocky, or delusional. They know they have a good team, and they are confident they can take the field and beat anyone they play, and they are doing it. Two for two so far. And as I stated above, these are two pretty good teams. Sunday’s victory was on the road against not only a playoff team from the previous year, but one who is expected to go pretty far into the playoffs this year. The other win was a blowout of another perennial playoff team, the Seahawks.
There is still much youth on this team. Youth means inexperience, and likely, fluctuation of results. Usually a young team will lose games they are supposed to and win games they might not be “supposed” to win. Perhaps these two wins are the latter? From what I have seen, I would say they are actually the evidence that what Marv Levy began building three years ago might actually be starting to blossom.
Could this be the year we see the fruit of Marv’s labor? Could this be the year Jauron gets a legitimate winning team and season? Many questions still after just two games, but as this short season has so far gone, the Bills continue to build confidence in their team. The next three games are against Oakland, St. Louis and Arizona. The Cardinals look a bit tougher than in recent years, but all of those games are “winnable” and if they keep believing they can do it, we may have ourselves an undefeated team going into the bye week October 12th!
There is much to do to get there, but this young Bills team seems both excited to, and capable of doing just that.
Bring on the Raiders!