Estimated reading time: 6 minute(s)
I think we may have witnessed history on Sunday, folks. It could be that from the ashes of this “lost” season full of broken players, we may have discovered what we have all been longing for since the retirement of our beloved Jim Kelly. It’s possible that not only did Trent Edwards win the first game of the 2007 season for the Buffalo Bills, he may have won himself a job, as well as the hearts of the entire city of Buffalo, and Bills fans around the world.
You think I’m kidding?
When was the last time you felt confident when a Bills QB took the field? When was the last time you knew we could convert a third down play? How about a 4th and goal from inside the one… on a play-action, rollout pass to the TE??
Yeah, that’s what I thought.
There are three things that I really noticed yesterday. (1) Better play calling, including – and especially – (2) the call to go for the TD on 4th and goal, and (3) the play of Trent Edwards. I do believe they are all interconnected, but let’s look at each area individually.
Steve Fairchild Opens Up The Offense
Just last week I finally came around to my fellow BBR co-host, Dave’s way of thinking. He has been on Jauron, and more specifically Fairchild’s case since they got here. Bad play calling has been a frequent subject of the popular “See Dick Coach” segment. And last week, my biggest beef was just that – offensive play calling. I attributed that to Steve Fairchild, and stated that the Bills could not get rid of him soon enough! Horrible use of our talent, I thought.
What a difference a week makes.
I can’t say I’m sold on the offensive genius of Steve Fairchild, but did you notice that they finally opened up the playbook this week? There were rollouts and play-action passes, there were misdirections, end-arounds, and yes… we threw passes to our tight ends! They had seven receptions between them! There were even a few Lee Evans sightings!! Six, to be precise!
The offense did a great job of mixing up the pass and the run, and sticking with the run even when the Jets were bottling up Lynch pretty effectively. The run game only averaged 3.1 yards per carry. (But did score a TD when Lynch ran one into the end zone in the third quarter.)
What brought about that sudden change of philosophy? Why did the playbook open up so much that our offense looked like a completely different group of players?
4th Down and Goal
We’ll finish that thought in a moment. First, in continuing with the play calling theme, there was one play in particular that once the call was made, showed me that we were serious about winning.
With a precarious 10-7 lead, the Bills got the turnover they needed. Jabari Greer stepped in front of a Pennington pass and gave the Bills the ball at the NY Jets 25. Fantastic field position that they really needed to take advantage of. The Bills were on the good side of a penalty, which put them in a first and goal at the NY 9. From there, Lynch got back to back four yard carries, which set the Bills up with a third and goal at the one. Unfortunately, the Jets stopped Lynch for no gain on the third down play, and – much to my quite vociferous chagrin – the Bills sent out the kicking team.
Thankfully, the coaches had instructed Moorman to call a time out as the play clock ran down, which he did. This not only smartly used the clock… it gave them a chance to reconsider the decision.
The offense came back out, and my jaw hit the floor. It was the right call – it’s what they should have done in the first place – but I still couldn’t believe they were really doing it! Lynch had been able to get at least a yard on almost every carry that day, so with a 3-point lead, it made sense to go for it from inside the one. Barring a turnover, you either go up by two scores, or you give them the ball inside their own one, which still puts you in a very good spot. It was the right call, too, for a team that really needs confidence.
What I was not prepared for was the actual play that was called.
They sent Edwards onto the field with this call: a play-action, rollout pass to the TE Gaines. Every player I have heard, and the head coach as well, have all said that took guts. Calling a play action pass with a rookie QB starting his first game? Guts.
And that leads me to the final of three intertwined highlights from yesterday’s game.
When Edwards came into the game against the Patriots, I told my family (with whom I was watching the game) that the game was lost. Not Trent’s fault… you just can’t expect a rookie who has not practiced as the starter all week, to come in and beat the best team in the league. And, aside from a quite welcome shock on the first drive, I was right. He was not able to do anything out there after that drive. They did a good job confusing him.
Not so this week. With a whole week to prepare, Edwards looked confident, made quick decisions, and threw accurate passes. He was sacked a time or two, and did throw an interception, but overall, there was definitely something different about our passing game.
To be fair, for much of the game I kept saying, “If they would open up the offense for JP, he might look like this too!” And, I understand that it was the Jets. They are not much better than the Bills. (Maybe they aren’t better?) So, was I just seeing a mirage? Was this all inflated results due to a poor opponent, home field advantage, and (for some strange reason) better play calling?
By the end of the game, and especially when they called the play-action pass on 4th and goal, I knew that it was not.
See, I think I finally realized that maybe the reason the play calling looked so bad – so conservative, so vanilla – was more on the quarterback than on the coach? It could just be really, really bad timing for JP. All of it. They seemed to have thrown in some more wrinkles in the game he started in New England, but he didn’t get to carry them out. And Trent’s first start was at home against the Jets. But I gotta think it’s more than that.
We’ve seen JP for four season. We’ve seen Trent for two games. Nearly every Bills fan I have read or heard or talked with sees that Edwards is the future, and should probably even be the present. That’s so crazy, because Losman seemed to be “coming around” at the end of last season. But there’s just something different about Edwards. And I think the play calls from his coaches proved that they know that too.
So, I’m off Fairchild’s back, and big time on the Trent Edwards band wagon. I can’t wait to see what the offense can do at home, on a Monday night, against the undefeated Dallas Cowboys! I don’t imagine the Bills end the game on top on the scoreboard, but I do think we will give them a good challenge, if Edwards wasn’t just smoke and mirrors.
Something tells me that he is not, and that is the best news Bills fans have had in a very long time!
Trust Me: The Kid Stays In The Picture (Buffalo News)