Note to the NFL: The Bills Are Good

Despite oddities such as two prolonged power outages, the Bills dispatched the Chargers 23-14 in impressive fashion today at Ralph Wilson Stadium.  Led by an impressive, efficient offense and a swarming defense, the Bills improved to 5-1 while sinking the talented Chargers to 3-4.  Although they have benefited from a somewhat soft early-season schedule and while this was at home, this was an impressive win for Buffalo. Strangely, it occurred despite the stadium having no power for much of the first half.  Word was initially that there was a scheduled delay to correct a local electrical problem–during the game, mind you–that according to the local radio broadcast turned out to be a small balloon that wrapped around a scoreboard wire and shorted it and stadium power for much of the first half–very bizarre, including the scheduled delay.  That’s shoddy planning, but the referees did a good job of keeping time and apprising fans of the situation.  I wasn’t pleased to see the Bills get a delay of game penalty with the power out, however.  Talk about persnickety.

This win was huge.  It helped to solidify its hold on the AFC East lead.  The Jets are currently down 10-3 as I write this, and the Patriots have a stiff test at home Monday night against Denver, while Miami lost 27-13 to Baltimore.  Should NY and NE lose, the Bills will be up two games heading into Miami next Sunday.  Regardless, the Bills are in a position to control their season and playoff chances–and it’s not too early to think about that–by piling up wins against division and conference foes.  The Charges are a more than worthy adversary, their record notwithstanding.

Also, today’s win was all the more significant because the Bills were without three starters–DE Aaron Schobel, CB Terrence McGee, and center Melvin Fowler.  RG Brad Butler and LT Jason Peters were hurt during the game but returned, yet backup linebacker and special teams player John DiGiorgio injured his knee and may be done for some time.  Thus, the Bills won despite some significant injury issues.

In good part this resulted from a very efficient Trent Edwards, whose 25-30, 261-yard effort, again with no interceptions.  Though they struggled to run the ball, they did a good job of running in the second half, especially with a lead.  Marshawn Lynch got going for 70 yards and Fred Jackson for 33.  More and more, I love the Bills receivers.  Lee Evans and Josh Reed are undersized but good route runners with excellent speed and hands.  Evans had eight catches and made a terrific one-handed grab and quickly got his feet down in the end zone to give the Bills a 10-7 lead in the second quarter.  He’s earning his contract extension.

Yet the Bills won with more than a solid, effective, mistake-free offense but an aggressive defense that held a very good Chargers offense in check, limiting it to only 263 total yards.  Tomlinson only rushed for 41 yards. Rivers was very good but threw a key interception midway through the fourth quarter and also lost two fumbles. With the Bills up 20-14 and the Chargers driving, Rivers threw an interception in the end zone to Kawika Mitchell, who stepped in front of Antonio Gates and returned it a good 30 yards.  The Bills drove easily and added a late field goal, with a sack and fumble icing the win. I happened to make an incidental long-distance call on Mitchell’s interception, saying as the Chargers moved deep into Bills’ territory, Stop them here with a turnover.  Good luck carrying forward, I suppose.  Huge win.

Before I forget, it would be wrong to overlook what a great punter Brian Moorman is.  Great punter? you might ask.  Isn’t that an oxymoron?  Fair enough, but Moorman is a modern-day Ray Guy.  The perennial Pro Bowl punter can flat-out blast a ball and is very adept at “flipping the field” on opponents–taking a team’s defensive stop that puts the Bills deep in their own territory and ripping one 50-60 yards, with hang time for the coverage team to get downfield, to negate that defensive stop.  He’s an honest-to-goodness difference maker on the Bills, in my mind the best punter in the game, and adept enough to hold for kicks and throw an occasional pass as he did in the Week One win over Seattle.

Now the Bills need to show how good they actually are.  I’m still convinced that the class of the AFC is Pittsburgh and Tennessee, with the Bills a solid third.  Pittsburgh just might roll not just in a weak division, but with all the injuries they have, once the Steelers get healthy they’ll be very tough to beat anywhere against anyone.  Tennessee is also hot despite Vince Young’s situation, with PSU product Kerry Collins playing well and the defense still staunch.  The Bills are right there at 5-1, but need to continue to improve.  Very telling will be how many injuries pile up, and they’ve started to.  Also, the running game has yet to take off as people expected it to.  It’s been decent but not great yet.  That needs to change, especially as they play better teams who can pressure Edwards.  The defense also lacks the ability to consistently pressure the opponent’s QB, and Schobel’s injury does nothing to help that.  But it’s hard as a fan not to like where the Bills are right now after struggling for the last decade.  They’re fundamentally sound, don’t beat themselves much, and are solid on offense, defense, and special teams–no glaring weak spots.  Time to make hay against the AFC East, with the Dolphins, Jets, and Patriots looming.

I’ll hit the recent comments now after a busy but thoroughly enjoyable day.  How good was it?  I went for a long run, then listened to football interspersed with playing hockey and football with my son–each of us taking a 7-5 decision in driveway hockey, and his beating me twice on the front-yard gridiron, 17-7 and 23-14 oddly enough (three TDs and a safety on me, not 2 TDs and 3 FGs).  Then we settled into a hearty pot of beef stew my wife made, filled with beef and vegetables and cooked with a pint of Guinness Extra Stout, with two slices of fresh Italian bread on the side.  I would have had this post up earlier, but I’ve been rubbing my stomach for half an hour and it’s tough to type with one hand.  Life is good.

[Edit: Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski just hit a 57-yard field goal that would have been good from 62 late in OT to beat the Jets 16-13.  Life is even better.]

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Published in: on October 19, 2008 at 5:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

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