Impressive. Very impressive.
1. With two key defenders (McGee and Schobel) not able to go, the Bills shut down one of the best offenses in the league. Granted, it was a home game, and the Chargers had their share of injuries, too. Still, this was Phil Rivers, first in passer rating, 9th in yards per game. Antonio Gates. Ladainian Tomlinson. Darren Sproles. They gained 400 yards and scored 30 points against the Pats. They got 260 yards and 14 points against the Bills. It was impressive.
You could see Rivers’ indecision. He’d drop back, look, start to throw, stop. Look someplace else, eventually pull the trigger. Some plays, of course, worked for them as designed, but the Bills pass defense clearly made him uncomfortable. Then, in the fourth quarter, when it was time to win the game, the Bills dialed up some blitzes, increased the pressure on Rivers, and he gave the game to the Bills. It was impressive.
The tackling wasn’t just impressive; it was spectacular. The ball would be in the air to Tomlinson in the flat, with no one near him, and I’d think “we’re in trouble.” Then Jabari would leave the shallow zone and begin to close, and Tomlinson would catch the ball, turn and make a move or two. Then he’d go down. Poz tackled like that. McKelvin did. Whitner did. Tomlinson’s a Hall of Fame ball carrier, nicked up a bit, but still a star, and he went NOWHERE.
2. Please don’t tell me anyone out there still doubts Trent Edwards. Old School, a long-time poster on the message board at www.BuffaloBills.com, told me last week not to let the Arizona game bother me too much, because we didn’t have Edwards. Nice call, School – the single biggest reason there’s a 5 in the Bills’ record is that Edwards was on the field, and the single biggest reason there’s a 1 in the Bills record is that Edwards wasn’t on the field.
What was obvious against the Chargers was that Edwards knows what to do on every play. A couple of times at the snap Trent recognized that there would be an unblocked blitzer coming at him – he simply took a quick drop and unloaded the ball to his hot read. A couple of times he stood in the pocket until his protection – his unbelievably stout protection – finally was breaking down, and he calmly dumped the ball to the outlet he knew would be there. He found Jackson in the right flat for a nice gain on one of those.
I’ve never played quarterback, so I don’t know what it’s like to stand back there and try to think of all the things the QB is supposed to see and understand. I don’t know what it takes, but I do know Edwards has it. On the Jackson play, he checked down really quickly, because he saw something that told him Fred had running room and needed the ball NOW. He clearly knows where Lee Evans is going to be and where to put the ball for him. His only bad throw of the day was the deep out to Reed that was knocked down. He needed to unload that ball a little earlier, or he needed more on it – nearly was intercepted.
Outstanding performance by the young man.
3. Receiving. Remember when people used to say Lee Evans is a one-trick pony – all he can do is go deep? Well, if that’s true, someone else was wearing number 83 yesterday. That was one of Lee’s best days as a pro. He was getting open underneath all kinds of ways, and he caught everything that was catchable. We’re starting to see some run after the catch ability, too. BIG third down catch after the punt was downed at the goal line. And the touchdown catch was, well, it was the reason the Bills made Lee a wealthy man a few weeks ago.
Remember when people said the Bills needed a tight end? Robert Royal, 4 receptions for 53 yards. Antonio Gates, 4 for 55. Hmmm. Most tight ends make their receiving money by knowing where to be in a productive offense, and catching the ball when it arrives. That’s what we saw from Royal yesterday.
Nice to see Roscoe get that deep ball up the sideline. Send him deep and cut off the route; he can get open like that all day.
4. Yes, the Bills coaches are conservative, but they aren’t dumb. The no-big-plays defense rewarded the Bills again against the Chargers, but there was more to win than that. Listen to Kawika Mitchell explain after the game that his interception came on a play where the Bills had redesigned their defense. The Bills knew the Chargers liked to get Gates in single coverage on that play, and the Chargers knew that in the defense the Bills showed, they’d get single coverage. Unfortunately for Mr. Rivers, the Bills changed the assignments in that defense during the week to get Kawika underneath. Yes, it was a bad decision by Rivers, but the reason he made the decision was that on the film that he studied all week, Kawika was never there.
The Bills coaches also figured out how to stop the run.
They also figured out how to get the running backs wide against a defense that is tough up the middle.
The Bills were well prepared on Sunday.
5. The Bills running backs have heart. They keep pounding, no matter how many guys are trying to make the tackle. Best runs of the day were Marshawn’s touchdown – how many blockers did the Bills get outside the tackle? – and Freddy’s third down conversion at the two minute warning. No way he should have gotten past the sticks, but the line kept working and he squeezed himself through not much of a hole.
They caught 7 passes.
Marshawn also did a job on pass protection.
Their numbers weren’t great, but those guys contributed.
6. Rookie watch. McKelvin has a long way to go. He’s a serious tackler; I like that about him. But it’s clear that in man coverage, he plays too far off – he seems to think that when the ball’s in the air he’ll close on the receiver and make the play. Maybe in college, Leodis, but not here. In the NFL, if you’re 5 yards from the receiver when the ball is thrown, you’re going to be 5 yards from him when he catches it. Over the course of the game, Leodis tightened up the coverage – the second TD he gave up, he nearly made the play. The Bills are fortunate to have gotten him a full game of experience against a quality team without having gotten too badly burned. I think he’ll be fine, but he needs time.
Hardy didn’t seem to be in on any important plays. He was the fourth choice on every pattern, so far as I could tell. Like Leodis, it’s good for James to get on the field and start to figure things in games where the Bills don’t need him to win the game. The passing game looks so good, that I expect the Bills will find more opportunities for him to make plays as the season progresses.
Ellis. I didn’t notice him on the field. I saw a lot of Copeland Bryan running on and off, not much Ellis. Maybe I missed him.
Corner was out there from time to time.
7. Everyone keeps waiting for Donte’s break-out game. I don’t think it’s coming. I don’t think he’s the guy who’s going to be on Sports Center every week. What he is is an absolutely solid football player. Size, speed, technique, brains, heart. He was playing the nickel back in many packages yesterday. George Wilson and Bryan Scott were out there a lot with him.
I never saw Simpson on the field with the defense; he clearly could play, because for most of the game he was on the kickoff coverage team. Never saw Youboty, either.
8. Injuries. I was really sad to see DiGi go down. Initial reports don’t sound good, but if there’s a way for him to stay on the field. He will. Love the guy.
I didn’t notice that Butler had left the game the second time. Have to give Whittle credit for being ready, all the time, to play if needed.
Have to give Duke Preston credit, too. I don’t know how he did on run blocking, but he must have been doing something in the pass blocking schemes – no one came up the middle on Trent. He clearly wanted the opportunity to get on the field in his natural position. I wonder if this could become a permanent change.
What is it with Peters? Every few games he goes down and we all get nervous, and three plays later he’s back in the game. It certainly isn’t fair for me to call a man who can succeed in a man’s game a wimp, but it does seem to me that he doesn’t always bring to the game the heart that many great players have. Still, I’ll chalk that up to me wanting all my guys to be superstars; if Jason needs to take a play off now and then, I can live with that. It’s Jason being Jason.
9. Takeaway/giveaway wins games. It won for Arizona in game 5, and it won for the Bills in game 6. Nine takeaways for the Bills so far this year. You want more? Join the Ball Burglar at www.Ballburglar.com, and pledge to pay a dollar or two for every takeaway. Lots of Bills fans already are doing it; we’re over $300 per takeaway so far this year. Those nine takeaways are worth over $5000 for kids with serious childhood illnesses.
10. In case you haven’t heard, there was a power failure at Ralph Wilson Stadium yesterday, so fans in the stadium were treated to old-fashioned football – no advertising, no music blaring from the loudspeakers, no out-of-town scores, no down and distance, no clock. Also no TV timeouts – guy returns a punt, offense and defense run onto the field, and they start the next play. That was refreshing. No replays and no challenges (so far as I could tell, there were no challengeable calls while the power was out).
It didn’t seem to matter to the players (except that they had to go back to hand signals for offensive and defensive calls). Didn’t matter to the fans. The sun was shining and the Bills were winning. Who needed electricity?
Miami’s next. Good teams on the road beat teams like Miami. Next week is another opportunity for the Bills to prove they’re a good team. In this league you have to prove it every week – just ask the Cowboys.