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Buffalo Bills Review: Week 1

Fred Jackson Stiff Arm
This may be the start of a weekly series of very short reviews of the Buffalo Bills 2014 season, game by game. Or it may not. Stay tuned!

Good Stuff

The 2014 Buffalo Bills did not impress in their extended preseason preview. EJ Manuel looked mediocre at best, the starting offense couldn’t score, there were rumors of turmoil between the head coach and nearly everyone in the organization, and outsiders questioned whether the defense could withstand offseason losses (Byrd, Alonso, and Pettine).

That’s why the overtime win in Chicago Sunday was even more impressive. We saw good things. EJ Manuel was definitely competent. Not just completions, but looking off defenders. He ran in a score. He threw another. He threw down the field, just missing Sammy Watkins deep down the left sideline. His receivers helped. His offensive line helped, allowing only one sack. The running backs were all as good as we thought they would be.

Best of all, as Kyle Williams said this week, this team was resilient. Bad calls by the referees, mistakes by teammates, letting leads slip away, several unproductive offensive series in a row—none of that daunted this team who came up with big plays in all phases when it mattered. And they won.

Quick honorable mention in the Good Stuff for P Colton Schmidt. Who? Exactly! This “new guy” came in and had a net average of 43.2 yards/punt on the day, downed 4 inside the 20. He was amazing, actually. (Second honorable mentions go to the rest of the special teams: big FGs by Dan “Nailed It” Carpenter, many booming kickoffs by Jordan Gay, and a fantastic (and fun) DOUBLE tackle (took out two guys!) by Marcus Easley.)

Bad Stuff

Honestly (and strangely) there was not much “bad stuff”. You could say EJ’s one interception, but they still won the game. Fred Jackson muffed a punt, but picked it right back up. The defense allowed 41% conversion on third downs—Chicago got lots of first downs, and plenty of yards—but, the Bills won the game.

One thing that qualified as “Bad” in this game was the calls be the refs. Many PIs that should have been non-calls. And the strangest one of all was the holding penalty that was called back. Huh? Yes. That’s what Kyle Williams said. (He had a lot to say!) The ref threw the flag (at Williams’ back) and then they decided, nah… let’s not call it. That gave the Bears life, and sent the game to OT. Yikes.

Kim & Terry Pegula - Bills and Sabres Owners

Newsy Stuff

You already know the news this week! The Bills have a new owner! Her name is Kim Pegula! Well, OK, it’s Kim & Terry Pegula. I keep reading that Kim will be more than a little involved in the business operation of the team (maybe the primary person?) so, that’s interesting. The Pegulas are most beloved by Buffalo sports fans for their swooping in and purchasing the Buffalo Sabres two years ago, and resuscitating that team. Billions of dollars, a deep, lifetime love of Buffalo sports, and a commitment to win the Stanley Cup (and now the Lombardi Trophy) will do that to a sports fan base!

In other news: the Bills were ranked near the bottom of most Power Rankings prior to Week 1, but after their road win in Chicago (and looking pretty decent as they did the winning) they have moved up in most polls to the high teens. Not a bad jump! Let’s see what happens after week 2 and the home opener against Miami!

Crazy Stuff

When Terry Pegula, life-long Sabres fan, became the owner of that same team, he began bringing in famous names from the team’s past to help run the organization. Former coach, Ted Nolan, is back coaching the team. Beloved Hall of Fame center, Pat Lafontaine, was brought in to run hockey operations.

Wouldn’t it be crazy if… he did the same thing with the Bills?

Jim Kelly—as he regains his health—is given a more active role with the franchise. Bill Polian is brought back to build another dynasty. Players like Jim Haslett, Fred Smerlas, and Darryl Talley bring some of their fire back the Bills on the sidelines and elsewhere.

It’s not actually that crazy…

Up Next: Miami Dolphins (Home Opener!)

dolphins-logoOK, so we have a new owner… check. We have a greatly revamped stadium, hosting its first regular season game and crowd… check. We have perhaps the all-time favorite Bill scheduled to make his first appearance at a game since being declared cancer-free (for the second time), maybe even leading the team onto the field… check!

The Bills will also be honoring deceased former owner, Ralph Wilson, at the game, and, oh yeah… they’re pretty pumped up from that solid win last week on the road!

The Dolphins don’t stand a chance!

The Bills beat the Fins twice last year, both times with third-string QB, Thad Lewis. For some reason, Buffalo’s defense always seems to easily handle Miami QB, Ryan Tannehill. With all the emotion and enthusiasm and excitement coursing through the veins of the Bills defense in the home opener Sunday, I expect lots of pressure, several sacks, and a few takeaways. The Bills running game always excels against Miami, too, and with nearly 200 yards against the Bears last week, they are primed for another great showing against the Dolphins this weekend.

Really. It shouldn’t even be close.

Buffalo Wins: 34-7

Go Bills!

Personal Sports

Basketball Solitaire?

Everyone is talking basketball these days. It’s March Madness time. Most brackets have been thrown in the trash. Four teams fans are still happy for now. (Including me! Go State!)

Well, I guess I’m getting in on the action. After a couple years “off”, I found another friend (with at least a slightly flexible schedule) who can play basketball with me some mornings. We’re getting a very slow start to our new routine (we’ve only actually done it once in the past three weeks) but it is going to be a good thing once we DO get to it! 🙂

Today, however, my friend wasn’t able to make it, so after 15 minutes of shooting around I decided that since I came to get a workout, I would to do try my basketball solitaire game. It’s quite tiring, actually! Full court, one person … non-stop running.

I could definitely tell that it’s going to take a few more weeks to get back into any sort of (good) shape!

But, next time you have a gym to yourself, perhaps you can get a good workout and try to beat today’s score? (51… not too shabby after a few years on the shelf!)


Some Things Currently Distracting Me

  • Quite a Stanley Cup Final… with Detroit winning the first two by shutting out the explosive Penguins, and then the Pens winning game three on the back of two Sid the Kid goals! Great stuff. Should (hopefully) go seven.
  • Phoenix successfully landed on Mars on Sunday and I have been intrigued ever since. The link goes to NASA’s website… tons of stuff there (photos, videos, etc). Pretty amazing that we can shoot large metal objects 420 million miles away, and hit a target with pinpoint accuracy – and not damage the highly sophisticated scientific research equipment. Incredible. And then we get to see photos back from it just a few hours later. Nuts.
  • Facebook games and chat have also occupied some time recently. I love word games, and it’s fun to play against friends (and Jen, too!) in between projects I am working on. It’s kind of a funny “mental break” (since you’re working your brain on your break?) but it’s been a blast. I have found games similar to Scrabble, Boggle, and one called Word Twist that is similar to no other game I know of… And, I’ve been playing a good friend of mine in Chess. He’s quite good. Haven’t beaten him yet. 🙂 Oh, and Facebook added an instant message feature which has been a neat way to chat “live” with people I haven’t talked with in a long time. Pretty amazing.
  • On top of that, we’ve gotten to see a couple cool movies lately, as well as some awesome episodes of the Knight Rider from season two DVDs borrowed from the library! 🙂

More to come, but there’s more to do… so, more here later.



Sabres vs Thrashers
Last night Jen and I played a new card game called Tunge. (Not sure how you pronounce it.) She discovered it on a blog she reads and wanted to play it with me. I’m always game for a new … game. 🙂

So, we figured it out pretty easily and had a good time playing. Mostly. That is until I noticed that this game – as with many card games – is almost entirely won by luck. You just have to get the right card. “By the luck of the draw.” Those aren’t my favorite kind of games. I like knowing that I won (and you lost) because of my skill and cunning and craftiness.


But what all that reminded me of was my Buffalo Sabres.

See, this year, the Sabres – who last year finished the season with the best overall record – are not doing as well. At a quick glance, you might even think they were bad. I don’t remember if they were ever officially last in their conference… but they were at least second to last. (That in itself is deceiving as they were still only 6 or 8 points or so out of a playoff spot.) Most people do assume that the Sabres are just a shell of their former selves, losing their two captains from last seaons, Chris Drury and Daniel Briere.

It’s true that they miss the leadership and production of those two guys, but it’s not true that they are as bad as their record would indicate. Hockey is certainly a game of skill, on many levels. But it also involves a good bit of luck.

The bounces have not gone the Sabres’ way this year. They have outshot teams many a night, and come up losing by a goal. The goalie has made incredible save after incredible save, only to have a puck bounce off the boards behind him and either into the net, or right to the lucky opponent standing near the crease to cash in. Goal posts have rung, goals have been disallowed, injury after injury after injury have plagued this once-feared team.

We do not have cable this year, and so have only kept up with the team via radio (over the internet) and reading at and We have also caught the occasional Sabres game on But from everything I have seen, this team is still very good. Very young, but very good.

I try and catch the post game interview with Lindy Ruff after every game. (Subscribe to the podcast at iTunes.) I like to hear what he’s got to say. He’s seen this team be the best, and now struggle through a year of seeming mediocrity. When things are bad, he says it. This year he has not said it. Almost every night he has nothing but positive things to say about the players and their effort and the chances they have created. He usually says something like, “It just didn’t bounce our way.” That has been my observation as well. The Sabres have just as much fight in them, just as much skill (though, more injuries to be sure) but they do not have as much “success”.

It will come. Luck works both ways. At least over the course of a whole season. The Sabres are coming out of a horrendous stretch of two wins in fourteen games. They have won three games in a row, looking for four tonight in Atlanta, where they play a Thrasher team that is tied with them in the conference standings.

Perhaps this small streak is the beginning of things starting to go our way. Maybe the Sabres will be on the more fortunate end of bounces, calls, injuries, etc.

If we’re lucky… 😉