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Thoughts From Week Seven: QBs, Willis, Toronto

Estimated reading time: 6 minute(s)

I have been meaning to write many articles this week. A thorough recap of the game this past Sunday against Baltimore, highlighting some of the pretty amazing things I see in our rookie quarterback, Trent Edwards. Another article breaking down the stats on how the Bills truly did shut down Willis McGahee on his first visit to his old stomping grounds—on his birthday no less. And, I have wanted to weigh in on the whole Bills-games-in-Toronto issue.

But I haven’t. And, I won’t.

(Quite) Unfortunately, I do not get paid to write about the Bills, and my work load at the moment seems insurmountable. Tack on the fact that we leave for California in less than 24 hours, and yeah… I’m feeling the pressure!

For that reason, here are a few quick thoughts on all of the above topics.

Trent EdwardsQB Trent Edwards
It is now official. Trent Edwards is the starting QB for the Buffalo Bills. Not just for this week. For good. Dick Jauron said, “Hopefully we won’t have to make a change there,” in his press conference yesterday. The Bills like what they see in Edwards, and for good reason.

Not only does Trent have a good arm, is very accurate, and can put some zip on the ball, he’s also a very quick learner and very confident in the pocket. His abilities to handle the offensive schemes were showcased when the Bills ran the no-huddle offense for most of the game against Baltimore. The QB has to read the defense, and make the call from some pre-set plays in that situation. And he did a great job with it! His confidence and poise in the pocket are demonstrated by the number of sacks he has taken. Some of the credit goes to the offensive line, but much of it goes to Trent for knowing when to release the ball, and where to put it.

One of the more amazing things from Sunday’s game was the FIVE offsides penalties Edwards was able to pull the Ravens into! It could have been six, but the call went against the Bills when Michael Gaines jumped at the same time as the Ravens defender. His cadence was excellent, keeping the Baltimore defense either moving backward by penalty, or at least a little hesitant to jump at the snap.

Add to his very good play for a rookie the fact that the team is now 2-1 when he starts (and could, almost should be 3-0, barring the miracle finish by Dallas) and you have a no-brainer decision. Edwards gives the team the best chance to win now, and most likely in the future.

Good decision by the Bills.

Willis McGaheeWillis Held In Check
When Willis came out on the Ravens’ first drive of the second half and just started getting huge chunks of yards, I was definitely worried. I thought maybe he or the Ravens had figured out something, and it was going to be a long day. That was every Bills fan’s worst nightmare… Willis running wild on us, leaving with the win.

But he didn’t.

Really, the Bills did a great job stopping McGahee all day. An amazing job, actually. I knew what I saw, and what I saw was a great performance by the Bills defense, and a completely shut down performance by Willis. Well, almost completely.

So late that night I broke down the stats. I wanted to see if I had just imagined that we did shut him down. I did not.

On that one drive to open the third quarter, Willis had 4 carries for 72 yards, including the one TD run of 46 yards where the Bills only had ten guys on the field (but I don’t think the eleventh would have mattered). Willis finished the day with 19 carries for 114 yards. Take away 46 and he has 18 for 68 yards. That’s 3.7 yards/carry. Take away that drive (were the Bills still in the lockeroom or something?) and he has 14 carries for 42 yards! OUCH! That’s 3 YPC.

More stats? The Bills held Willis to 1 yard on 2 receptions (and he also dropped one, that was thrown behind him). The Bills also held him to zero or negative yards on 4 carries. 9 of his remaining 15 carries were for 4 yards or less. Mostly less.

The Bills came into the game having done very well against the Jets runningbacks and the Cowboys runningbacks. They wanted to do the same against Baltimore, who are a run-oriented team. And, they wanted to shut down Willis.

They did.

Toronto, CanadaThe Move To Toronto
First of all, the Bills are not moving to Toronto. They are merely playing a game or two in Toronto—where many Bills fans reside. All of this speculation is definitely premature, and completely unnecessary. In my opinion, of course.

Here’s what we know. The NFL decided that up to two regular season games per year would be played outside of the US through the 2011 season. Their hope is that each team would be able to participate in that. The Bills stated that they would like to be proactive in that experiment by suggesting that they play a game in very nearby Toronto, which is currently a major region that they draw from.

The Bills have played there before. In 1995 and 1997, the Bills played two preseason games in the Skydome. (They won both!) So they are no strangers to Toronto, and those games did not precipitate a move to Canada. They broaden the region that the Bills cover.

Seven years ago, the Bills made a similar move when they shifted their annual training camp to St. John Fisher College in Rochester. There are many Bills fans in the stadium on Sundays who make the drive from Rochester, and moving training camp to their city only made sense. It gave the Bills more of a presence in Rochester, and likely has won them some more fans.

That is precisely what the Bills are hoping would happen with a regular season game in Toronto each year.

This is not without NFL precedent, either. The Green Bay packers played several games a year in Madison, WI several years ago now. They are also a small-market, regional team, and wanted to have a more regional appeal. It worked just fine, as far as I know.

The Bills are not moving to Toronto. The NFL will not allow that. Ralph Wilson certainly won’t. And I would say, as much as they are able, NY State will not allow it either. But one game in Toronto, even annually, makes a lot of sense for expanding the reach of this small-market team. Bring in more fans, more corporate luxury box buyers… and the Bills remain in Western New York.

The Bills will likely play a pre-season game in 2008 in Toronto. It remains to be seen what the NFL will decide as far as regular season games there. The Bills have crossed a few hurdles, getting approval on the first stages of this plan. Next is the NFL.

Seems like a great plan to me, and I hope they can make it happen. I’d love for them to play a game over here in Rochester, closer to where I live, but we don’t have a facility like the Rogers Centre in Toronto.

So north of the border we go!

(But just for one game.) 🙂

One reply on “Thoughts From Week Seven: QBs, Willis, Toronto”

Just one clarification. The Packers played at County Satdium in Milawaukee, not in Madison. They still have GOLD package season tickets where the people who used to have tickets to the Milwaukee game now have tickets to Lambeau for 2 or 3 games a year (I forget how many as I really do not really like the Packers even though I live here).

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