Just.. wow. Tell me, Bills fans, that you expected that out of your team today.
Actually, don’t. I’d rather not hear it because I don’t want to call my readers liars.
I expected a win, I really did, but I definitely didn’t see something of that magnitude taking place. Anyways, that was a great game played in Kansas City today – and the Bills looked solid for the most part. The emergence of a tight end in the offensive game plan has been a long time coming and really seemed to open up the passing routes for Fitzpatrick as well as the running lanes for Jackson (20 carries, 112 yards) and, to a lesser extent, Spiller (who scored his first career rushing touchdown today). Jackson – by the way – was phenomenal on the majority of his touches, fighting ferociously for every yard and shaking off tacklers on seemingly every play. Tight end Scott Chandler’s stat line (5 catches, 63 yards, 2 scores) is the best that we’ve seen from a Bills tight end in years, but may not be all him. Chiefs safety Eric Berry was knocked out of the game early on with what sounds like a knee injury, which left the defense a bit vulnerable. Still, it’s great to see them rolling the way they were.
There were some complaints that I read here and there tonight about the misuse and ineffectiveness of Brad Smith, and you’ve really gotta put things into perspective with that. Smith is there to change things up when they aren’t working, to spark a big play when it’s needed, and to keep defenses guessing. Fitzpatrick was hot, and there was no reason to really bring Smith in to do anything major during the bulk of the game, so why risk it? His carries netted low yardage, sure, but outside of the first one they all went for first downs – and that’s what they were called for. The snafu with his intercepted pass late in the game is forgivable, as it needed to be established that when we run that formation there is both a possibility and ability to throw the ball. Keeps everyone honest.
That said, how great was it to see the backups come in without anyone being hurt? It’s been way too long since starters were pulled because we were on the right side of a rout, and it felt nice today. It’s a smart move, as you don’t want your impact players getting roughed up on silly mistakes in garbage time. There were two injuries today – McGee went down with an unidentified leg injury but should be okay, and Merriman left the game for a short while with a shoulder issue but came back after a few series and was fine.
Special teams were superb today, at least compared to last year’s horrendous unit. A lot of that has to do with Brian Moorman waking up and kicking like the Pro Bowler he used to be, but even the coverage teams were doing their thing out there today. Swarming the ball carrier and cutting off open lanes – just what you need to do to control field position and stay successful. Lindell was solid and dependable when called upon and even had a nice open field tackle later in the game. Everyone, outside of the first drive, was tackling well and practicing their basic fundamentals – even saw some great run support tackles from Byrd, which I love to see.
I do have one small complaint, amidst all of the positivity. Fitzpatrick did a whole lot of leaving his guys out to dry throughout the course of the game, hanging passes way above the heads of his targets, which would have been a major problem if his primary targets weren’t David Nelson and Scott Chandler (6’5″ and 6’7″, respectively) or guys with wonderful jumping ability like Steve Johnson. Throwing the ball like that is what almost cost him a job last summer while putting Easley and Huggins on the shelf during camp. Don’t get me wrong, he played great, but we’re going to really loathe this tendency when the offense loses a weapon or two due to jarring, defenseless hits that could easily be avoided.
Looking forward to next week at home, for sure. I have a good feeling about this game, and no matter what, the Ralph will be rockin’. Gonna change it up this year and give out game balls before I let you go on this one – hopefully I’ll be able to watch enough of the games to do this throughout, and some games may have more than others. Anyways – thanks for reading, and I’ll see you all next week. Go Bills.
GAME BALL #1 – QB RYAN FITZPATRICK
Fitzpatrick didn’t exactly kill it with the yardage but he did just what was needed of him, which was to come out and manage the game, eliminate turnovers, and produce points. He went 17/25 for 208 yards and 4 touchdowns without being picked once and seemed to do everything right on the field. He made the right reads and found the best, most open option for each of his completions, absolutely killing it on his first ever opening day start. Hats off to him as he goes forward this season, as this should help build some confidence and momentum heading into the schedule.
GAME BALL #2 – S BRYAN SCOTT
As a situational back-up safety, Scott was great today, racking up 8 tackles (three for a loss) along with a sack, quarterback hit, and a special teams tackle to boot. He played a lot on defense and special teams all afternoon, coming in as a fifth linebacker in some formations and helping out in run support a lot. Scott backs up both Byrd and Wilson in the secondary and his instincts and leadership are just what young defensive backs like Da’Norris Searcy and Justin Rogers need to see. He went out there and made the most of his time on the field today, having a serious impact on the game, and for that he deserves some applause.