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Howard Simon's Blog

Bills Go Ground and Pound?

Don't read too much into the Buffalo Bills 34-18 triumph over the Jacksonville Jaguars before 53,971 rain soaked fans at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday. The  Bills did exactly what they should have done.  They beat a really bad football team.  They utilized their biggest edge in the matchup, the run game, and leaned on it heavily while upping their record to 5-7.  I don't think this signals any philosophical shift in Chan Gailey's play calling and this victory won't  get me to check out remaining schedules of teams in the chase for wildcard playoff spots.

If anything, this win made me hate that loss to Tennessee even more.  As far as the season high 46 rushes for the Bills(previous high was 36 against Kansas City), I think that was a product of the weather and not some awakening by Gailey.  The weather was not conducive to passing the football and Gailey had the NFL's 7th best rushing attack in his arsenal going up against a defense ranked 29th against the run.

Fred Jackson, who this past week sounded resigned to his fate as a number two back behind CJ Spiller, had his best day of the season, topping 100 yards for the first time.  Jackson ended up with 109 yards on 25 carries while Spiller had a fairly quiet day until an explosive 44 yard touchdown dash in the 4th quarter.  Spiller finished with 77 yards on 14 carries.

While the Bills ran the ball 46 times, Ryan Fitzpatrick attempted just 17 passes in the miserable weather.  Coming out of the halftime break with a  17-10 lead, the Bills  opened the game up in the second half and would have made Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan proud by going "ground and pound."  Jackson and Spiller combined for 23 runs in the second half and Fitzpatrick had just 5 passes.

But the Bills decision to leave Spiller out of red zone packages remains puzzling.  As Buffalo's first drive of the third quarter moved into the red zone, Spiller, knowing he wouldn't be needed, walked all the way back to the Bills 47 yard line and showed his frustration as he watched with his hands on his hips.

Its too bad the game was blacked out because Bills fans missed the rare deep pass by Fitzpatrick.  He aired it out on their first drive of the game and connected with rookie T.J. Graham on a 51 yard pass that set the Bills up at the Jags one yard line, giving life to the water logged crowd.. It was Graham's longest play of the season topping a 24 yard play at Indianapolis last week.

This was the most complete performance by the Bills(offense,defense, special teams) since the week two victory over Kansas City.  The defense held the Jaguars running game to 50 yards on 18 carries.  Before you get too excited, the Jags were down to their third string running back in Rashad Jennings and lost him in the first half, leading to someone named Montell Owens getting the carries.

Chad Henne completed just 18 of 41 passes, was sacked 4 times and picked off by Jairus Byrd late in the 4th quarter.  First round draft pick Justin Blackmon was targeted 6 times but held to 1 catch as Stephon Gilmore continues to impress with his coverage and ability to break up passes.  Jacksonville converted just 1 of 10 on third down and they went 0-3 on fourth down.

Mario Williams came up with one of the nicer plays in a game that lacked pizazz.  Just after the Bills took a 14-10 lead late in the second quarter, Williams cleanly beat the Jaguars right tackle, knocked the ball out of Henne's hands and fell on it to give the Bills a drive start at Jacksonville's 14 yard line.  The Bills were held to a field goal but it was part of a serious momentum swing.  Jacksonville took a 10-7 lead on a Henne 1 yard run with 3:47 to go in the first half.  Buffalo would score the next 27 points in the game going TD/FG/TD/FG/TD on their next 5 possessions.

Rookie cornerback Ron Brooks got the start and produced mixed results.  On the Jags initial drive, he did a nice job in coverage and broke up a pass but in the second quarter, he was called for pass interference and gave up a 24 yard pass to Cecil Shorts on the very next play.  Brooks was beaten by Shorts in the third quarter but Henne's pass was off target.  Brooks did record a pass breakup in the fourth quarter.

There was a Marcus Easley sighting in the game too.  In his first ever touch during a regular season game, Easley ripped off a 55 yard kick return to set up a drive that produced a touchdown.  He also contributed a nice tackle in kick coverage.

Elsewhere from the department of "you're kidding me!", the Bills ran two wildcat plays that succeeded.  Brad Smith recorded runs of 11 and 17 yards.

And how about Chan Gailey, "The Riverboat Gambler"?  He decided to go for it on fourth and five at the Jaguars 37 yard line in the second quarter with the Bills up 7-3.  They didn't convert but at least he didn't call for a punt.  Gailey also let Rian Lindell attempt a 50 yard field goal, which Lindell hit.

The Bills won the game but the most impressive part of the day was the fans who sat through steady rain which at times increased to pouring and late in the game went to "coming down in sheets".  Now that is dedication to your team.

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Locations : BuffaloIndianapolisJacksonvilleKansas CityTennessee
People : Brad SmithCecil ShortsChad HenneChan GaileyFred JacksonJustin BlackmonMario WilliamsMontell OwensRex RyanRian LindellRon BrooksRyan FitzpatrickStephon Gilmore

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