Boy, do I have a bone to pick with the football gods. The Bills explode out to a 14-0 first quarter lead in Cleveland and it looks like a second straight “put your feet up, relax and enjoy the blowout victory” day is on the way.
Then the collective air is taken out of Western New York as C.J. Spiller goes down with an injury. I personally went into a funk that lasted until the fourth quarter when a Bills touchdown allowed me to exhale and start breathing normally again.
The Bills offense was thrown for a loop too and it took a while for them to recover. But give the Bills credit as the team overcame that adversity and hung on for their first road win since week one of the 2011 season.
The victory also meant the Bills did exactly what they HAD to do after the week one dismantling by the Jets. Buffalo faced two very winnable games on the schedule and they took care of business. 2-1 is a whole lot better than 1-2 going into the next three games with New England, San Francisco and a surprising 3-0 Arizona Cardinals team.
The offense persevered when challenged by the loss of Spiller. It meant the Bills had to make due without their top two running backs(both of whom play key roles in the passing game) and their second best wide receiver(David Nelson).
Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn’t perfect but he was good, throwing for 208 yards and 3 touchdowns(he now has 8 on the season). More importantly, Fitzpatrick was interception-free for the second week in a row. As he said in the post game interviews, all he had to do was hit the layups but he still finished off TD drives by getting the ball to open receivers, Stevie Johnson and T.J. Graham.
I think we should be talking about the Bills offensive line as one of the best in the game. Fitzpatrick had a clean pocket and time to throw most of the game.
As far as the run game goes, even with third stringer Tashard Choice in there, the Bills ground game was still effective. Choice totaled 91 yards on 20 carries and his 22 yard burst was a tone setter on the TD drive that gave the Bills a 24-14 fourth quarter lead.
The defense did their part as well. While the offense was trying to get back off the canvas after the knock down that was the Spiller injury, the defense helped Buffalo maintain the lead.
They stuffed rookie running back Trent Richardson most of the day. He finished with just 27 yards on 12 carries. They also got pressure on rookie QB Brandon Weedon and ended up with four sacks and two interceptions.
After giving up an 80 yard touchdown drive that pulled Cleveland within three points, Dave Wannstedt’s group came up with stops on the next four possessions and took the ball away twice.
Some young players came up big. In addition to his TD catch, Graham had a huge third down conversion on the drive that put the Bills up 24-14. He took a short pass from Fitzpatrick, then used a dipsy doodle move and some get in the way blocking from Scott Chandler for the all important yards after catch.
I thought linebacker Arthur Moats had one of his best games as a Bill, making a handful of stops on Richardson.
Aaron Williams was beaten on a couple of pass plays but showed the ability to close while the ball was coming down and he ended up breaking up both of the passes. One break up came on the next play after a questionable illegal contact penalty on him. He showed good focus by shaking it off and bouncing back.
Kickoff specialist John Potter had a good day too. He helped keep Browns big play return man Joshua Cribbs in check. Two of his kickoffs were touchbacks and the others were in the back of the end zone giving the kick team time to get down and keep Cribbs from breaking off a long return.
It might not have been an electrifying triumph but as my WGR colleague Bulldog stated, the Bills have held serve the last two weeks. If you want to win a tennis match, you need to hold serve. If you want to make the playoffs or at least be in the race, you need to beat the “easy” opponents on your schedule and the Bills did just that.
Now its New England week and I wish it was game day already. Three games in and its still hard to figure out who the Bills are and whether they are good enough to compete with the big boys. I can’t wait for Sunday, to see how the Bills handle the big test.
Hey football gods…I hope you didn’t mind that “bone to pick with you” comment. If it isn’t too much trouble, can you make sure Fred Jackson is 100% by Sunday? Please heal up Spiller as soon as possible too. Hey, you owe us!