Consider: last week against the Jets: the Bills were (-3) in the turnover department. Sunday against the Chiefs they were (+3). Last week the Bills gave up a punt return for a touchdown. Sunday they scored the same way. Last week they were unable to get to Mark Sanchez. Sunday they didn’t allow the Chiefs to get near Ryan Fitzpatrick. But that wasn’t new, really, for the Bills offensive line. So, let’s start there with the Hot Reads:
If there were an “Assistant Coach of the First Two Weeks Award” in the NFL, I’d nominate Bills offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris. What a terrific job that unit has done through the first two games. The two constants any team wants out of their O-Line are: 1. Be able to run the football; 2. Protect the passer. Through two weeks, the Bills are first in both categories in the entire NFL. 198 yards rushing/game and no sacks given up. D’Alessandris deserves a ton of credit.
Running free: Not much else can be said or written about CJ Spiller that hasn’t already. I used the word “special” to describe him on the Overtime postgame show Sunday night. He is showing he can be, and has a chance to be a really special player in this league. It wasn’t just the long, dynamic runs, or how quick he hit the holes, or how good in space he was Sunday that impressed me Sunday. It was also the passion he seemed to play with. Not that it wasn’t there at all before, but there just looked to be a bit of an edge to Spiller in this one. After several plays, CJ was pumping his fists, pumping up the crowd, shouting to his teammates on the field and even on the bench. He showed an enthusiasm that reflected the sellout crowd at Ralph Wilson Stadium. There was a lot of that from the Bills Sunday. Maybe a little more than usual because of whom their opponent was and the recent history they have with them.
Getting chippy: Three or four times in this one, after the play, Bills and Chiefs players got after each other after the whistle. There was a lot said after the game by Bills offensive linemen Eric Wood and Andy Levitre about Chiefs players and some things they didn’t appreciate on the field. Of course, there was a lot of talk about the Chiefs wanting revenge against Stevie Johnson for what many of them believed was a cheap shot against safety Eric Berry that ended last season for him. This was something the team was criticized for last week against the Jets. Not showing that same type of “ticked off” attitude and responding with more fight. Maybe it was knowing they were facing an opponent who was targeting them. Maybe they read the criticism of last week. Whatever it was, and no matter who was right or wrong in any of the situations, the Bills didn’t back down to KC. That’s the kind of attitude and togetherness this team needs to have every week. (Note: the Bills have now outscored the Chiefs 76-24 in two games over the last two seasons. Also, they aren’t scheduled to play in 2013. However, if they both finish in the same spot as each other in their divisions this season, they will face each other – in Buffalo).
Mario Watch: Once again, Mario Williams didn’t record a sack in this one. He was credited with two tackles and a pass deflection. Of course, everyone wants to see him put numbers up on the stat sheet, especially in the sacks category. And he’s expected to. It wasn’t a great game for him, but it also wasn’t the kind of game that warranted the same criticism as last week against the Jets. In fact, it was really Mario’s presence on the field that helped the defense a lot in this one. There were a few more double-teams than we saw him get last week, and the Chiefs obviously knew he was there. Sacks are often a product of an entire defensive team effort, unless one man completely dominates his man from the snap. The Bills had five sacks overall and none were really the result of that. They were the result of having players who commanded attention on the defensive line who opened up opportunities for other players coming off stunts or one-on-one battles. Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Alex Carrington, Mario Williams, Mark Anderson, and the anyone else who played in the front-four rotation who all benefited from each other in different ways in this game. Mario still needs to get on the stat sheet soon, but getting five sacks and four from defensive linemen is something Chan Gailey has to be pleased with.
Still a concern: The passing game is still not where the Bills want it to be or need it to be overall. Ryan Fitzpatrick had a nice game on the stat sheet. Only 10 of 19, but 178 yards, two touchdowns, and no turnovers (the biggest stat). He didn’t kill the team or put them in a hole like last week. But he certainly wasn’t the reason they won, either. He was more of a game-manager in this one. Many of those yards came after the catch. Fitz still deserves credit for that because he puts the ball in spots where his receivers are able to catch it in stride and run with it, but the same concern coming into the season is still there – the lack of a downfield presence and threat from the offense overall. TJ Graham was activated and played, but the Bills didn’t take any shots to him down the field. In fact, he was only targeted once and caught the ball for a seven yard gain. The hope here is, with the way CJ Spiller is running the football, teams are going to have to out an extra player near the box – to load up to stop him. And when that happens, Fitz has to be able to take advantage of only one deep safety, or one-on-one coverage down the seam with Graham or another one of his receivers. He could wind up being the biggest benefactor of CJ’s terrific start. There’s going to be a time a team will have a good game plan to stop Spiller and does a nice job on him for a while. When that happens, Ryan Fitzpatrick and the offense then has to show they have the ability beat teams over the top of the linebackers to make them pay. If they don’t, we’re going to see teams do exactly what they did the last nine games of last season and we’ll be having this same conversation – again - this season.
--Sal CapaccioFollow me on twitter: @SalSports