The Rockpile Review – by Shaw66
Off and Running
Pro football coaches aren’t stupid. For all his faults, Rex Ryan wasn’t stupid, and Sean McDermott isn’t stupid, either. When you have LeSean McCoy, you run the football. When you need insurance, you call Geico.
The Bills came out of the 2017 starting gate doing what they’ve done best since 2015 – give the ball to Shady. Run it left, run it right, run it up the middle. And when you need to pass, fake the run, look downfield, then throw it to the running back. And why not? Until the opponent stops it, it’s a good way to win some football games. Not enough to win a lot, but it’s a start.
The Bills handled the Jets easily at New Era Field Sunday to record their first win of the season. A couple of first-half mistakes kept the game closer than it should have been, but there was little doubt that the Bills were in control of the game from the start. The only question was whether the Bills would make enough mistakes to let the win slip away. This is a new season and a new era, and answer, at least on Sunday, was “we don’t make mistakes.”
So what’s new with the new-era Bills? Not the fundamental offensive approach, that’s for sure. The Bills are going to run until they can’t.
Beyond that, a lot was new. For instance:
· Offensive crispness. The Bills get into and out of the huddle, get to the line, get set and go. No confusion about where to line up, no wasted timeouts. Just call the play, run the play, move the chains. It’s football without the screw-ups.
· Short-passing game. Finally, a passing attack that works, that forces the defense to make choices and allows the quarterback to take advantage of the choices the defense makes. All day long, Tyrod Taylor could find open receivers and make throws.
· Penalties. What happened to all the penalties? These new-era Bills seem to have decided they want to lead the league in something other than going backward.
· Defensive crispness. No more defenders confused about who’s on the field and who’s off (except Shaq once), no more defenders scrambling to get into position before the snap, no more defenders looking at each other and saying “I thought you had him.” These guys know what the defense is and where to go.
· Defensive execution. Missed assignments? Very few. Missed tackles? Very few. Gang-tackling? A lot of it. In the NFL, offenses are too complicated and the players are too good for the defense to stop the offense all the time, but this was a defense that played under control, didn’t give up the big play and forced the offense to work for everything it got.
Of course, there’s no reason to get carried away, because this was the New York Jets, and only time will tell if the Jets actually are an NFL football. The Jets did have a pretty effective defense last season, and the Bills moved the ball consistently against the Jets all day. So that’s a good sign. Still, it was the Jets, with a McCown at quarterback (you think offensive coordinator John Morton saw Taylor making plays and didn’t wish he had Geno Smith?).
Some observations from New Era Field:
1. The Bills are all about One Buffalo. The message was clear from the player introductions, which didn’t happen. When it was time to take the field, the entire team came through the tunnel, whooping it up together. One team, One Buffalo.
2. Jordan Matthews is BIG. Looks almost like a tight end. If you want a sign that the Bills are committed to the short passing game, one look at him will do it. The Bills will go deep, not with deep speed but by forcing the defense to play so close to the line of scrimmage that I could get deep.
3. Kind of ironic that each of Ronald Darby and the guy the Bills got to replace him, EJ Gaines, were injured week one. I hope both get back soon.
4. As predicted, we didn’t see a lot of blitzing. Four guys trying to get to the QB. They got only occasional pressure, the best forcing the game-ending interception. Bills could use some improvement there, but it’s a tough job.
4a. How about Kyle Williams on the stunt around the left defensive end, looping around to pressure the QB then continuing upfield to tackle the receiver for a short gain? That man has been one special football player for a long time.
5. The run defense was excellent. The Jets gave up trying to run the ball. It’s a passing league for a reason, and almost any team can have some success throwing it. The Jets had some success, but having forced the Jets into a one-dimensional game, the Bills made more than enough plays in the passing game to keep the Jets under control.
6. Nice half-time show honoring the players from the comeback game. Lots of video highlights (and not just at half-time), a taped presentation from Frank Reich. The Bills singled out Kenneth Davis and Don Beebe for getting the TDs that got things going. Then Andre Reed, who gave a nice little talk about how it was One Buffalo then and One Buffalo now. They closed with Steve Christie saying all the players love Buffalo and thanking Buffalo for loving them. It was well done, and a far cry from the darkest days, when the Bills canceled a half-time Hall-of-Fame ring presentation for Ralph Wilson for fear that he’d be booed off the field.
7. Tyrod Taylor. Let the debate begin. What happened to the guy who can’t or won’t throw over the middle? What happened to the guy who can’t or won’t throw to tight end? What happened to the guy who is indecisive and won’t get the ball out quickly? What happened to the guy who isn’t accurate on short passes? What happened to the guy who can’t play from the pocket? Coaching and effective offensive game planning, that’s what. Taylor did it all Sunday. He’s an excellent athlete, he can make all the throws, and his running ability made him particularly effective. He didn’t leave the pocket early, but when it was time to go, his athletic ability got him out of the pocket, usually to buy time for a throw downfield, sometimes for a nice gain running it himself. There was a lot of good decision-making on display (except trying to force the ball into Clay when he was double covered). Some will say he’s no more than a game manager, but when he plays like he did on Sunday and the Bills win, it’s hard to complain too much.
8. I guess plenty of fans came into the game misunderstanding who Mike Tolbert is. They looked at his size and concluded he’s a short-yardage back. Well, yesterday they were introduced to Mike Tolbert, running back. The guy is a player, not necessarily every down, but he can move and he can make cuts. He’s a nice change of pace to Shady.
9. Did I mention Shady? Bills fans have had plenty of disappointment over a half century, but they haven’t been disappointed at running back. What franchise has put on the field the likes of Cookie Gilchrist, OJ Simpson, Joe Cribbs, Thurman Thomas and now LeSean McCoy. He got stuffed a lot of times on Sunday, but he was already to take another shot. As usual, he and we were rewarded. I think he missed a few opportunities to cut back behind the wide zone blocking, but he won’t miss them for long. Love it.
10. Not to close on a downer, but the Bills haven’t won the fans back, not yet. The stadium was loud occasionally but not consistently. There wasn’t a lot of vocal support for the defense, not the every-play kind of support we used to hear. Once in a while in big situations, but none of the persistent noise that really upsets opposing offenses. Post-game, it seemed like the Bills had lost. Very little celebrating, cheering or chanting as the fans left the stadium. Walking through the parking lots, I had to wonder whether these were Bills fans after a win or a bunch of folks heading home from Topps with the groceries. (In some ways it’s a shame the NFL and the Bills cracked down on raucous tailgating in the Bills’ lots.) If the Bills win in Carolina next week, there should be some old-school fandemonium at New Era when the Broncos come to town. We need it and this team deserves it.
Yes, it was the Jets, but you play the schedule you were given. The Bills did a lot right, and showed they have a lot to work on. It was a good start to a new era.
The Rockpile Review is written to share the passion we have for the Buffalo Bills. That passion was born in the Rockpile; its parents were everyday people of western New York who translated their dedication to a full day’s hard work and simple pleasures into love for a pro football team.
Edited by Shaw66, 11 September 2017 - 05:01 PM.