The excitement was tangible yesterday in Western New York for the Bills home opener, and for good reason; a primetime game against a hated rival starting a former Bills QB after a terrible week one showing with all the signs pointing to redemption.
That, combined with eternal optimism had people flocking to New Era Field to tailgate by noon, with what I can only imagine was a forest’s worth of tables to jump through. There was one such gentleman prominently featured on the midnight local news going tailbone first through a table after jumping off the roof of his vehicle. I hope, for his sake, he went to a hospital. Not because he couldn't get up, but because it would have saved him from seeing that trainwreck in person.
If there was one positive about the week one loss, it was the defense. Well, it’s week two now, and apparently three days’ rest was just enough for the secondary to completely forget the basic tenets of coverage. The first Jets offensive series was Exhibit A, as a bailout holding call and a terrible showing by Darby on Enunwa let the Jets get their first of four consecutive scoring drives out of the gates. Buffalo ran three plays in the entire first quarter.
Do you know what the worst part about those three plays was? It made Greg Roman look smart. Finally, someone yelled at him loud enough to set something off in his brain and remind him we have an actual Olympic-quality runner on the outside, who was matched up against a guy who got torched last week – maybe we should let him run! Who would have thought? This served to cover up that after last week's horrible showing, especially with the first two plays of losing yards. Why? Because they were the exact same type of behind the line of scrimmage misdirection that won't work against a disciplined defense, which the Jets have.
But; back to the Bills secondary. I know that fall weather has shown up in the 716 this week, but that doesn't mean it's Halloween yet. Stephon Gilmore’s ghost costume needs to go back in the closet, because he plays the part all too well. Rex’s defense depends on their top corners to be able to handle themselves one-on-one while he tries to think of progressively more and more confusing things to do with his front seven until the opposing QB curls up in a ball and waves his all-white color rush jersey in defeat. Last night…was the polar opposite of that. Decker, Marshall, and Enunwa got open with ease, and the defensive backs were barely getting their heads around or a hand up. The only time Gilmore made an impact was when he yanked Brandon Marshall down at a terrible angle that I still can't believe didn't cause a serious knee injury. Teddy Bridgewater’s other knee imploded just watching.
This inability to get off the field because we couldn't stop the passing attack let the Jets drop the hammer on the Bills front seven. Now I know running isn't their forte…But Matt Forte had his best game in a while, partially because he has a much better line than he had recently in Chicago, and partially because there was no one left who had the energy to get off of a block by the end. That last drive’s rushing touchdown was like watching CM Punk’s UFC debut. It was exactly what you expected, but it was still sad to see the fan favorite get beaten down to the ground like that.
The pass rush came out of the gates on fire. The Lorenzo Alexander strip sack (in which the Bills defied conventional physics by not recovering) and the early play of Jerry Hughes (who had a really nice sack called back on a hold) had me almost gave me a positive outlook for a moment. Eventually, those guys got tired from playing almost the whole first half, and after the second series, they couldn't get consistent pressure. This was compounded, of course, by a crippling lack of depth. Thanks for coming back, Brandon Spikes! Hope the press box wasn't too chilly.
This was again (oddly) compounded by Jerry Hughes, who bit his tongue so violently that he had to sit out while the camera showed him spitting blood into a cup for an uncomfortably long time. At least it wasn't noticeable on his jersey. He was much less effective after that. Who knew his tongue was like Samson’s hair?
Harvard graduate Ryan Fitzpatrick could have graduated from ITT Tech and still carved the defense up. It's easy when you have a scheme that utilizes your playmakers and spreads the ball out to all of them. Crazy concept, right?
What made matters worse worse was the fact that Fitzpatrick is…well…Fitzpatrick. Bills fans remember 2011, when he was the starter here and earned that big money contract, only to be run out of town shortly thereafter. Now it’s 2016, and with Tyrod’s contract, the situation feels a little too familiar. Meanwhile Fitzy is at the helm of a playoff caliber team, and it becomes harder and harder to feel right about letting him walk. Before last night, we had the fallback crutch of his failures against Rex, which just goes to show – you can fool him once, you can fool him twice, you can fool him a third time, and a fourth, and a fifth…but no one – and I mean no one! gets the best of Ryan Fitzpatrick six times in a row.
The offense doesn't look terrible on paper because of the two long touchdowns, but outside of those and one refreshingly inspired Mike Gilleslee catch and run at the end, it wasn't a whole lot better than week one. We're still trying to power run with a back who bounces everything outside, where he is promptly dropped for a loss or short gain time after time. He carries to the outside so often that on one run, he spun to the inside and the defender fell over. That was his longest carry of the game.
The Dolphins have to be laughing at us and sending thank you gifts to Whaley for overpaying for Charles Clay. $12 million? While utilizing him on a bunch of poorly blocked screens doesn't help, he just doesn't seem like he cares. There was a route in the fourth – an out he ran to the sideline that he just stopped running. Tyrod hit him in the side. Clay did not make a play for it. Your 2016 Bills, everyone.
Robert Woods, who is the heir apparent to the number one reciever role when Sammy can't go, had one catch yesterday. I don't remember seeing him at all outside of it, either. That catch was on the final play. Skrine was off him by twenty yards, and he lateraled it to Goodwin. Goodwin, outside of the touchdown, had one catch, and fell down cutting a dozen times, and limped off on the last play. Save us Greg Salas.
It's hard to hate on Sammy Watkins going out there and playing a whole game with that injury…wait, really? Oh that's right; I didn't even notice he missed the last two series until well after the fact because he wasn't being looked at while he was out there anyways.
It is a small miracle he is burning all these corners while grimacing and limping the whole way. All of that so that we can check it down to Clay for two yards. You don't give up two first rounders for a receiver. Ever. If you decide to throw caution to the wind and do it anyway, you damn sure better target him more than five times. He was left holding his head in disgust after Tyrod underthrew him on the pick. One has to wonder if he suffers through for one more drive if he has reason to believe he gets a chance to make a play.
All of this was made even worse by the fact it was in primetime. Nothing makes a game more satisfying than seeing all the national reporters who only check in on Buffalo when we powerbomb each other into fire realizing that the team itself is also a fire, of the dumpster variety.
Primetime also meant the league tapped Ed Hochuli to ref the game, since they have to pretend to care about the calls on the nationally televised games. Hochuli is essentially a pro wrestler who got lost on the way to a show and ended up at a stadium by mistake. The intern in charge of the ref uniforms was too intimidated to tell him he couldn't try it out, and the rest is history. He's here to chew bubblegum and overexplain every call, and given his anatomy lesson, I think he's out of the former
For those of you who want a stadium in downtown Buffalo, you were either not stuck in traffic trying to go somewhere yesterday. Or you're a masochist. Or both…I don't judge. If Buffalo were to put a stadium downtown, I'm fairly confident you'd have to leave Saturday to get there on time. My commute home was about five times longer than usual because every available thoroughfare had bumper-to-bumper traffic – and I left early. I don't even live in Orchard Park. A downtown stadium would close down the city for the whole day.
Phil Simms is far worse than anything else to ever happen in a commentary booth. I'm convinced at this point that Simms is a robot being fed a script by a group of monkeys with a typewriter after they finished producing All’s Well That Ends Well. His sentences start and end with no clear direction. I am dumber for listening to him.
Ten days rest is great because that's a nice break from this team. It probably won't help them beat Arizona, but it will help us all.