Going into Sunday’s opener between the Bills and the Chiefs, I don’t think there were many out there throwing out adjectives such as “prolific” or “juggernaut” when describing the Bills’ offense. But after Buffalo trounced Kansas City 41-7 you can’t help but be impressed with not just the offensive outburst, but the entire team effort it took to get the win. As for the Chiefs? Well, that’s another story.
So despite the excitement the Bills have generate, let’s wrap this puppy up and put her to bed with my take on the win, the good, the not so good (if there was any), and let’s hand out some game balls.
* Keeping everything in perspective, one game does not make or break a season. The gridiron is littered with teams who were kings for a week only to play the role of peasant the next. Are the Bills better than I thought or any of you thought, or did the Chiefs just flat out stink and display a punchless effort? Maybe it’s a little of both. But the Bills looked the part. They did their homework and it looked like the Chiefs forgot to buy their textbooks and three-ring binders.
* This was Buffalo’s first opening game win on the road in 15 years, or roughly the last time Bill Clinton was president.
* Leading up to this game, I called Arrowhead Stadium Buffalo’s home away from home and despite it being one of the toughest venues for visiting teams in the NFL, the Bills are now 3-1 in their past four trips to Arrowhead hanging a few crooked numbers in the process. Yesterday, the Bills hung 41 on the Chiefs and back in 2008 they dropped a little more than half a hundred (54).
* Was that Antonio Gates secretly wearing Scott Chandler’s jersey? Chandler was targeted five times and caught all five balls Ryan Fitzpatrick threw his way. He had two touchdowns and 63 receiving yards. Buffalo had TWO combined touchdowns from 2009 to 2010 from the tight end position. If this game wasn’t a fluke and Chandler can become a factor in the offense, he makes for another good target for Fitzpatrick especially in the red zone.
* My guess is if you were to have to decide between which running back, Fred Jackson or Jamaal Chares, would rush for over 100 yards the unanimous choice would’ve been Charles. I would’ve picked Charles. He’s been a Buffalo killer going for 143 and 177 yards on the ground in the past two meetings. But this day belonged to Jackson. He overshadowed Charles with 112 rushing yards on 20 carries. Jackson ran with determination as though he were mad at the grass. That’s what you need from your starting running back and that’s a title Jackson isn’t likely to lose or relinquish. He’s the best back the Bills have.
* The unsung group of the day: the offensive line. Credit needs to be given where credit is due. I’ll be the first to put foot to rear when they do bad so I’ve got to be fair and be the first one leading the charge with praise. The Bills had some monkey business going on with the line during camp and preseason, and it seemed as though the offensive line would be in trouble facing the Chiefs on opening day, particularly solving Tamba Hali. But aside from Erik Pears giving up a sack to Hali, the line played surprisingly well all game. They allowed Fitzpatrick ample time to make and complete passes while opening up sufficient room in the running game. Great job by the offensive line!
* Didn’t this game have that feeling that what was happening to the Chiefs usually happens to the Bills? It was a welcomed sight to see the misfortunes of another team with the Chiefs committing three turnovers (including on the opening kick off to start the game), converting just three third downs and lacking any momentum or big sparks all afternoon while allowing the Bills to do pretty much anything they wanted to on offense. It was very refreshing to see bounces go Buffalo’s way for a change.
* Welcome to the NFL Chris White and Kelvin Sheppard. The pair of rookie linebackers were the fire starters. White forced the opening kick off fumble by Dexter McCluster and Sheppard recovered the loose football setting the tone. Five plays later, the Bills went up 7-0 and never looked back.
* The defense was solid. Bryan Scott led the way with eight tackles but I though Jairus Byrd was a tone setter. He was engaged right out of the box to start the game and tied for second on the team in tackles. He was a valueable element in helping to shut down the Chiefs’ running game. With the Bills losing Terrence McGee to a hamstring injury on the first defensive series of the game and rookie Justin Rogers inactive, the Bills played the rest of the game with just three corners. No Kansas City receiver had more than 26 yards receiving. McCluster and Charles combined for 10 catches for only 34 yards. Chiefs top wide out Dwayne Bowe was held to just two catches for 17 yards. Kansas City didn’t have a pass play go for more than 20 yards.
* McGee suffered a hamstring injury and did not return to the game and Shawne Merriman suffered an apparent arm injury early on as well. Merriman left the field and went to the locker room but returned to the sidelines and later on the linebacker got back on the field but he was pretty much a nonfactor. Fortunately the Bills didn’t need either play to win the game, but don’t count on that trend to continue.
* Disappointed C.J. Spiller only had 5 carries for 16 yards, but he did get his first rushing touchdown. It’s hard to justify giving Spiller his share of touches that will cut into Jackson’s touches. Aside from his 9-yard touchdown run after the game was long over, the Chiefs bottled him up with four carries for seven yards before his TD score. He simply just doesn’t do enough to warrant more touches despite the Bills’ desire to get him involved, and he doesn’t run for the short, tough yards or run hard between the tackle like Jackson.
* Surprised: Roscoe Parrish. He had just two targets and didn’t register a catch in the game. I thought he’d be in line for a much bigger game than that.
* The offense: 37 minutes of time possession. 364 total yards. 163 total rushing yards. 41 points. Converted 7 third down attempts and had 10 more first downs.
* Buffalo still lacks a significant pass rush, something that was evident once Merriman left the game with an arm injury, later returned but was a non factor the rest of the day. The Bills got good push up front by Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams which led to Spencer Johnson’s sack. This happened with Merriman on the field. Once he left, the Bills never really were able to generate a lot of pressure.
* What a start to the season for Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing for 208 yards and four TDs to Chandler, Steve Johnson and Donald Jones. Over the Bills’ final five games in 2010, Fitzpatrick threw a total of five touchdowns. Right now he’s on pace for 3,328 passing yards, 64 TDs and zero interceptions. Those wouldn’t be bad numbers to take to the table to talk potential new contract after the season, ehh?
Turning Point….It’s hard to say that one play can make or break any game, but the first play of the game was a huge momentum swing. The Chiefs get the ball first. The crowd is going bonkers anticipating the start of the season and emotions are bubbling over with the 10th year anniversary of the Sept. 11th attacks. And then the Chiefs fumble away the opening kick off. The Bills recover and five plays later they’re up 7-0, they’ve swung the momentum meter in their favor and began to put the Chiefs in chase mode just 10 seconds into the game.
It was over when….With 4:19 left in the third quarter, the Bills capped off an 8-play, 59-yard drive when Fitzpatrick found Chandler all by his lonesome in the end zone for an 11-yard TD pass, Chandler’s second TD of the game. The Bills went up 27-7, forced a Chiefs’ three-and-out, got the ball back and six plays later Fitzpatrick hit Donald Jones for a 4 yard touchdown. The Bills led 34-7 with 14 seconds left in the third quarter and the Kansas City faithful fled for the exits.
- TE Scott Chandler: 5 receptions, 63 yards, 2 TD. Where have the Bills been stashing him away? He looked mightly comfortable in the red zone and could become a favorite target of Fitz.
- RB Fred Jackson: 20 carries, 112 yards; 1 rec, 5 yards. Delivered the type of performance you’d expect from your starting running back; he with force, gained tough yards and brought balance to the offense.
- QB Ryan Fitzpatrick: 208 passing yards, 4 TDs. Fitzpatrick made a grand statement on Sunday; dissected Chiefs’ strong secondary and delivered career high performance.
- Offensive Line. Tamba Hali beating Erik Pears for a sack was the only blemish of the day. Gave Fitzpatrick plenty to time in the pocket to make throws and find his receivers. Got great push won battle against Chiefs’ defensive line which opened up sufficient lanes in the run game.
What lies ahead: Buffalo returns home to Ralph Wilson Stadium next Sunday, Sept. 18 to host the Oakland Raiders in their home opener. Kick off starts at 1 p.m.