Another shootout. Another thriller. Another one that came down to the last few plays. And it was another Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium that the Buffalo Bills protect their house and come up with big plays to stave off a late Eagles rally and improve to 4-1 after defeating Philadelphia 31-24.
So let me get right into this and discuss the ins and outs, ups and downs in a game that both the Bills and Eagles needed to have.
– Whew. That’s the first thing. That was one intense final nine minutes in the fourth quarter after the Eagles pulled to within seven points. Not because I didn’t believe the Bills could beat the Eagles or anything like that. But because despite being up 28-7 and 31-14, in the fourth quarter as the Eagles attempted to circle their own wagons I could feel this one starting to slip away. After playing so hard and executing so well, had the Bills buckled and either allowed the Eagles to come all the way back to tie or go ahead would have been crippling.
– Could you have asked for two better defensive performances this season than against the best quarterback in the NFL and the most dynamic and explosive quarterback in the NFL? In two games, the Bills have intercepted Tom Brady and Michael Vick eight times (picking off each QB four times) while returning an INT for a touchdown against each quarterback.
– After stumbling last week in Cincinnati, the Bills returned to Ralph Wilson Stadium and took care of business to improve to 4-1 for the first time since 2008. That was also the same year in which the Bills scored at least 30 points in four of their first five games.
– Once again the story of the Bills’ offense was Fred Jackson. He finished with 196 total yards while the rest of Buffalo’s offense had 135. This is the work of, well, a workhorse. Jackson led the Bills in both rushing (111 yards) and receiving (85 yards). He deserves some early season MVP votes.
-Have yourself an afternoon, Nick Barnett. Barnett came up with two of the four Bills interceptions running one back to the house for a 31-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Hats off to GM Buddy Nix for landing this guy in the offseason.
-Welcome to Buffalo, Brad Smith! Another acquisition by Nix paid dividends today. Operating out of the wildcat, Smith found the end zone for his first score as a Bill in the second quarter that gave Buffalo a commanding lead at the time, 28-7.
– Let’s give credit to Bills head coach Chan Gailey. I wasn’t sure how they would attack the Eagles and I was a little concerned they might try to match Philly score for score and big play for big play. But instead the Bills identified one of the Eagles’ biggest areas of weakness and attacked it. On Buffalo’s first series they ran seven plays. Six of them were runs by Fred Jackson, who capped off the drive with a five-yard touchdown. Buffalo also utilized screens, dump off and a multitude of short passes. Jackson also had receptions of 3, 7, 9, 20 and 49 yards in the game. Buffalo stuck with power football and got the ball as much as they could into Jackson’s hands. In the end, they won out over Philly’s speed and finess.
– Any winning team needs a little luck along the way and the Bills got some gifts from the Eagles. At the end of the first half, the Eagles were well within field goal range with eight seconds left. Philly wanted to take one last crack at the end zone. Right idea, horrible execution. Instead of going for something quick to the sidelines or quickly throwing the ball away if nothing was there, Vick held onto the ball too long and threw one out of the back of the end zone. That ended the first half and the Eagles came away with nothing, not even a field goal attempt. A key strip by Drayton Florence on Jason Avant led to a very fortunate bounce in Nick Barnett’s arms. And then the biggie. Ryan Fitzpatrick inducing Juqua Parker to jump offisdes on a fourth-and-inches to give the Bills a fresh set of downs and allow Buffalo to run off the rest of the clock. You can’t take anything away from how Buffalo played and deserved to win, but the Philadelphia definitely lended a helping hand.
– Despite all of the big plays and turnovers made by the Bills’ defense, the unit still gave up 489 yards to the Eagles. As long as the Bills are making plays, like forcing five turnovers, and coming in up big spots and making their opponents pay for those mistakes, the guady yardage won’t be a huge focal point. Yes they’ve given up 450+ yards the last four weeks and yet, the Bills have won three of those games. The concern about being gashed is there. I’m sure the Bills cannot come away from this game and be overly thrilled the Eagles nearly rolled up 500 yards of offense just like New England a few weeks ago. But the defense got the critical stop and made the game changing play they needed to, something they didn’t do last week against Cincinnati.
– Three players who stood out to me: Marcell Dareus, Kelvin Sheppard and Naaman Roosevelt. Dareus was a disruptive force all afternoon against Philly’s struggling offensive line. Sheppard was directly responsible for Barnett’s INT that went back for a touchdown. He burst into the backfield hard, fast and untouched, and he put a nice lick on Vick. Roosevelt stepped up in a big way after Donald Jones went out with an ankle injury. Roosevelt caught five passes for 41 yards after having just one catch this season.
– Danny Batten, you’ll be hearing from Roger Goodell’s office this week.
– It was a very successful debut for rookie left tackle Chris Hairston. Filling in for the injured Demetrius Bell, Hairston neutralized Darryl Tapp and did a very good job protecting Fitzpatrick’s blindside.
– Loved the play from the safeties. Jairus Byrd is becoming a do-it-all safety. He’s been very good in coverage, a big plus in helping to stop the run. It’s only a matter of time all his hard work and dedication pays off and the interceptions start coming his way. George Wilson had a terrific game with 11 tackles, three passes defended and an interception. He was like a man possessed from the moment he stepped out of bed on Sunday morning. That’s the kind of leadership by example you love to see. It also validates Buffalo’s decision to waive goodbye to Donte Whitner.
- Fred Jackson – Bills fed him the rock and he delivered with 196 total yards on 31 touches. Led team in both rushing and receiving; got his fifth rushing touchdown of the season.
- George Wilson – was all over the field, roaming from sideline to sidelines. Led Bills with 11 tackles, three passes defended, an INT and a tackle for loss.
- Jairus Byrd – had eight tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery
- Nick Barnett – two interceptions, one returned for a 31-yard TD
- Coaching staff – committed to the power running game, put the ball in Fred Jackson’s hands as much as possible to. Set the tone early in the ballgame and neutralized Philly’s offensive attack.
What’s Next? Buffalo remains in-state, but travels to MetLife Stadium to face the New York Giants.