Bills top wide out Stevie Johnson had a performance to forget on...
The Monday Rodeo (9/12)
The Monday Rodeo is BroJ’s weekly round-up of the Bills previous game and state of the team as a whole.
Wow. Just wow. That can be the only true emotional reaction you can have as a Bills fan following their 41-7 win against the Chiefs at Arrowhead. It was a fun and exciting way to begin the season, especially considering what this team’s fans have endured consistently throughout the past decade, plus some. The Bills went on the road to one of toughest opposing stadiums in the league and imposed their will upon a home team that won their division last season.
Obviously, Bills fans have had reasons to feel early season optimism in previous seasons. The 2008 season was the most recent example, when the Bills started 4-0, and then went to 5-1 after beating a playoff Chargers team in front of a raucous home crowd. That season obviously went downhill quickly, where the Bills lost seven out of their next eight games and didn’t even really sniff the playoff discussion.
But I’m not here to talk past failures, because really, this weekend was tremendous. Let’s just enjoy this one week at a time, because us Bills have had very few moments to savor over the past ten years.
Now that I’ve gotten through the intro, let’s get to verse one…
My prayers weren’t answered but… earlier in the week when I saw that Tyler Palko could potentially start this game, I prayed to my God, your God, and to whatever despair-filled pit of eternal darkness that Atheists believe in that Matt Cassel would not be ready to go for this game. It’s not that I believe that Cassel is a world-beater or even a top-half-of-the-league quarterback talent, but I felt that there was no chance that the Chiefs had a chance to win the game with Palko starting. Palko has bounced around NFL practice squads, the CFL, the UFL, and really has no business being an NFL backup quarterback. Plus I hate lefties. He’s really one of the only backups in the league right now that makes me feel good about a potential Tyler Thigpen relief appearance.
And my prayers weren’t answered (it’s possible I was being future-punished for writing that snark-infested previous paragraph) but it didn’t seem to matter. Matt Cassel played somewhere between pedestrian and terrible, managing to throw for only 119 yards against a secondary that lost Terrence McGee in the first quarter. It may not have even mattered if he had played well either. Three turnovers (including a fumble on the opening kick return) put the Chiefs behind the eight ball early and often.
And on that note, please Bills fans, I don’t care if the Raiders start the game off 21-0 next Sunday, DO NOT BOO YOUR HOME TEAM IN THE HOME OPENER IN THE FIRST QUARTER. THIS DOES NOT HELP YOUR TEAM’S CONFIDENCE, ABILITY TO TURN THE GAME AROUND, OR HAVE ANY DESIRE TO PLAY IN FRONT OF THE FANS. I trust that Bills fans are smart enough to know this (as we have the best fans in the world), but we have had some trying times in the last few years. And I do appreciate a solid smattering of boos when the time is appropriate. But doing it so early in the season can have a negative effect on your team’s psyche (it happened in Denver’s Monday night game, also… although that game was a sandwich of excrement that both the winning and losing teams should be ashamed to be a part of. I’m glad the Bills play both of them this season.)
That said, how much would it suck to lose to a 4-12 team (last season) at home by 34 points when you won a fairly competitive division last year? Most teams expect to improve on last season’s results, and the fans generally carry even further bloated expectations. If you had completely switched results between these two teams in this game, I have to imagine the Buffalo Bills fans across the country would be filling message boards with threads like “Fire Chan”, “How long til we get Andrew Luck?”, and “Here’s a sick 10th grade quarterback that we can draft after we draft Andrew Luck and he blows out his knee”.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot that the Bills won an opening game on the road 41-to-freaking-7! Anyways…
Because I couldn’t think of a better system to use than the NHL’s, here’s my 3 Stars for the game:
1st Star: Ryan Fitzpatrick – The yardage total wasn’t eye-popping, but that has a lot to do with the fact that the Bills started their drives at midfield or better for a significant amount of the game. He threw four touchdowns and spread the ball very effectively. He seems to have found some comfort in Scott Chandler, especially in the red zone. He also showed a great amount of trust in Stevie Johnson, literally throwing the ball up to him in a tough situation and expecting him to catch it. He made good use of David Nelson in the slot, who used his oft-mentioned frame to stay ahead of lesser cornerbacks. Fitzpatrick even led the league in ESPN’s new Total Quarterback Rating this week, which I have no clue how they calculate it whatsoever. However, it put him ahead of Tom Brady’s 984-yard performance on Monday night; this will be the official system I use from now on. But most of all, Fitzy looked completely in control of the offense at all times during the game. It was nice to see him comfortable with Gailey’s system; no jitters, no overreaction, not happy feet, just poise.
2nd Star: Fred Jackson – People seem to write him off a lot, or at least forget to mention him at times. Many people thought that it was an inevitability that C.J. Spiller would eventually get the lion’s share of touches in this offense (whether it’s this year of next year), but I believe that Jackson is here to stay. He’s an unbelievable leader by example for this team. He gets tough yards when you don’t expect him to. He still has the speed to get around the corner and the agility to occasionally make a defender look foolish. He had 112 yards on 20 carries in a performance that wasn’t just blue collar, but also game-changing.
3rd Star: Scott Chandler – I really do feel bad about not giving the defense or the offensive line any love in my Three Stars this week. I swear they’ll get some more attention in future weeks. There were so many great performances that it was hard to choose. But man, Scott Chandler had himself quite the day. I knew that it was possible for him to be an occasional red zone threat for this team, but he may exceed the bottom-line minimum expectations for a Bills tight end this season (not that the previous ones have set much of a precedent). Five receptions for 63 yards and two touchdowns is quite the season opener for a player with very little expectations or interest across the league. His first touchdown was a fairly difficult catch that he made look simple. Using his 6’7” body to shield off defenders in traffic, he caught a bullet in the end zone right in the gut. Although he was uncovered on his second touchdown, it was nice to see a Bills tight end finally find some open space on the field.
Draft Watch: It’s 2011 and I’m not going to talk about next years draft already (strange, huh?). I want to talk about one of my main reasons for optimism with this team right now: the previous two drafts under Buddy Nix. Although these players aren’t even close to showing their full potential (or non-potential) as NFL players, it finally feels like the Bills are building something here. Marcell Dareus is a beast, and there’s really nothing else to say about that. Describing the difference he makes on the defensive line (and the defense as a whole) would be like me attempting to get through an entire episode of that new NBC show with Maria Bello as the take-no-shit cop who slams her gun on the dividing window in a taxi: it’s just not gonna happen. Although they didn’t get as much time in the game as I would’ve liked, Torell Troup and Alex Carrington look like team regulars for the future. 2011 draftee Chris White had a special teams forced fumble. Second round pick Aaron Williams looked good at times at cornerback after replacing Terrence McGee in the first quarter. He’s going to have to play a huge role on this team over the next few weeks. I haven’t even mentioned Kelvin Sheppard yet, who I believe is a future starting middle linebacker sooner than later, and added a fumble recovery on special teams.
Non-Draft Watch: Donald Jones, David Nelson, Scott Chandler, Kraig Urbik, Chad Rinehart, Erik Pears, Shawne Merriman… these are all players that this regime has picked up either through undrafted free agency or as a mid-season waiver/free agent pick-up. They’ve done very well here, and I’d be surprised if they didn’t continue to find talent this way.
Veteran Depth Helps: I saw quite a few people talking about cutting Bryan Scott, and to a lesser extent, Spencer Johnson, when they were projecting their 53 man rosters. Their reasons for their decisions were logical to an extent: they’re probably not going to start, and they’re making more money than the replacing young backup would. But there’s something to be said for having veteran depth, and it showed on Sunday. Bryan Scott tallied eight tackles and a sack against the Chiefs, while Spencer Johnson also had an impressive sack early in the game. Veteran players such as these are not only positive influences as professionals in the locker room, but they’re also usually better than the young players that would be replacing them.
I may not be worried, but I will be watching how the linebacker position shapes up over the next few weeks. If you could say that any position was just ‘average’ instead of ‘super awesome’, it’d be the linebackers. Admittedly, I wasn’t as focused on the position as I should have been, as I spent most of the game slamming down beers in celebration of a knockout victory. But Jamaal Charles still ran for 5.6 yards per carry, and Dexter McCluster ran for 42 yards on 4 carries. This isn’t the end of the world, it’s just something to watch. From what I recall, nobody completely blew an assignment more than once, and Merriman and Kelsay seemed fairly aware of their positions against the run. Again, it was a small sample size, but we’ll see.
Movie This Game Reminded Me Of: Sin City (2005)… it began with some awesome stuff, then some more different awesome stuff happened, and then got so caught up in the awesomeness that I forgot what I was watching.
Where I Think The Bills Should Be In NFL Power Rankings: 15th… I have to go on what happened in Week One. Obviously, I may be a bit biased. But they beat a playoff team in the biggest blowout of the week on the road in a tough stadium.
Where I Think Your Favorite NFL Site Will Have The Bills In Power Rankings: 21st.
Teams Your Favorite NFL Site Will Have Rated Better Than the Bills (and shouldn’t): Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins
Early Predictions on Topics For Next Week’s Rodeo Wrap-Up: “How to Temper Unrealistic Aspirations After Starting 2-0”, “Should Fitzy Stay With Stubble?”, “Kyle Boller is Still a Backup Quarterback?”, “Who Is Our Second Wide Receiver”, and “Tom Brady Is Starting to Look Like Dimitar Berbatov (GOOGLE IT)”