The Bills confirmed much of what the fanbase already knew on Sunday, they’re better than the worst teams in the NFL. The team moved to 5-6, still well outside the playoff and top-five draft pick niche that the team has carved for most of the past 12 years.
What following the Bills has become is little more than a rotation of broken records. You can change the tune and rhythm, but it is always the same song over and over again.
Granted, there are plenty of things to like about this team, especially if both Jarius Byrd and Andy Levitre are given long-term contracts. However, the need for change is well overdue and one day maybe this fan base will see some real progress made.
Sunday’s win – if you watched it – was about as textbook a Bills victory as many expected to see this season. Fred Jackson carried the load with CJ Spiller bringing plenty of electricity of his own. The game was kept well out of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s hands (despite his best efforts) and the defense was stout. Not only did Mario Williams go on a one-man wrecking crew rampage with his strip, sack, recovery hat trick, but the rest of the line was impressive for the entire game.
Granted, this was against a 2-10 team with a poor defense and a below-average offensive attack. The Jags finished the game with their fourth running back taking carriers. Still, both lines (the perceived strengths of the team) dictated at the point of attack and the game followed suit. For as much groaning as fans and media have done, this was a game in which Chan Gailey played to his strengths and the result showed.
What is maddening is that it took 11 games to figure it out.
The rest of the year is still going to be a wash. The Steelers and Bengals each won games that they needed to lose if the Bills slim playoff chances were to remain alive. A sans-Roethlisberger sweep for the Steelers would have built a difficult mountain for them to climb. Charlie Batch’s victory kept the Steelers afloat for that final spot. Cincy staying alive didn’t help matters either.
Point being is that the Bills are likely to win at least two more games, if not three with an assumed loss to the Seahawks on the other side of the ledger. 8-8 or 7-9 seem to be the most realistic records for the Bills this year. That puts them smack in the middle of the NFL yet again, too far back to improve and too far down to compete.
The Bills were bit hard an in a number of various places by the injury bug on Sunday. Both Chris Hairston and Eric Wood left the game early, as did Stevie Johnson and Leodis McKelvin. Wood is likely to miss at least two weeks with the remainder of the season being a possibility as well. While his injury history should be cause for concern, I’m not ready to call him injury prone.
Wood has suffered a leg injury in three of his four professional seasons. Last year and in 2009 the injury cost him a majority of the year. The partially torn MCL he suffered this week might do the same, but only because we are so late in the season. When it comes to broken legs and torn knees, I have to think the player has been struck as a victim of circumstance more than being prone to injuries. Is it troubling that this keeps happening to Wood? Yes. But it doesn’t mean that he is injury prone in a way that Tim Connolly was vilified for in Buffalo. When I think injury prone, I think sprains, strains, pulls and tweaks. I don’t think broken leg because it doesn’t matter who gets rolled up on in that situation.
Take it Easley
As Bucky Gleason pointed out, Marcus Easley had a coming out party, of sorts on Sunday. His 55-yard kick return showcased the speed that he put on display at UConn and this preseason. He was also in on a few other special teams plays. Now it is time to involve him in the offense.
As Gleason said, this is no time to fiddle around and use Ruvell Martin as your next receiver in line when injuries crop up. A safe assumption is that Stevie Johnson and Donald Jones will be back on the field come Sunday. Yet there should still be space to work Easley into the game plan along with Brad Smith and TJ Graham. While Easley hasn’t shown too much offensively, he has proven that he can make plays with the ball in his hands. Let him show his skillset.
Since it seems to be the personal vendetta of some writers and hosts to try to continue to torch Mario Williams, I’ll take up the somewhat unwanted banner of support for the defensive end. As is the case in Buffalo, Williams was dubbed as a bust and overpayed after six games. Low and behold, Williams has caught fire and has not only snuck into the NFL’s top ten in sacks, he is only a sack or two away from the top three.
Williams’ strip sack was a thing of beauty and was a great follow up to his hat trick last week. Williams doesn’t have dazzling tackle numbers, but they aren’t nonexistent. In addition, he has shown the ability to not only draw extra attention, but be a force away from the ball. Da’Norris Searcy’s textbook run stuff was a product of Mario and Kyle Williams collapsing the right side of the offensive line and erasing the inside running lane, leaving Searcy to clean up the unescorted back.
MVP: Fred Jackson – His best day of the year and was the perfect thunder compliment to Spiller’s lightning
LVP: Archaic blackout rules – The NFL blackout policy is ridiculous, especially for a made-for-TV league. It is time that these rules were updated.
It was over when: CJ Spiller scampered for a 44-yard touchdown. While the Jags pushed for points late in the game, Spiller’s long TD iced the game.