Sunday had all the makings to be a full-on blow out. However, part-way through the first quarter the only thing that was blown out was C.J. Spiller’s shoulder.
However, the Bills maintained and fought back against the ebb in momentum they experienced to hold on for their second win of the season. The 24-14 win was, in many ways, impressive against a team the Bills couldn’t afford to lose to.
Prior to his exit, Spiller showed that his dominance is certainly no fluke as he danced his way through the Cleveland defense on a number of plays, including a lengthy TD reception on a swing pass. Without Spiller, the offense began to sputter before re-devoting to the run game with Tashard Choice.
Maintaining a consistent running attack was something that started to disappear immediately after Spiller’s injury, but the coaching staff reverted to the original game plan when Choice showed an ability to hit holes and grab chunk yardage on most carries. The success on the ground allowed Ryan Fitzpatrick to grab three more passing touchdowns against a Browns defense that looked out of their element on a number of plays.
Kudos should also go to the Bills defense that managed to contain a top-five pick out of the Cleveland backfield and forced the Browns to the air far more often than they likely would have preferred. The dominance of the Bills front four has been one a constant this season and there are now numbers that point to this success.
While week one was an ugly blowout, the front seven remained stout against the run. Weeks two and three showed continued success in the running game while also providing a handful of sacks from every member of the line. It is pretty clear that the front four will be capable of creating havoc and mismatches on a weekly basis, the key will be for the rest of the defense to capitalize off the opportunities created by the front four.
The defensive effectiveness was probably one of the most important parts of recuperating after the Spiller injury. Despite the obvious lull in tenacity and momentum after Spiller was carted away, the Bills managed to – for lack of a better term – circle the wagons and stay on the right side of the box score. It would seem as if the tweaks in scheme (more press, help over the top etc.) has paid off for a secondary that is somewhat inexperienced as the only gaffe came from Stephon Gilmore on the Browns’ second touchdown and a late recovery by Aaron Williams that ended up being a nice bit of defense.
Heading into a game with a pass-happy offense, the front four will get the lion’s share of the work while the linebackers and secondary will need to step up against weapons like Gronkowski, Welker and Lloyd.
Winning the Trenches
For the second-straight week, the Bills offensive and defensive lines were dominant. The offensive line opened enough holes that the running game didn’t disappear once Spiller left the game. If Tashard Choice is expected to get the bulk of the carries against the Patriots, the line’s ability to open holes should lessen the effect of the third-string running back starting the game.
All five members of the line have been terrific, with the interior trio perhaps being the best portion. Led by Eric Wood, the center and guards have been effective in pass and run blocking and their success has extended to Erik Pears and Cordy Glenn on the outside. Glenn’s footwork and athleticism has been a pleasant surprise for the Bills and has helped forge perhaps the best line the Bills have had since the 90s.
Defensively, opponents are still faced with the conundrum of doubling Mario or Kyle Williams while hoping that Marcell Dareus and Mark Anderson don’t exploit the one-on-one blocking they face. The line really broke out in Cleveland, with each lineman getting a sack, but they were equally dangerous against Kansas City as the extra attention that is being directed towards Super Mario is obviously creating matchup issues at other spots along the line.
It would seem that Stephon Gilmore and Aaron Williams are settling into their starting roles, despite the odd let down or two. Aside from getting torched on the second touchdown – in which I think he though he had underneath help – Gilmore wasn’t noticeable for most of the game. I don’t have proper statistics, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he only allowed three or four catches to the receivers he was covering. Aaron Williams still scares me, but showed some better awareness and recovery on Sunday. He still gets torched deep but he wasn’t victimized by the Browns. I’ll be curious to see who the Bills match each of their young corners against with Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker coming to town next week.
Buffalo’s safety play has been more than adequate through three weeks and I would expect that to continue. Their contributions against Rob Gronkowski and in support on the Patriots screen sets (something Buffalo excelled at Sunday) will be vital to a Buffalo victory.
Where is Tavaris?
Since the Bills victory over Cleveland was complete in so many ways, there isn’t much to say in terms of what needs to change. There also isn’t much to say that wasn’t said in the blowout win over KC. Fitzpatrick was steady and didn’t make any mistakes, Spiller was electric (until he was injured), the defense was stout and the offensive line was impressive.
However, the knee jerk reaction to cut Vince Young and bring in Tavaris Jackson is looking somewhat foolish. Jackson, is still learning the playbook, allegedly. He has been inactive for three weeks and is basically taking up an extra roster spot. Meanwhile the Bills have had to choose between picking up a running back or receiver when Fred Jackson and David Nelson went down, despite the obvious need to get help at both positions. Chan Gailey is going to need to make a decision on his backup quarterbacks soon if for no other reason than to get depth at positions of need. That decision will mean determining if Tavaris Jackson is going to be worth keeping around much longer.
It was over when:Mario Williams and Mark Anderson combined for a pivotal third down sack late in the game. Williams pushed the tackle back and help funnel Weeden towards Anderson.
MVP:Kyle Williams, just a monster inside. LVP:Injuries, at some point the Bills will get some good luck on that front.