Extra Points: Fred and Mario take over

With their win on Sunday the Bills simultaneously stayed alive in the race for a playoff spot while remaining firmly entrenched in the AFC East race.

Due to New England and Miami’s records entering the week and the victory by the Jets, the Bills didn’t experience any sort of change based on their placement in the standings. That leaves a number of teams to hurdle if the Bills expect to qualify for the playoffs.

Sunday was all about Fred Jackson and Mario Williams. The pair drove the Bills to victory, just about single-handedly.

Jackson, who managed to put up pretty a pretty respectable 85 all-purpose yards and a touchdown, played most of the day on one knee after getting rolled up on by Scott Chandler. His churning 10-yard run on third and short in the fourth quarter was the icing on the cake for the Bills and was the type of run that’s a testament to Jackson’s well publicized character.

Williams had an equally impressive afternoon with a pair of tackles for loss and two monumental sacks. Both sacks came on late Dolphins drives and were the lone reason Miami wasn’t able to pad their lead late in the game. Obviously the strip sack was the highlight of his day as the play lead to the winning points for the Bills. But he also influenced a handful of other plays with strong rushes, including Nickell Robey’s pick-six and twice on Tannehill’s hurried Hail Mary attempt.

It’s a shame that Williams – or one of his defensive line cohorts – didn’t managed to finish Tannehill on that final heave as  a natural hat trick of sacks (of sorts) would’ve been a fine way to finish the game.

One underlying factor in Sunday’s victory that struck me is that this game had the makeup of one the Bills would have lost in years past. Much like the comeback against the Bengals, fourth quarter win against the Panthers and even holding on to win against the Ravens, the Bills have been rallying and have remained competitive in games all season. It’s one of those things that wasn’t present in recent years but has shown through early and often this season.

Credit the organization for instilling that confidence in the team, particularly the coaching staff, which appears to have their finger on the pulse of what makes this roster tick. If they can find a way to stay healthy for an extended period of time, I have a great deal of faith in what they can do.

Cornered Market

A one-handed Stephon Gilmore is a vast improvement over a healthy Justin Rogers. It’s a sad reality but it certainly is the truth. While Gilmore’s effectiveness is extremely limited – due to his inability to jam at the line – he provides a much more confident option than Rogers. He got toasted on a long ball, but once he’s able to jam at the line again I have to think the secondary will benefit.

Leodis

Speaking of corners, has Leodis McKelvin had a quietly effective season or is it just me? I know he’s been beat on a few real nice touchdowns, but for the most part he appears to have settled in nicely this year. The Bills probably still will want to draft a corner high in the draft, but McKelvin has been far from a liability this year.

Game Manager

I have to give credit to Thad Lewis for having the skill set to adequately manage a football game. He’s not an electric playmaker and will be prone to mistakes, but he plays a smart game and is capable of making big throws. Look no further than the handful of long balls he’s hit already this season.

Dominant Yet Again

I still see plenty of “it’s about time” talk from certain media members in Buffalo and it doesn’t make much sense to me. Ever since his wrist surgery – phantom or not – Williams has been a force for the Bills. Many of his sacks this season have been timely and he’s almost being under-appreciated by some of his biggest detractors. How that’s possible, I’m not quite sure.

Dying for a Bye

If there’s any team that needs a bye week it is the Bills. Their offensive backfield is playing on a net total of 2.5 healthy knees and EJ Manuel, CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson could all use some time off to heal up. It’s a late bye this year, which means the team will need to wait. But it also provides a chance for them to be healthy for the stretch run.

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