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Week 3 Bills/Patriots – Final Thoughts, Game Balls and What’s Ahead

The Buffalo Bills are 3-0 which is a huge story around the NFL in itself.  But how the Bills have gotten to 3-0 is still difficult to grasp, overcoming a 21-0 early deficit, rally to cut the lead to 21-10 at halftime and outscore New England 34-31 for a thrilling, comeback and streak erasing victory.

To say that I thought the Bills would be in this position after three games would be a bold face lie.  I had hope the Bills would be 2-1 at best, finding a way to steal one on opening day against Kansas City, then buoyed be the Ralph Wilson Stadium faithful take the home opener.  But now, the Bills seemed to be for real in knocking off the Patriots and standing alone atop the AFC East at 3-0. 

But, it’s time to turn the page and for one last time let the good feelings of last Sunday wash over us before we head on to Week 4.

WEEK 3 FINAL THOUGHTS

-To erase two, double digit first half holes in consecutive weeks is just plain wild.  According to STATS LLC, the Bills are the first team since 1950 to erase two deficits of at least 18 points.  That’s two consecutive character building, confidence boosting wins don’t tell the whole story.  Right now, the Bills believe in their coach, their teammates and the simple Yogi Berra motto “It ain’t over ’til it’s over!”  These wins go well beyond X’s and O’s. 

-Ryan Fitzpatrick is no longer “that Harvard dude with the beard playing quarterback”.  The faith the front office showed back at April’s draft to pass on the handful of quarterbacks and stick with Fitzpatrick is paying off huge dividends.  He’s playing better, smart and more consistent football with the passing weeks and to outduel the best in the business (Tom Brady) and slay the dragon speaks volumes of where Fitzpatrick is right now compared to the player he was last season.  Now he’s winning games and closing out close games in grand fashion.

-For the first time in eight years, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick were off their game.  Yes Brady got his with 387 yards and four touchdowns.  But he also threw four interceptions which ties is total from a year go.  George Wilson and Leodis McKelvin made two outstanding plays on Brady passes, Marcell Dareus did a good job getting his hand up and deflecting a pass that landed in the belly of Drayton Florence and Bryan  Scott was very opportunistic at the end of the first half.  The Bills made these plays without putting much, if any, heat on Brady in the pocket.

-Leodis McKelvin, consider yourself redeemed for that Monday Night Football kick off fumble that led to New England’s improbable comeback in the season opener in 2009.

-Fred Jackson.  What more can I say about him?  He’s just running like a flat out man-beast.  When the Bills need a game-changing play, or a game saving play get the football in Jackson’s hands.  He had 161 total yards and a touchdown, and the biggest play in nearly a decade with his 38-yard catch and run to put the Bills in position to attempt to win the game.

-Heads up by Chan Gailey and co.  When Jackson’s knee was finally ruled down at the 1 yard line, the Bills wisely took several knees, were aided by a 15-yard personal foul penalty and were victimized by a false start.  When all was said and done, Jackson put Rian Lindell in position to make the game winning kick.

-And yes I agree with Lindell.  He said afterwards if he had missed that kick he would’ve just ran up the tunnel and kept on going.

-The offensive line once again was the lynchpin for the offense, opening running lanes while protecting the pocket and giving Fitzpatrick a nice, cushy space to pick apart New England’s secondary.  Vince Wilfork’s name didn’t get called much on Sunday and that’s a testament to the Bills’ interior guys Eric Wood and Andy Levitre. 

-The same can be said for the Bills’ pass rush against Tom Brady.  Essentially there wasn’t one.  Shawne Merriman had Brady in his grasp around the ankles for a moment, but other than that I don’t think Brady’s jersey needed to washed after the game.  Buffalo’s secondary, with four picks, picked up the front seven on Sunday.  I keep saying it, they’ve got to get more creative and start showing multiple looks.  Somebody, I don’t care how or who, needs to start getting to the opposing quarterbacks.

-Donald Jones picked the best time to have his coming out party with five catches for over 100 yards.  Patriots corners have had trouble early in the season against bigger receivers and Jones was able to exploit that weakness.  Biggest catch of his young career was the 29-yard reception on the first play of the game-winning drive getting past Devin McCourty.

-Well, the Bills may have solved Brady for one afternoon but Wes Welker is another story.  He had a career day with 16 catches , 217 yards and two touchdowns.  Buffalo’s secondary is hobbled by injuries and going up against Welker was simply a mismatch.  Ditto for Rob Gronkowski, who also found the end zone twice and went over the century mark in receiving yards.  When these two teams collide later on in the season, I’m not sure the Bills will be so fortunate again if Welker and Gronkowski smoke the Bills again with monster statistical days.

-I continue to want to believe I’m wrong, but three weeks in the history books and Merriman has been nothing more than an after thought.  He didn’t show up on the stat sheet, and other than his one pressure on Brady I think many thought he might have been deactivated before game time.  Buffalo needs more than the once-a-game-pressure or just a few tackles from Merriman.  But, up until now, his best game was against the Chicago Bears in the preseason.

-Love the points.  Love the way the offense is running.  Love the way Chan Gailey and Fitzpatrick virtually operate as one singular mind.  I don’t love the starts and I don’t love the points opposing offenses have put up the last two weeks.  Buffalo has been outscored 42-13 in the first half in the last two weeks and have surrendered 66 points.  I understand winning is all that matters.  But if the Bills want to take this thing further and beyond just feeling good for a few weeks, you play into January because of your defense.   They’re not there yet obviously, but picking off Tom Brady four times and beating the Patriots is a great start.

GAME BALLS

  1. Ryan Fitzpatrick – Two weeks, two comebacks, two game winning drives.  And this time, he did what no other quarterback in Buffalo has been able to do since 2003:  beat Tom Brady.  Overcame two first half interceptions to throw for 369 yards and two second half TDs
  2. Fred Jackson – It’s no secret he wants a new contract.  Well, I hope the Bills’ front office is taking notes because he’s playing like.  161 total yardsa and a TD; set up game-winning field goal and put Buffalo in prime position to win the game. 
  3. Bills’ secondary – Yes Welker and Gronkowski killed them and Brady threw for four TDs.  But they also picked off Brady four times, including one returned for a touchdown.  Without the front seven getting much pressure on Brady, it was the secondary that came up the big plays
  4. Steve Johnson – He’s doing just fine as the team’s No.1 receiver with a TD in each of Buffalo’s three games
  5. Scott Chandler – What a find he’s been particularly at the tight end which has been a black hole in Buffalo for a long time.  He joins Andre Reed (1991), Eric Moulds (2004) and Steve Johnson (2011) as the only players in Bills’  history to start the season with a TD in the first three games

 

What’s Next:  Buffalo begins the month of October on the road this Sunday, Oct. 2nd at 1pm. against Cincinnati, then they’ll embark on a three-game stretch against the NFC East.


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