By BBD Writer: Eric Samulski
That’s more like it. One week after getting throttled by the Jets, the Bills came out like a team that had something to prove and thoroughly handled the Chiefs 35-17. They controlled the line of scrimmage, played with great physicality, and showed playmaking ability in all three facets of the game. While it’s only one game, it goes a long way towards making people believe that there is enough talent on this roster to end the playoff drought. Now they just need to put it together on a consistent basis. So, it’s time to take a closer look at how they answered this week’s questions and got it done.
First, the positives…
The Coaching Staff Redeemed Themselves from Last Week.
(Question #1 was: Can the coaching staff make adjustments?)
Give credit to Dave Wannstedt and his defensive coaches. Whatever drills they hammered home during the week of practice seemed to really work. The Bills defenders played with more physicality and made the Chiefs earn every yard. Wannstedt brought blitzes with his linebackers, resulting in sacks and forced passes and prevented the Chiefs from getting into an offensive rhythm. The Bills offensive coaches also seemed to gameplan well, putting most of the onus on Spiller to carry the offense and limiting opportunities where Fitzpatrick had to make throws under pressure.
However, I still think Gailey got a little too cute for his own good with the play-calling in the second half. After Spiller looked dominant in the first half, there is no reason to begin the third quarter with three passes and one run out of the wildcat. Just give the ball to the guy who’s dominating the game and let him go to work.
CJ Spiller Might be the Bills Most Dynamic Weapon
(Question #2 was: Can Spiller Carry the offense?)
Spiller answered that question in resounding fashion. The Bills featured Spiller early, and the former 9th overall pick didn’t disappoint. He showed typically incredible burst but also ran with a toughness that was missing in previous years. He broke tackles, shifted passed defenders, and earned as many yards after contact as Jackson usually does. Without much work in the 2nd half, Spiller still totaled 123 yards on 15 carries and 47 more yards through the air to go along with his two touchdowns. He’s quickly becoming a very special offensive player.
The Defensive Line is Starting to Find it’s Rhythm
(Question #3 was: Can the defensive line get after the quarterback?)
The defensive ends may not have notched any sacks, but the Bills line was in the backfield a whole heck of a lot on Sunday. The added attention that offensive lines are paying to Mario Williams and Mark Anderson has really benefited Kyle Williams and Marcel Dareus. Both interior linemen are constantly faced with one-on-one match-ups that they have been winning with ease this year. They each earned a sack on Sunday, as did Alex Carrington, who showed real talent at his new position.
While many fans still want sacks of out Mario and Anderson, both guys were a factor in run support on Sunday and seemed to move the pocket back far more than last Sunday. It’s only a matter of time before that translates into the sack numbers we fans are clamoring for.
The Rookies Are Showing Real Growth
(Question #5 was: Can the rookies keep up?)
Apparently Stephon Gilmore heard the criticism last Sunday. After his own head coach said that the rookie corner played more tentatively than he had all preseason, Gilmore came out to make a statement this Sunday. He battled the Chiefs wide receivers at the line of scrimmage and used his strength to contest every catch. He got beat a few times by Bowe and was called for one holding penalty, but he showed marked improvement from last Sunday, which is all you can ask of a rookie.
Cordy Glenn also continued to handle himself well. He prevented Tamba Hali from being a factor in the game and showed impressive athleticism to get to the second level on a few screen passes. Rounding out the group, TJ Graham caught the only ball thrown his way and didn’t make any noticeable errors in any facet of the game.
The Run Defense Continues to Be Tremendous
(Question #4 was: Can the Bills contain the Chiefs rushing attack?)
Against two teams that hang their hat on power blocking and running the ball down their opponents throat, the Bills have done a really good job holding up and exerting their own power. As mentioned above, the defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage, sometimes literally pushing Chiefs linemen into their own runningbacks. Before the meaningless fourth quarter drives after the Bills were up 35-3, they had allowed only 27 yards to Chiefs runningbacks. It was a dominant performance.
Now the (few) negatives….
Ryan Fitzpatrick Still Doesn’t Look Good
(Question #7 was: Which Fitzpatrick would show up?)
After last week’s game, Ryan Fitzpatrick really needed to play a strong game to assuage concerns that he’s tanked ever since landing his large payday. He didn’t do that. Fitz missed Scott Chandler on a wide-open rollout on the first drive, and his day seemed to flutter from there. He consistently underthrew receivers and took far too long to scan the field. The Bills also showed little faith in his ability as a passer, allowing Spiller to carry the offense while Fitz was limited to a game manager role. The overall numbers may not be terrible, but take out Stevie Johnson’s 49 yard TD pass, when no Chiefs player was near him after the catch, and Fitz was 9 for 18 for 129 yards to go along with a collection of wobbly passes. He’s needs to start showing more accuracy if the Bills are going to continue to win games.
The Bills Linebackers Continue to Be a Weak Link in the Passing Game
(Another topic that didn’t even factor into my mind)
The Bills have always had a hard time containing tight ends in the passing game and today seemed like it was going to be more of the same. Kevin Boss had one 25 yard reception called back after a chop block, and then was injured on another 29 yard pass after he easily beat Nick Barnett. Kelvin Sheppard showed good closing ability to stay with McCluster and Charles on a few passes, but there were also a couple screens, and Cassel scrambles, where the entire middle of the field was wide open and linebackers were nowhere to be found. In a division with some of the most athletic tight ends in the league, the Bills are going to need to improve in the middle of their defense.
All and all, it was a solid performance from the Bills and one that inspires a lot of confidence moving forward.