As we await updates to the status of injured Bills TE Kevin Everett, let's take a look back at Sunday's game. Please keep Kevin in your thoughts as we, like the Bills, try to deal with this difficult circumstance.
The Buffalo Bills opened their 2007 regular season with a heart-stopping 15-14 loss to the Denver Broncos, as Denver kicked a game-winning field goal as the waning seconds ticked off the game clock. Despite the loss, there were areas of Buffalo's team that excelled, whereas others are in obvious need of work. Injuries overshadowed the truth about this team: boy, are they young.
Offense Can't Keep Chains Moving
No one thing lost this game for the Bills, but this one probably came closest to claiming the outright title: Buffalo struggled to move the chains consistently all afternoon. Quarterback J.P. Losman completed 14 of his 21 passes, but accrued just 97 yards, was sacked twice and intercepted once for a QB rating of 57. Denver's talented secondary nullified Buffalo's favorite weapon, the deep pass, and left Losman looking rattled all day long. The only consistent performer offensively was rookie RB Marshawn Lynch, whose 19-carry, 90-yard, 1 TD performance in his rookie debut left Bills fans raving about his potential at this level.
But simply put, Buffalo couldn't sustain drives. The Bills converted just four of 13 third-down attempts (a 30% clip) and didn't have enough big plays to counteract this inefficiency. Denver had control of time of possession early in this contest and held the ball for nearly 7 more minutes than the Bills. Buffalo's defense, despite their admirable effort, was simply left on the field for too long.
Defense Does Enough to Win
If you're going by the numbers, Buffalo's defense performed poorly yesterday. Travis Henry ran for 139 yards and Jay Cutler threw for 304 more. Yet the Broncos only had 15 points to show for it, partly due to a pair of missed field goals by Jason Elam and a scrappy defense that does a lot of little things correctly.
The style of defense Buffalo employs is indescribable and infuriatingly perplexing, but mostly effective. The team just finds ways to keep points off the board, whether it's a timely pick (nice on, Jim Leonhard), a tipped pass on a third and short (good job, Aaron Schobel) or just enough pressure to force a bad throw by Jay Cutler (good show, defensive line). This team is going to give up yards, but if they can keep points off the board as they did yesterday, Buffalo will keep a lot of games very close, no matter who their opponent is.
Special Teams = Spectacular (Almost)
What more can you say about the Bills' special teams? These units are absolutely terrific and easily the top units in the entire league. Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan said it best:
Brian Moorman played well, coverage units were stellar (though there were a couple of stupid penalties that took away from the performance) and obviously the Parrish punt return TD was electrifying. A Lindell miss and the aforementioned penalties were ultimately small blemishes on an otherwise good performance.
How Did We Lose?
Buffalo lost this football game because they just weren't experienced enough to win it. Little things cost the Bills this game. It was poor offensive play-calling - including a deep pass attempt to Lee Evans when trying to run out the clock. It was Marshawn Lynch running out of bounds when trying to kill the clock, a move he admitted was a "rookie mistake". It was a false start penalty knocking the Bills out of field goal range. It was a punt interference call on Josh Scobey nullifying a great punt by Moorman. It was a dropped interception by Terrence McGee late in the game as Javon Walker made a great play to break up the turnover. It was Walker's infuriating ability to get inside our corners on slant routes, routinely moving the chains.
But mostly, it was Denver making plays that the Bills simply couldn't muster. That's youth for you. It's obvious that the Bills have the talent and schemata to stick with any team in the league; once the Bills figure out how to not beat themselves, we're going to have a very good football team.
Until then, we must live with this fact: only the Buffalo Bills could lose in such spectacular fashion on opening weekend.