Peter King cornered the market on "Ten Things I Think I Think." I don't drink coffee and can't write like him, so I'm trying something like his story on Monday, just smaller and a day earlier. I'm going with three things from the game I liked, and three that I didn't like. It might be a long winter, so I'll start with the bad, end with the good, and what changes need to come out of this game.
* The offensive game plan up until 9:00 left in the fourth quarter. The Pistol? Chan Gailey said he went back to Mike's Nolan's Denver defense from last year to gain some insight to the Dolphins defense. Didn't he think that Miami would do the same with him and his Kansas City offense? Except for some Fred Jackson runs, Miami looked like they knew exactly what was coming.
* Trent Edwards (except for the touchdown drive). Fans listened to Gailey about how the offense was being tailored to fit Edwards' skill set. I saw the same Edwards. I've said that 2010 was Edwards' make-or-break season, and Edwards needs a 2004 Drew Brees-type season to remain a viable starter in Buffalo going forward. One game doesn't make a season, but this wasn't a good start.
* Offensive Tackles. I don't know anyone who thought Cornell Green was going to be more than an average starter, at best. A bit more was expected from Demetrius Bell. It's one thing when a tackle gets beat by James Harrison or Mario Williams, or even Cameron Wake. Giving up pressure to rookies Koa Misi and Jared Odrick is not acceptable.
* In-game adjustments. Hello! Buffalo's defense was much-maligned during the off-season, and at the start of the game it looked like the criticism was deserved. Then Buffalo came out in the second half, put Leodis McKelvin on Brandon Marshall, and looked like a new defense. Gailey went away from the Pistol, stopped trying to force the ball into C.J. Spiller, and sprung the no-huddle on Miami in the fourth quarter. It didn't win the game, but watching coaches making sideline adjustments was a nice change. I'm still confused why Gailey went away from a pro-set running Marshawn Lynch.
* Younger players on defense. Maybe Football Outsiders had it right. They rated Buffalo's offense 30th in the league, Special Teams seventh, and playing with the second hardest schedule, things looked bleak for the Bills. But they rated the Bills' defense third. Curious, but some young player development might justify the ranking. Chris Ellis looked strong at outside linebacker, recording a sack and playing well. McKelvin changed the nature of the game with his second half coverage of Marshall. Torell Troup looked stout when he had his reps at nose tackle. Heck, even Aaron Maybin beat Jake Long cleanly a couple of times, recording a key quarterback pressure in the first half and a good hustle making a third down tackle down the field.
* The overall mindset of the team. Especially on the defense. Miami's running game, while effective, didn't dominate the day. The longest run was 17 yards. Buffalo played tough when nothing was really expected, and came back from nowhere offensively to score a touchdown. The aggressiveness going for the 63-yard field goal showed a change in mindset from playing it safe to playing to win.
How to Improve
It may be early, but the team, as a whole, looked markedly different in attitude. Gailey's got to ditch the Pistol and play pro-set, getting Lynch the ball until Jackson is back. Forcing the ball to Spiller has to stop as well. The tackles need help. A standard pro-set power run game with play-action integrated, with deviation to a spread, would work much better than what happened in this game.
Above all, Edwards needs to play all game like he did on the touchdown drive. His protection, while only average, was good enough to play better than he did. No matter how much the defense improves and the attitude and approach changes, Edwards has to deliver.