Smith, signed to a $15 million deal in the abbreviated off-season, had carried the ball seven times in four games. He'd thrown an interception and taken a sack on designed pass plays out of the Wildcat, and he'd caught two passes as a receiver. Sure, there's value in a player like Smith, I thought; just not $15 million in value.
With the Bills riding a huge surge of momentum leading 21-7 in the second quarter, Smith entered the game for his first Wildcat play of the game. He was stopped for a loss of three yards on the play. Buffalo punted a short time later, and on the first play of Philadelphia's ensuing possession, Michael Vick scrambled for 22 yards.
There goes the momentum, I thought. Then I got frustrated. I don't easily get frustrated during Bills games, mind you.
From what I've been told by folks who watched the game on FOX, color analyst Brian Billick expressed a similar sentiment about the Wildcat package: it's a double-edged sword. For all that it brings to the table in terms of pre-game preparations and throwing proverbial curveballs, it can also really put a wrench in the flow of a game. That's what I thought happened with that carry.
But the Bills quickly got a stop on that Eagles possession, and then watched as the Eagles blew a golden opportunity to score right before halftime (after a Ryan Fitzpatrick interception) by wasting the final eight seconds of the half on an ill-conceived heave into the end zone. Momentum secured.
Then, Smith came out in the Wildcat at the start of the third quarter and promptly rushed for a touchdown, increasing Buffalo's lead to 28-7. Chan Gailey dialed it up again late in the fourth quarter when, after Fred Jackson was stopped for a yard's loss on first down while trying to milk the clock, Smith came in and picked up 10 yards on two straight carries - and very nearly picked up the first down himself that would've put the game on ice. (Buffalo got that first down on the next play when Juqua Parker jumped offside.)
I'm still not sure how I feel not just about the Wildcat package or its usage, but more importantly, about how little Smith has been used after signing such a large contract. I've said for weeks that Smith could have a Jackson-type impact on this offense; he has a similar playing style and could obviously be much more productive. Those sentiments are fighting the feeling that Gailey has, by and large, done an excellent job of wielding his new toy during games, and has gotten a lot of quality snaps out of that package despite its relative lack of use.
At the end of the game, I thought back on that play, and realized that for one week - and probably for longer - Smith and Gailey had shut up the pessimist fan in me. But this is still something I'll be watching with keen interest moving forward; as the Bills become more of a gimmick offense (i.e. Jackson-centric with draws, screens and a very quick passing game) while their receiving corps thins out, the importance of Smith and the Wildcat could increase very quickly.