Once again the Bills got off too an early lead. Only this time they managed to hold on, beating the Philadelphia Eagles 31-24. With Fred Jackson dominating the offense and Nick Barnett and George Wilson involved in several big plays defensively, the Bills toppled another tough foe in their difficult schedule. The Bills will travel to face the Giants (in a stadium we had to help pay for!!) before their early bye week. Oh yeah, the Bills have totaled last year's win total in just 5 games. Here's the breakdown:
Run Offense: A
Coming off his worst performance last week, Fred Jackson rebounded with a season-high all-around yardage performance (196). On the ground, Jackson had 26 carries (also a season high) for 11 yards (4.3 a carry) with a TD. While he seemed to get caught in the backfield a few times, he also had good blocking, combined with his squirming for a few really nice runs. Also nice to see was Spiller have a few nice carries as well as Brad Smith who also had a rushing TD on the day.
Pass Offense: C+
Fitzpatrick kept his head against a talented secondary completing more than three quarters of his passes for 193 yards, a TD and an interception. Some of his throws were a bit off, although when you lose a starting wide receiver (Jones, who started the game strong) atop of 3 of 6 you started the year with, your play will diminish. Fred Jackson led the team with 6 catches for 85 yards while Naaman Roosevelt stepped up as a slot WR with 5 grabs for 41 yards while David Nelson had a 6 yard TD reception.
Blocking Offense: A
Chris Hairston looked fairly comfortable blocking in his first start at left tackle. The line also saw the return of Kraig Urbik. While the line wasn't as consistent as it has been with running the ball, they gave Fitzpatrick a lot of time to throw the ball, a lone sack coming from Fitz overstaying in the pocket due to tight coverage. Eric Wood provided a particularly good block on a 10 yard QB sneak, while Andy Levitre caused the Eagles to jump on a fourth and inches to help end the game. Erik Pears again had a strong game.
Run Defense: D
Anytime you go up against McCoy and Vick, you know you will have a rough day as the Bills learned. At the end, the Eagles averaged over 9 yards a carry with Vick rushing for 90 yards on just 5 carries and McCoy, 80 yards on 11 touches. While they stopped the rush early, George Wilson making a few big tackles early, they wore out later.
Pass Defense: B
For the third week in a row the Bills intercepted the ball and returned it for a TD. In fact, the Bills forced four interceptions, two by Nick Barnett (including one returned for a 31 yard TD), one by Reggie Corner and another by George Wilson and a fumble by Jairus Byrd. However, the Bills have to be more careful in defending the pass. Corner and Florence need to have tighter zone coverage as Vick threw for 315 yards.
Pass Rush Defense: C
Shawne Merriman was credited with a sack after Vick was flushed out of the pocket. Arthur Moats and Kelvin Sheppard both had big hits that set up picks while Dareus missed a sack by mere inches. However, facing a wounded offensive line, the Bills pass rush, while evident, was not wholly successful. Danny Batten had a huge, but stupid late hit on Vick that may be sanctioned by the league, and helped the Eagles set about an early score.
Special Teams: A-
Kicking off the second half, the Eagles attempted an onside kick before the officials had started the game clock, but would've been foiled by an excellent heads up play by Andra Davis. Rian Lindell was one for one on field goals while Brian Moorman had a strong day punting averaging over 50 yards including a beauty that was downed at the two. The return crew remained checked all day.
Chan Gailey rebounded his guys from last week fairly well and exploited Philly early on. While a deep threat would be ideal, Gailey managed to keep the momentum rolling throughout. George Edwards ESP training seems to be paying off for the pass defenders.
Donald Jones went down with a (unconfirmed) leg injury so there is no immediate time table for his return, hurting a receiving corp already down two players from the start of the year. While Roosevelt has stepped up, Brad Smith and Ruvell Martin did not have a catch on the day. On the other side of the ball, Terrence McGee sat out the game largely despite being active to help heal; it seems likely he will return some time next week on active field duty although at an unknown capacity.