ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: Drayton Florence #29 of the Buffalo Bills waves a Buffalo Bills flag after the Bills beat the New England Patriots for the first time in 15 games at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 25, 2011 in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo won 34-31. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Far be it from me to rain on anyone's parade. I'm just as happy as any other Buffalo Bills fan that the team has ended a 15-game losing streak to the New England Patriots and put up huge offensive numbers during a 3-0 start to the 2011 season. I'm enjoying the ride, too. I'm a firm believer in perspective, however - and before fans start dreaming of the playoffs, it's important to note that the Bills have had a lot of help in these first three games.
First of all, you don't need me to tell you that the team can't continue to dig itself out of early holes. The Bills are the first team in NFL history to overcome leads of 18 or more points and win in consecutive weeks. Clearly, that's a trend that needs to end, and as quickly as possible. They've got to be sharper in the first half.
More to the point, the Bills have had a lot of circumstantial help in these first three weeks. Some of it can still be attributed to strong play from the team - their plus-5 turnover margin, for instance, ranks second in the NFL, and are plays that the team has to make offensively and defensively - but let's not pretend that Tom Brady's four-interception hiccup didn't play a huge role in Buffalo's upset win Sunday.
Add in penalties and injuries, and the Bills have had a lot fall their way so far this year.
The Kansas City Chiefs only committed one penalty against Buffalo in Week 1, but their team performed so poorly that it hardly mattered. The Bills were able to overcome plenty of mistakes in their last two games in large part because the Oakland Raiders and Patriots combined for 16 penalties, with each team committing eight.
Right now, the Bills have converted 10 first downs thanks to penalties by opponents. That total is the second-highest in the league, behind Denver's 11 (and tied with San Diego), and it's also worth noting that only seven teams have gotten seven or more first downs in this fashion. The Bills have had a lot of help moving the ball - not that they weren't capable of it themselves, of course - headlined by a two-play, 95-yard touchdown drive against New England. The Patriots committed roughing the passer and defensive pass interference penalties on that drive.
Buffalo's opponents have also been unusually unhealthy for their games, particularly considering it's so early in the season. Take a look at the players that the Bills haven't had to deal with on Sundays this year:
- Chiefs: TE Tony Moeaki, OT Jared Gaither
- Raiders: WR Jacoby Ford, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR Louis Murphy, TE Kevin Boss
- Patriots: TE Aaron Hernandez, OT Sebastian Vollmer, DT Albert Haynesworth, DT Mike Wright, CB Ras-I Dowling, S Patrick Chung
Meanwhile, the Bills have missed players here and there, but for the most part have remained healthy. Knock on wood - hard and often - that the Bills' trend of general health continues. In recent seasons, it's been the Bills that have been bloodied and battered on game days, not their opponents.
I'll re-iterate, lest y'all start yelling at me: I am not mentioning any of this to rain on anyone's parade. The Bills have achieved quite a bit this year, and as I said earlier this morning, the catharsis of yesterday's win is something that Bills fans should revel in for as long as possible. There are 13 games remaining this season, starting with next week in Cincinnati. The team has to get better, because circumstances will not always favor the Bills this strongly. They've had help to get where they are. Now they need to get better to stay where they are.