It's difficult to imagine a more pleasing first quarter of a football season than opening up a 14-0 lead against a superior opponent (based on previous year results) in a hostile environment. That's exactly what the Buffalo Bills did against the defending AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1 of the 2011 regular season in the opening stanza of what proved to be one of Buffalo's two dominating wins in an otherwise run-of-the-mill season.
In the first of a series of re-watch posts from last season, we'll get into the nitty gritty of Buffalo's performance in this game. Head on in after the jump for a few broad-spectrum thoughts from the quarter about players, plays and everything else worth discussing.
2011 BUFFALO BILLS RE-WATCH: AT KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
First quarter: Bills 14, Chiefs 0
- Fred Jackson finishes the quarter with five carries for 25 yards, and they're picked up in quintessential Jackson fashion: he maximizes good blocking, and creates yardage when there's no blocking to be had. This guy makes a serviceable line look great; imagine what he'd do with a great line...
- Point of Emphasis: we see Jackson and C.J. Spiller used together on one play in this quarter. It's a three-receiver, two-back personnel package. Jackson acts as the "lead blocker," lined up behind and to the right of the right tackle, similar to how a tight end lines up. Spiller takes the handoff and gains seven yards despite the fact that Jackson blocks no one.
- Immediately, we see streaky Ryan Fitzpatrick. He starts with several questionable throws, with a short-hop to Roscoe Parrish highlighting a rocky start. Fitzpatrick had solid mechanics and a good throwing lane on that play; he just appeared to throw a dud. But on the team's second touchdown drive, he hits David Nelson on a beautiful throw down the seam behind a safety, then throws a great catchable ball to Stevie Johnson in one-on-one coverage for the score. This is Fitzpatrick: you take the good with the bad.
- One other note on Fitzpatrick: in a trend we'll likely see more of as this re-watch progresses, Fitzpatrick is at his best when he gets what he wants on a certain play call. When that happens, he's positively deadly. Where he struggles is when he doesn't get what he wants; he's not particularly good at extending plays that have broken down, and in particular making plays with his arm when that happens. In this quarter, he turned a broken play into a three-yard scramble. We'll be watching what else he does on bad plays closely.
- The offensive line did a sound job across the board (we're not paying attention to the left tackle yet, because Chris Hairston wasn't playing, and the other guy isn't on the team anymore). Only one pass-blocking negative in the quarter, where Andy Levitre got torched by Wallace Gilberry on a stunt, leading to a rushed throw and an incompletion. Kraig Urbik also struggled some in space, missing two key blocks at the second level - one on a screen pass to Spiller - that, if blocked properly, could have yielded much more yardage.
- Jairus Byrd is fast and physical coming downhill. He stuck Jamaal Charles on a run to the outside for minimal yardage, popping the runner out of bounds, and then quickly diagnosed and snuffed out a swing pass for a massive loss on third down, leading to a chorus of boos from Chiefs fans. A case can be made, we think, that Byrd is the team's most physical defensive back.
- Point of Emphasis: there's not much to be learned from this quarter regarding press coverage, but one player that the team seemed reluctant to put in that role was Leodis McKelvin. In fact, on one 2nd & 7 play, McKelvin was lined up eight yards off of the line of scrimmage; Matt Cassel threw a quick out to Dwayne Bowe and McKelvin made a nice open-field stop to limit the gain to four yards, but those yards came based on his alignment alone. You don't need us to tell you exactly why the team felt that way about McKelvin; just think forward to the Dallas game if you need reminding.
- Chris Kelsay had a strong quarter, looking quick and agile working against right tackle Barry Richardson and tight end Leonard Pope. On one play, a competent speed rush forced Cassel to step up into the pocket, where he was swallowed up by Marcell Dareus and company; on another, he cleanly beat Richardson to the inside to blow up a delay run to Charles for no gain.
- Something that we'll be keeping an eye on moving forward: the Bills struggled again with misdirection, barely recovering on a tight end slip screen (which fell incomplete anyway thanks to a horrid Cassel pass) and generally reacting poorly to anything but the initial action of the offense. It'll be interesting to see not only if this improved, but if a change in coordinators - and a purportedly simpler defensive system - can alleviate some of these struggles.
In general, as we complete these re-watch posts, we'll have more to say about the offense than the defense. That's true for two reasons: one, it's easier to review offensive performance than defense while watching television footage, and two, Buffalo's offensive system and its personnel remain largely intact from a year ago, while things will be changing dramatically defensively. As such, expect that skew moving forward.
Tomorrow: quarter two, and a closer look at Urbik.