Week 1 reports of the Buffalo Bills' demise turned out to be greatly exaggerated. In fairness, throttling the floundering Kansas City Chiefs does not propel Buffalo into the ranks of the NFL elite. To get there, Buffalo needs to continue to tighten their pass coverage, and the play of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick needs to improve. The win does help alleviate worries of the worst possible season, where the offense continues to skid and the defense remains among the league's least effective units despite the off-season acquisitions. At least for a week, Bills fans can talk about how well the defense and special teams played, as well as Buffalo's league-best rushing attack.
The Good. Over the past few years, fans yearned for the team to gain a tough identity. GM Buddy Nix built a large, powerful team over the past three off-seasons, though head coach Chan Gailey used those players in a finesse spread scheme and a one-gap 3-4 defense. Neither seemed particularly tough. That may be changing.
Buffalo played more of a physical game than they normally do on Sunday - especially in the first half, when Buffalo's defense dominated the line of scrimmage. Kansas City didn't get a lot of movement, and were forced into passing situations on third down frequently. The defensive pressure on Matt Cassel intensified as the game progressed, and the Bills ended up tallying five sacks and five quarterback pressures before calling off the dogs at 35-3.
The offense complimented the defensive effort via the running game. C.J. Spiller was special again. The Bills' large and physical offensive line, small and maligned three years ago, made the attack go. They paved the way for Spiller, and Fitzpatrick didn't deal with much of a rush all game. With Fitzpatrick trying to find consistency early in the season, Buffalo might develop into a running/defense attack that most didn't see coming.
The Bad. Gailey's non-conventional plays are like spices: they make the meal exciting when used in moderation. Too much and it doesn't taste right. Buffalo used too many cute, non-conventional plays yesterday. The Wildcat play featuring Brad Smith deep in Buffalo's own end wound up forcing a punt, which might have been the best outcome considering the circumstances. The goal line tight end reverse to Dorin Dickerson was silly. Buffalo needed to pound the ball down the defense's throats with Tashard Choice in that situation. Fitzpatrick and Scott Chandler bailed the team out after the Dickerson eight-yard-loss, but it could have been worse. In a tight game, Buffalo needs all their possessions to count. It's a small thing, but Gailey needs to be more judicious with his "spices".
Let's Not Overreact. The Bills aren't playoff contenders yet. If they keep playing this way, they'll be close to the 10 or 11 wins they need to make the post-season. The defense played a lot better, but they were not challenged by Cassel and the Chiefs in the passing game until the game was all but decided. Tom Brady and Matt Schaub aren't going to blow possessions the way the Chiefs did. The 49ers aren't going to put themselves into situations where they can't rely on their running game, nor are they going to turn the ball over on the goal line. It's not going to be this easy defensively.
On offense, Fitzpatrick's numbers were okay, but he was far from the quarterback they need him to be. He missed on far too many open throws, and did not look comfortable until the game was in hand. Fitzpatrick's play and the pass coverage remain legitimate concerns going forward. Buffalo's playoffs hopes still rest on the currently inconsistent right arm of Fitzpatrick. He needs to regain his early 2011 season form for Buffalo to make the playoffs.
Outlook. The Bills need to play sharp early in the season. Their schedule through nine games isn't a cake walk. Of the remaining seven games in that run, two are against New England, two are West Coast road trips, and one is Mario Williams' return to Houston. Buffalo could play well and lose all of those games. If Buffalo wants to compete for the playoffs, they need to put the easier teams away. That starts next week in Cleveland, a road game in which Buffalo needs to duplicate - and improve upon - their efforts from the Chiefs game.