Victory is sweet, Bills fans. After three disappointing losses to open the 2007 campaign, the Buffalo Bills got the monkey off their back yesterday with a very solid 17-14 victory over the division rival New York Jets. Rallying behind two offensive rookies and an overachieving, banged up defense, the Bills put one in the win column and gained a boatload of confidence heading into perhaps their toughest matchup of the season to date.
Offense: Finally, Double-Digit Points
Edwards solid in debut: You've read about the story of Trent Edwards everywhere. In his first NFL start, he completed 79% of his passes, threw a game-winning touchdown and has Bills fans screaming "quarterback controversy". While I personally maintain that there is no controversy, the fact of the matter is that Edwards torched the Jets in his first NFL start. I'm still 100% behind J.P. Losman as the Bills' starting quarterback, but boy, was it fun to watch #5 operate yesterday.
Spread the Wealth: Chalk this one up to Steve Fairchild. For the first time in the 2007 campaign, our beloved offensive coordinator actually came up with a solid game plan: pass to set up the run. Picking on a Jets secondary that ranks amongst the worst in the league statistically, the Bills were able to spread the ball around to six different receivers on Sunday, which helped keep the Jets guessing defensively. Lee Evans led the charge with 6 catches for 72 yards, and Josh Reed had a productive day as well (4-64). But the most impressive statistic: Bills tight ends Robert Royal and Michael Gaines combined for 7 catches, 51 yards and a score. When the tight ends factor into the passing game for Buffalo, this offense can be difficult to get off the field.
Run Marshawn, Run: The Jets came to Buffalo on Sunday with one goal in mind - shut down Marshawn Lynch. Routinely, they stuck 7 or 8 men in the box to try to take away the Bills' running attack. It didn't work, mostly due to the Jets' inability to slow down Edwards and the passing attack. By day's end, Lynch had racked up 79 yards on 23 carries and picked up his third touchdown of the season as well. Lynch is currently averaging 3.8 yards per carry on the season; he's earned every inch of that. Once the Bills can consistently move the chains through the air, game in and game out, we'll likely see Lynch's YPC increase.
Defense: Oxygen = Improvement
Bills Win Time of Possession: One other important win for the Bills on Sunday was beating the Jets in time of possession. When you consider the fact that Chad Pennington completed 82% of his passes (32/39), it's pretty unbelievable that the Bills could pull this off. Yet the Bills held the ball for 32 minutes compared to the Jets' 28; keeping the defense off the field really helped the team create the big defensive plays that were necessary to pull off the victory.
Run D Strong: New York came into this game thinking that they would pass on the Bills all day. And it worked - Pennington threw for 290 yards and pretty much had his way with short, underneath throws against the Bills' zone defense. But a one-dimensional offense can't win a football game, and the Bills were able to neutralize the Jets' rushing attack. New York carried 19 times for a total of 60 yards, and they scored once on the ground (Leon Washington) to make it 17-14. Thomas Jones picked up just 35 yards on 12 carries (2.9 YPC). This was a great showing for a Bills run defense that had been shredded by their opponents through three weeks. An aggressive defensive line gets most of the credit here - the Bills' defensive tackles are pretty underrated.
Big Play Corners: The icing on the cake defensively for the Bills was making plays to seal the win. We speak primarily of two big turnovers, the first of which was made on a jumped route by Jabari Greer that led to the Michael Gaines touchdown, essentially winning the game for the Bills. Greer, who was manhandled by Randy Moss last weekend in New England, played well in the place of Ashton Youboty, who went down early in the contest with an ankle injury. Terrence McGee, who sat out last week's loss to New England, returned with a vengeance on Sunday. After giving up a touchdown to Laveranues Coles earlier in the second half, McGee played Pennington's last throw perfectly and came up with the game-sealing INT as the Jets attempted to drive for a game-tying field goal. Missing a total of seven one-time starters, this reserve-laden defense put on a show on Sunday.
Next Week: vs. Dallas Cowboys (4-0)
Monday Night Football has arrived. This coming Monday, October 8, the Bills will play host to the undefeated Dallas Cowboys in front of a nationally televised audience. While the stage brings an undeniable amount of excitement and energy to the game, the opponent should not - Dallas has scored 151 points in their first four games (almost 38 per), and QB Tony Romo is the early-season front-runner for MVP. It will take a heroic effort from the Bills to pull out a win, but make no mistake - this Bills team is confident enough to pull off the unthinkable next week. We'll have much, much more on this matchup in the coming days; for now, let's reflect on the Jets game and the Bills' first win of the season.