Finally, mercifully, re-watching a Buffalo Bills game was worth the time investment this week. Considering the length of the game and the fact that it's a busy week for me, I didn't get through all of the tape this week - my apologies. There are still several talking points to bring up from the Bills' 16-13 overtime victory over the New York Jets on Sunday.
Topics of conversation that you'll find after the jump: Dick Jauron; Ryan Fitzpatrick; the offensive line; the non-no-huddle offense; linebacker play against the run, and how opponents are exploiting them; Drayton Florence; team mistakes. Enjoy!
On Dick Jauron: I'll defer to MARVelous' ridiculously awesome FanPost from this morning for the bulk of the argument here. Jauron deserves credit for getting his troops ready. No, they didn't play particularly well, and yes, they were probably only alive late in this game because Mark Sanchez was so ridiculously awful. No, I wasn't particularly enthused about his decision to run to set up the field goal - but considering how the Bills' visit to the Meadowlands ended in 2008, I wasn't mad about it, either. The clock management, at any rate, was superb, as Rian Lindell kicked as the clock expired. I'm not asking anyone to change their opinions on whether Jauron needs to stay or go. Just play the hate game fairly. When the Bills lose, Jauron deserves some blame. When they win, he deserves some credit, too. I liked his game plans (specifically incorporating the slant pattern against the Jets' blitz), and his guys, as usual, played hard the whole way.
On Ryan Fitzpatrick: Let's walk a fine line here. Fitzpatrick was not good on Sunday. He also was not as bad as his stat line indicates. What I didn't like: his accuracy - and really, that's about it. The guy was all over the place with his throws, even on the slant to Lee Evans that ended in six points. He had perfect throws (the fade to Evans in overtime), and he had horrid throws (several bounced passes). What I did like, however, was his pocket presence and his decisiveness. Fitzpatrick kept plays alive with his feet, and he handled Jets pressures pretty well - and read them well pre-snap, I might add. The guy is nothing more than a backup quarterback, but he's a pretty good backup. I'm comfortable with him playing in a fill-in role. I will say, however, that the interception he threw in overtime was one of the poorest decisions and throws I've ever seen a quarterback make. Very Sanchez-like.
On the offensive line: People have been saying they played well on Sunday, and the fact is, they weren't bad. Particularly in terms of penalties, the Bills' offensive front cut down significantly - and that played a key role in the game. But they weren't great, either. The pass protection still sprung a few too many leaks for comfort, and the Bills averaged only 3.3 yards per carry between Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson, despite Kris Jenkins leaving early with a season-ending ACL injury. Still, the relative anonymity of players like Demetrius Bell and Jamon Meredith - both did well against creative Jets blitz packages - is better than we've had. As these guys get better, our offense will diversify - we've really limited our attack in order to give our quarterbacks bulked up protection schemes.
Oh, and before I forget - Meredith needs to remain the starter at right tackle. Nothing against Jonathan Scott, but even if he's healthy this week, continuity up front is paramount. The young guys aren't going to progress much this season if they're playing next to new people every week. Ride this five as long as you can, for better or worse.
On the non-no-huddle offense: For at least one week, the move was smart - not only because it gave the Bills an extra bit of rhythm offensively, but because it allowed the Bills to more easily change the tempo of the game. Fitzpatrick went no-huddle suddenly after a play and caught the Jets with about 15 defenders on the field. Having that no-huddle background in their pocket allowed for quick communication and an easy five yards - but not limiting the offense to solely the no-huddle allows the Bills to dictate even more. We'll see how the offense progresses in or out of the huddle, but for now, the tempo card is an extra bonus.
On our linebackers and difficulty defending the run: Misdirection plays are still killing this unit. In general, Buffalo's defensive line - ends and tackles alike - are playing well at the point of attack. Yes, there are blips there, but that's true of any NFL team. The gap control of the linebackers has been abysmal, and it's simply because they're trying to play fast against teams that are doing everything they can to out-think them. Both of Thomas Jones' big runs on Sunday came on plays in which all three linebackers on the field slid to the strong side of the run, and Jones cut behind their flow. Pretty simple. Those runs aren't big runs if there's proper safety contain, but the crux of the issue lies with linebackers simply not reading their keys well. Paul Posluszny is the only player of the three to consistently flash recognition and make a play at or behind the line of scrimmage against the run (though Keith Ellison did this once or twice as well). More study and more experience is obviously needed, but right now, cutbacks and misdirections continue to kill this team. It doesn't help when ends and safeties over-pursue, obviously, but the problems right now start at linebacker.
On Drayton Florence: I got on Florence's case a little bit in the pre-season for his pro-Michael Vick-to-Buffalo sentiment, but that's completely unrelated to his play on the field - and he's been lights out. His run support could use a face lift, but he's been outstanding in coverage. He drew Braylon Edwards a few times on Sunday, and more than held his own. He obviously held his own against any other receiver the Jets tossed on the field, because Edwards was the only Jets receiver to catch a pass. Florence brings an energy and swagger to the entire defensive backfield that Leodis McKelvin has, but does not display as frequency. He's been a great addition for this defense, and as well as Jabari Greer is playing in New Orleans, Florence has been just as good in Buffalo.
On team mistakes: Buffalo did not exactly improve in this department. They still committed 8 penalties for 64 yards, and the team still turned the ball over twice. In short, they still played like a brutally youthful football team. But the fact that the Jets turned it over six times, and committed 14 penalties for 96 yards, was the difference in the game. I've beaten the dead horse enough, so I'll sum it up: teams that make the fewest mistakes generally win football games. The Bills clearly still have a ton of work to do in this department themselves, but as long as they keep forcing their opponents into mistakes (or simply capitalizing on non-forced mistakes), they'll win some more football games.