Things change quickly in Buffalo. A week ago Ryan Fitzpatrick was the worst quarterback to ever suit up and Mario Williams wasn’t worth a dime. While Fitzpatrick probably didn’t do much to reverse anyone’s opinion of him – perhaps the same is true of Super Mario for some – the Bills looked like a totally different team than the one that bounced out of New York after a brutal loss in week one.
Last week, the passing attack looked stagnant, the linebacker’s inability to support in coverage hurt the secondary (and scoreboard) and many questionable personnel decisions had been made. While a blowout win, such as Sunday’s, offers little in terms of evaluations, the Bills certainly improved on their shortcomings last week.
Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn’t an integral part of the gameplan and he did a sound job in managing the game and controlling what he could. Most importantly, he protected the football. There were still some questionable decisions made in terms of personnel and different sub-packages, but those types of decisions are best left with the coaching staff. Meanwhile, the defence looked every bit as effective as they were expected to be this season.
With Cleveland on the horizon, the run defence will need to remain stout and the pass rush will need to be effective once again. Based on this week, there is potential that the Cleveland game could become Buffalo’s second straight victory. So long as they continue to shape up in a few areas.
1. Stay diverse offensively: C.J. Spiller officially has a target on his back. He blew up in week one and stayed consistent against the Chiefs. However, the Bills attack hasn’t necessarily found the success they enjoyed last year with their quick strike passing that was balanced by Fred Jackson’s dominance in the running game.
While Spiller’s emergence has been more than refreshing, there will come a point that teams will begin to stack the box to counter the dominant running attack the Bills have enjoyed. Stevie Johnson and Scott Chandler were both utilized on Sunday and Johnson has seen his fair share of targets in each of the first two games. This needs to continue but to another level.
If Chan Gailey is indeed an NFL coach, he will not abandon the running game. However, he will find a way to ensure that the passing game gets respect from opponents. This means involving Donald Jones and T.J. Graham more than they have been. This also means implementing more plays than just an end around for H-back Dorin Dickerson. There are some interesting passing options on this roster and none include Brad Smith as a target in a three-wide set. To keep Spiller running wild, the Bills will need to introduce a few more dangerous looks in the passing game.
2. Improve the punt coverage: Maybe this is something that was taken for granted for so many years with Brian Moorman kicking for the Bills. However, each week the Bills have looked somewhat displaced on punt coverage with Jeremy Kerley’s touchdown being the most glaring shortcoming.
Buffalo was so much better than the Chiefs in so many aspects of the game, that there aren’t too many new issues that came up with Sunday’s win. However, it seems as if the punt coverage team still lacks cohesiveness and could maybe even benefit from some better kicks from Moorman. He is certainly capable, his performance in the preseason was stellar and it’s obvious that he is still capable of being an extremely effective punter.
3. Win at the point of attack: The linebacking corps didn’t need to do much in pass coverage this week so it is hard to say if they were greatly improved as compared to last week. However, the defense as a whole was improved and the linebackers were far more visible, in a good way.
So far the defensive line has done a great job occupying blockers and the linebackers have eaten up running backs in both week one and two. This has, in fact, been one of the team’s greatest strengths. The Browns have a pretty solid back in Trent Richardson and he will need the same treatment given to Shonn Greene and the KC platoon.
Mario Williams and Mark Anderson were solid on Sunday and the defensive tackles were near dominant against KC. If this type of play can remain a constant the linebackers will not only be able to continue their dominant run support, but be free to run in coverage and in a pass rush capacity without fear of being exploited. While the front seven has not been a weak point by any stretch, their play must continue for Buffalo’s overall defensive success. It is a trickle-down effect that starts with the line and eventually ends up in the secondary.
Considering the shortcomings the Bills encountered in week one, week two was nearly a 180-degree change. Buffalo was effective against the pass and weren’t exploited until garbage time when the game was well in hand. In fact, had the game been closer, the late yardage they yielded may not have occurred.
The Cleveland game will likely provide a better barometer of effectiveness for the offense and defense and could potentially provide insight as to the overall effectiveness of the offense as they trend towards what might just be a run oriented attack.