Sunday, October 19, 2014

5 Things: Bills 17 Minnesota 16

This is probably the biggest win for the Buffalo Bills franchise in years. That they were expected to win this game doesn't matter, the way they won is what counts: a last second TD pass to Sammy Watkins in a drive that included completing a fourth and twenty. I watched most of the fourth quarter with the sound off. (It's easier to see what's happening without the noise. Not exactly like watching coaches' tapes, but it's better) Okay, let's go to five things.

1. Turnovers are the most predicative stat in football. The Bills turned it over four times (the Vikings had two), two of them in the red zone. That the Bills were able to overcome those two turnovers speaks to the quality of their competition. (Look what happened against New England) If they don't clean that up, this season will be over in short order. They have to do a better job taking care of the football.

2. The Bills lost CJ Spiller (broken collarbone) and Fred Jackson (MRI coming) which meant a lot of time for Anthony Dixon. The issue isn't Spiller, who aside from that 51 yard run today before he got hurt, hasn't been effective this year. Some of that blame has to go to the coaching staff, which hasn't been terribly creative in getting him the ball, but that's not where the problem lies. (More on this in point 3) Fred Jackson is the more valuable player, the one who will be hard to replace. He's their leading receiver out of the backfield, and terrific at picking up blitzes on third down. Mr. Steady always picks up positive yardage, and knows how to run between two terrible guards. They do have Bryce Brown, who they picked up for a fourth round pick from the Eagles at the draft and who ran well in pre-season. Worried about losing Jackson, but that isn't the biggest concern going forward. No. 3 is.

3. The Bills probably have the worst set of guards in the league. Cyril Richardson was responsible for 3 sacks today (maybe even 4) and Erik Pears on the other side is just as bad. Richardson replaced Kraig Urbik, who shouldn't be playing in the NFL. Glenn is fine at left tackle, and Wood is a very good center, but playing with those two guards is like playing short-handed on every play. They're awful. To my earlier point about Spiller, he isn't a natural, between the tackles runner. He needs bigger holes than a huge back like Dixon or a slitherer like Jackson. Those holes, the push, hasn't been there this year. Just watch the Cowboys. Look at the holes Murray gets from that great offensive line. (Use your PVR and freeze it on replay. What do you think Spiller would do with holes like that?) I don't know how they fix this during the season, but it's tough to get the ball down the field to Watkins or run between the tackles when your two guards are getting blown out on every other play. The worrying part is that other teams will start blitzing the A-gap (the spot between the center and the guards) like Minnesota did in the second half. Especially without a great blocking back like Jackson.

4. Sammy Watkins. Two first round picks for one player is a lot, but wow, he looks like he might be worth it. He gets open consistently. Has great hands. Runs excellent routes. And doesn't seem at all wowed by either the moment or himself. If he stays healthy, the Bills have a generational talent. Spectacular game today, and when they needed him the most, there was no way they were going to anyone else. A rookie, but seven games in, already the most dynamic player on that offense and the one the other teams (sans Revis island) have to stop.

5. I understand that Bills fans are testy. I get it. I've been a fan for thirty years, and the last fifteen have been brutal. But we have to stop ripping the team when they win. It's hard to win in the NFL. When the Bills won against Detroit a coupe weeks ago, I heard numerous fans suggesting it was the Lions' kicker, who missed three field goals, and not the great play of the Bills' defense, that won them the game. Hey, kicking is an important part of the game. And today it's been fans suggesting that a close win like this over a bad opponent at home means they're not a playoff team. Um, not winning enough makes you a non-playoff team. They won. Relax. Enjoy it. Next week marks the halfway point of the season and the Bills are still in it. My point, stop ripping the team when they win. They've done it little enough over the past fifteen years that you should be enjoying the result.