Estimated reading time: 6 minute(s)
Three-and-oh for the first time since 1992. Please pardon the understatement, but things have changed.
1. Of course it’s a cliché, but clichés become clichés because they’re true. Good teams find ways to win when they aren’t playing very well. For three quarters against the Raiders, the Bills simply kept making mistakes. They looked like they could win, the fans thought they could win, but as the game was slowly going down the drain, it seemed like they would lose. Then the team that fans had thought they had, or hoped they had, showed up. And the Bills found a way to win. Outstanding win for a young football team.
On the post game interviews, I heard two special comments from players. In the fourth quarter, when the defense was on the bench, Stroud was telling everyone that championship football teams win games like this. When the offense was on the bench, Edwards was telling his team that the game was not over, that everyone needed to get ready. Gotta love it.
2. Of course it’s a cliché, but clichés become clichés because they’re true. To win a football game, a team has to win in two of the three phases of the game: offense, defense and special teams. For three quarters against the Raiders, only the Bills defense was winning. In fact, a spectacular defensive performance was being wasted. Then, the offense that fans thought they had, or hoped they had, showed up. The defense and the offense won two phases, and that was that.
3. Driving home after the game I heard some guy from Scouts, Inc. talking about quarterbacks. He was asked what he thought about Trent Edwards. He said something like “I don’t think Edwards is a guy you can win with. I think he’s just a manager. He isn’t in a class with Cutler, etc.” Huh? I mean, huh? That guy must have been watching some of the other 1:00 games and just following the score.
Trent was workmanlike for three quarters, trying to avoid the toughest pass rush he’d seen so far this season. He had balls dropped. He threw a few bad passes. He was forced to throw some away. By halftime, Trent hadn’t played well, but he hadn’t hurt us, and the Bills were still in the game.
In the fourth quarter, Trent was everything you could want. He was getting better protection, and he was moving well in the pocket. He kept the team organized, getting the play call and getting the team to the line of scrimmage and in to the play efficiently. One play in the fourth quarter, two players joined the huddle late, just as the huddle was breaking, and Trent got everyone back into the huddle to be sure they all were on the same page. Another time Marshawn got in late, and Trent made sure Marshawn had the play before the snap count.
What was most impressive, when you look back on it, was that on those pass completions on three scoring drives, receivers weren’t making spectacular catches. Trent kept finding the open man and delivering completely catchable balls. He threw masterfully. He hit Reed repeatedly with balls Josh could do something with. He hit Roscoe perfectly, so that Roscoe could make the turn into the end zone. Hardy’s drop was right where the throw needed to be.
Trent Edwards is just a manager? Ten fourth-quarter points on the road to beat Jacksonville? Seventeen fourth-quarter points at home to beat the Raiders?
The guy is still learning, but – WOW!
4. I know he’s only in his second year, but Marshawn Lynch is one of the very best ball carriers in the clutch that I’ve ever seen. He must have had five carries yesterday (one on the shovel pass) either on third or fourth down or in the red zone when the Bills desperately needed the yardage. Marshawn got it every time. The guy will not quit until he gets what he needs. If you have a tape of the game, watch the shovel pass, the first touchdown, the second touchdown and a few of the third and short plays. The guy has unbelievable guts, heart and determination.
5. Sitting in the stadium, I saw no one who stood out on defense. And isn’t that the kind of defense we want to have? Look at the stats. EVERYONE had a lot of tackles. Look at the total yards. Take away the long touchdown pass, and what did the Raiders get? Nothing. Granted, the Raiders have decided that they can’t put the ball in Russell’s hands all day long, so their offense is a bit one-dimensional. Whatever. The Bills’ defense shut them down.
6. I liked Whitner’s penalty. Yes, it could have hurt the team, but winner’s need that attitude. They need pride in what they’re doing, and Whitner was showing his teammates and his fans that he has that pride. He’s a smart guy. It was a calculated move by a leader, calculated to show everyone what it takes. It said “I’m not afraid and I won’t back down.” I liked it. (May not have liked it so much if we had lost, I suppose, but we didn’t. In fact, that play may have helped the Bills win.)
7. The 12th Man was pretty quiet most the game. The offense and special teams certainly weren’t giving fans anything to yell about. But after the Lynch touchdown to get us to 16-14, the noise in the stadium was unbelievable. Maybe the loudest I’ve ever heard it. Easily as loud as the loudest noise at the Cowboys game last year. Stroud kept pumping his arms, pleading for more, and the crowd responded. Then the Raiders got the long TD, but no one thought it was over. As the defense returned, down 23-21, the noise came back. It was deafening. Russell had to be wondering what was going on. Magnificent.
8. The special teams got outplayed. The kickoff return to open the game, the missed field goal, and the punt run out of the end zone put the Bills in a hole each time. Their punter kept giving Roscoe deep, unreturnable balls.
*** Just like the special teams, the Ball Burglar barely showed up at the stadium yesterday. Not for lack of trying. Several times I saw defenders trying to strip balls, but it didn’t work. ***
*** Four takeaways on the season so far. People keep signing up. The Burglar is paying over $270 for every takeaway the Bills get; but if you want more takeaways, he’ll need to pay a lot more than that. Throw your buck or two into the kitty today. Go to www.Ballburglar.com, click on “Join” and sign up today. It’ll only take a couple of minutes, and you’ll be glad you did. ***
*** And watch these pages for an exciting announcement about the Burglar in the coming days. The Ball Burglar is on the move. ***
9. I haven’t seen an injury report, but I understand Langston Walker left the game at some point. I don’t know if he returned. I also didn’t see Darian Barnes in at fullback in the fourth quarter. That may have been because the Bills wanted Schouman, the better receiving threat, on the field when they lined up with a fullback. It would be a shame if Barnes were injured, because the guy made some spectacular runs. What a gamer.
10. The half-time was moving – unveiling Bruce’s name on the wall. Bruce spoke really nicely, from the heart. You could see in his face and hear in his voice how much his experience with the Bills fans meant to him. He was great. As I was leaving the stadium, filled with pride for my team and what they had just accomplished, I looked back and could see the Jumbotron. They were showing, for a few seconds each, short clips from the game, and it made me feel good. Then they froze a picture of Bruce on the screen, in his prime on the sidelines, in his blue (what we now call throwback) jersey, helmet off, big Bruce Smith smile, pointing his figure toward the camera, as if he were saying “Now, THAT’S what I’m talking about!” It was the perfect end to the afternoon.
There are no easy games in the NFL, expecially on the road. Enjoy the win, Bills, and then get ready for another battle this Sunday.