With a big division win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, many Bills fans have decided to emulate our aquatic brethren and throw a victory parade. After all, they’re 2-0, 1-0 in the division, and sitting pretty in first place. What could possibly go wrong? Just ask the 2011 Bills.
From a gameplay standpoint, the Bills did a lot of things right in their latest win, particularly on defense. They put a lot of pressure on the opposing QB, stifled the run game, and didn’t get exposed in coverage like they did against the Bears. And special teams was on fire, a huge improvement over last year’s pathetic performance in the often neglected and forgotten third phase of the game. But what disappointed me most was that this game should have been a blowout. I suppose a 19 point win can be considered a blow out, but it should have been at least twice that. The offense still needs a lot of work in the red zone, something the team seems to be well aware of based on their post-game comments.
Since we know the defense and the special teams were both great, I’m going to break down the offense a bit and see where things went right and wrong. Starting with what went right, no turnovers. This is outstanding. EJ was smart with the ball, he didn’t take too many risks, and he knew when to throw it away. This is an improvement, by anyone’s estimation, and hopefully he’ll continue this behavior throughout the season. Sammy Watkins has his breakout game in the NFL, breaking 100 yards and getting his first NFL TD. The offense was clearly focused on him and the Dolphins had no real answer. And if people were wondering why the Bills would put CJ Spiller, their elite back, on the field for kick returns, well, this is why.
The run game was not as lucky. For some reason, Can’t Hack-ett decided that running right into the teeth of a talented defensive line was a great game plan and the Bills averaged a meager two yards per carry for much of the game. If not for CJ’s big run late in the game, it would have been a miserable day for the usually effective Bills RB stable. And, my god, the red zone offense. Six trips inside the 20, five FGs and one TD. That has to change. You can’t consistently win in this league with field goals, people. Running it up the gut won’t work against good defenses, so it’s time to get a little more creative. I would love to see Chandler and Mike Williams get more involved in the red zone, they’re big bodies with good hands and the fact that they haven’t been involved thus far is a crime. If Sammy Watkins is the athletic freak we’ve been told he is, then toss him a little fade and let him come down with it. Getting Spiller the ball on the outside worked fine in Week 1, give him a little space and he’ll take it ten yards to the house. Really, do anything other than run it up the gut three times, then kick a FG (though I do enjoy the fact that Dan Carpenter has outscored the entire Dolphins offense in the three times he’s played them since being cut by them).
And so, while I’m thrilled to be 2-0, a record I did not expect after two weeks, I’m not going to read too much into it. Our defense and special teams won’t always be there to bail us out, so we need to get offensive points on the board more consistently, or what looks like a promising season could end up with a very familiar result.