Editor’s Note: Almost immediately following its official inception during the first week of August, the #BillsMafia movement has had followers naming/renaming their Twitter handles using the term “Bills Mafia.” One of the first to do so was @BillsMafiaDon, the self-appointed “Don” of the movement. An active, vocal member of the #BillsMafia community, @BillsMafiaDon has been offered the opportunity to blog here at BillsMafia.com in a special weekly column.
Underdogs exist in all walks of life. Whether you are an individual overcoming personal adversity, or a group of individuals overcoming odds, these kinds of stories stick within the minds of the observer. This is especially true within the world of sports. One such story that comes to mind for me is the story of Bobby Martin, and if you are not familiar with his tale, I recommend reading up on this extremely inspirational young man. Bobby, no different than your average teenager, grew up loving football, and was rarely seen in his community without a smile on his face. What makes him stand out? Bobby was born without legs. Despite this obstacle being thrown his way, Bobby went on to play football for his high school’s team. Talk about overcoming adversity, eh? Some students can’t achieve this WITH legs. Bobby Martin was an underdog from the very moment he was introduced to this world, but Bobby wasn’t going to allow himself to be stuck with the underdog label forever. He was determined to change the way people saw him.
While there are stories of great inspiration involving the individual underdogs of the world, there are also the stories of the groups who seemingly fall out of favor. On occasion, these groups get absolutely blasted in the media, and shots are taken whenever the opportunity presents itself. For our Buffalo Bills, this certainly was the case. After years of futility, the Bills had somehow transitioned from the underdogs, to the outright disrespected. Even when our team experienced success, there always seemed to be an excuse for the team we had defeated. More attention was given to the mistakes made by our opponents, rather than what we did to come out victorious. It had even come to the point where Bills fans throughout the nation had come to expect this kind of treatment, and some even mirrored these opinions when they talk about their own team. Those days seem to be fading; at least for the time being.
If you haven’t noticed by now, the media is now starting to change their tune when it comes to our Buffalo Bills. Some of the mouthpieces have been trashing us since the pre-season, but all of the sudden, these same people want to let the world know that the Buffalo Bills are for real. For the record, Bills Mafia has known this for quite some time. My take on this newfound respect (or the appearance of) is this: We don’t need their love, because we know how much they want to hate. All that matters is that the family believes.
The Week That Was:
(1-3) Philadelphia Eagles 24 @ (3-1) Buffalo Bills 31
The Buffalo Bills have been the underdog going into almost every game they have played this season. This trend continued, as they prepared for their week 5 matchup against a desperate Philadelphia Eagles team. Not only were the Bills seen as underdogs by the majority, but of the ESPN “experts” who submitted their week 5 picks on ESPN.com, only one of the 10 on the committee picked Buffalo to win (Merrill Hoge). While there were others throughout the nation who picked Buffalo to win this game, it seemed all but inevitable to the masses that Buffalo was about to be exposed against Philadelphia. The Bills had other plans.
On Sunday, Philadelphia faced an opportunistic Buffalo defense, a defense that was tied for the lead league in takeaways through the first 4 weeks of the season. Despite their inability to hold opposing offenses under 400 yards in recent games, this defensive unit for the Bills has made big plays in key situations, helping the team become one of the more dangerous opponents in the NFL. Even though this Buffalo defense allowed a high yardage total against Philadelphia, they were able to create 5 turnovers en route to another victory at Ralph Wilson Stadium, pushing the team to a 4-1 start. The offense didn’t do so bad either, as they continued their trends in both red zone efficiency, and in the area of capitalizing on the opportunities created by their defense. Here are some notes from Sunday’s victory against the Eagles.
- In Sunday’s game, RB Fred Jackson passed Travis Henry in the Buffalo Bills record books. Jackson now ranks 10th all-time in team history in the yards from scrimmage category. Jackson is also the first Buffalo Bills player in 20 years to have 700 or more yards from scrimmage in the first 5 games of a season.
- The Buffalo Bills have returned interceptions for touchdowns in 3 straight games. This is the first time a Bills team has done so since 1960.
- The Buffalo Bills are 1 of only 3 teams in the NFL who have yet to lose a fumble this season. The other 2 teams are the Lions and Patriots. These three teams have a combined record of 13-2.
- The Buffalo Bills have scored a TD or FG on every red zone possession they have had this season.
As I stated last week, both of these teams possess the ability to make big plays, and I shared the opinion that we could see points in bunches. While this game wasn’t the highest scoring game we have seen thus far in the 2011 season, it still came down to another dramatic finish (something I also suggested may happen). The prediction I gave last week was a 31-30 victory for Buffalo, and I have to say, I’m doing pretty darn good with my predictions up to this point in the season. Enough of me patting myself on the back though: It’s about time we start praising our warriors.
It became apparent to me (and many others) that the running game on both sides was going to dictate the outcome of this game. For the Bills, the defense’s concerns were not limited to the Eagles’ running backs. On top of the fact that Buffalo wanted to limit the amount of touches seen by LeSean McCoy, it was a must that they also pay close attention to Michael Vick, who is one of the most dynamic athletes in the NFL. On the flip side of things, the Buffalo offense needed to come into this game with a run first mentality, as they were facing one of the NFL’s worst run defenses.
The game plan here was to feed Fred as much as possible, to force the Eagles into making quick decisions in passing situations, and to make plays on the ball. These plans proved successful, as the as Fred finished the game with 196 total yards (111 of those yards on the ground). Defensively, the Bills blitzed more than they have in any other game this year, and forced the Eagles to commit 5 turnovers in the game.
In the first 5 weeks, we have seen the Bills win via blowout, coming from behind, and holding opponents off as they attempted a comeback of their own. More importantly, the Bills showed us that they know how to rebound from a loss. In week 4, Buffalo blew a lead in Cincinnati, but proved that they have learned from the mistakes they made in that game, as they were able to close out the Eagles, preventing a comeback similar to the one we saw against the Bengals. At the end of the day, the Bills won the game 31-24, and have now equaled their win total from last year.
Overall, I couldn’t be more proud of our team up to this point in the season. Sure, we have some glaring concerns that are starting to surface as the season progresses, but it seems as if this Bills team has finally figured out how to win, no matter the situation. As for Sunday’s performance, I have to dish out a B+ for the boys. Points were deducted for the lead dissipation, and we definitely need to figure out a way to stop giving up so many yards. Enough of the nitpicking though. Now it’s time to focus on another NFC East opponent: The New York Giants.
The Week That Will Be:
(4-1) Buffalo Bills @ (3-2) New York Giants
In order for the Bills to get the offense rolling on Sunday, they must feed the ball to Fred Jackson early and often. The Giants, who have struggled against the run during Justin Tuck’s absence, will be without their defensive end once again this week. In the last 2 games without Tuck, the Giants have allowed opposing RBs to rush for 272 yards on 49 carries (5.55 per rush), and have given up a total of 4 rushing touchdowns. This certainly spells trouble for the New Jersey….err… New York defense this Sunday, as they are about to face one of the league’s most dynamic players in Fred Jackson. If the Bills’ run game can be established, it will open up the passing game for Ryan Fitzpatrick, who currently ranks as the 5th best quarterback in the NFL according to ESPN’s QBR rankings.
Defensively, the Bills need to get in Eli Manning’s face and force him to make quick decisions. The Bills look like they will be without Chris Kelsay for the second straight week, and could be without Merriman and Kyle Williams as well. In order for the Bills front to be successful this Sunday, the younger players on the roster such as Arthur Moats, Danny Batten, and Alex Carrington will need to play well in the absence of our veteran leaders. For the Giants, their running game will be missing Brandon Jacobs, but RB Ahmad Bradshaw is not the kind of player we can take lightly. Even though Bradshaw is not at full strength, the Bills need to know where he is at all times this Sunday. Bradshaw will be given plenty of opportunities this week, and in passing situations, he will be a key asset for Manning as Eli will look to check the ball down if he is facing pressure. Bradshaw’s play this week will be a key element in the outcome of this game.
In the end, I don’t expect the Giants to have enough to beat us this weekend. I think both of these teams will score plenty, but I am giving the edge here to our Buffalo Bills. These 2 teams are very similar in many aspects, but look for the Bills defense to continue their takeaway party. If the Bills offense can continue to capitalize on the opportunities given to them, they should come out of this game victorious. My prediction for this Sunday is a Bills win by the tune of 34-27.
Quote Of The Week:
“We don’t care what other teams are thinking, we’re worried about our guys, in our locker room. If we do our job, we will be a tough ballclub to beat, regardless of who we’re playing. We just gotta take it one game at a time. Enjoy this one until tomorrow afternoon…Hey, I don’t even know what happened today, I’m looking forward to the Giants in the Meadowlands next week.”
Calling Out A Hater:
During the preseason, a local radio host here in our area was doing an NFL segment during his show. This show was aired on our ESPN affiliate, 104.5 “The Team.” This host went on to take a call from a Buffalo Bills fan, and then proceeded to share his opinions on our 2011 Buffalo Bills. What did he say you ask? At first, he stated the Buffalo Bills would have 4 total wins on the season, a mark they have already reached. Then, the kicker (no not Lindell), but the quote that really got me: “The Buffalo Bills don’t have any linebackers. They don’t have a defensive line.” Immediately, my ears perked, and anger began to set in. I called him, and was eventually on the air. I simply asked him if he forms his opinions based around facts, or if he just bases it on perception and assumptions. I informed him that we have these 2 beasts named Kyle and Marcel. I told him of these guys named Barnett, Merriman, Davis, and others. I explained exactly what we had in store for the league… and I was basically laughed off the air. To make matters even worse, he continued to rip me after he hung up on me. Now I’m calling you out BRIAN! You laughed me off the air, but now I’m laughing because you’re off the air. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that you DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT.
And on that note, I’m out #BillsMafia.
Peace and Blessings,
Sean (aka “@BillsMafiaDon”)
Bills Mafia Blog