The Rockpile Review: Takin’ Care of Business

Editor’s Note: We’ve agreed to begin hosting the “Rockpile Review,” a weekly mainstay written by “Shaw66” at the Buffalo Bills Message Boards for years. It will continue to appear in its normal place at the BBMB, but will now reach a new audience through the Bills Mafia Blog as well.

Shaw66 has been a Bills fan since attending the the first game at the Rockpile in 1960. He’s new to the Bills Mafia, but he’s been a leader of the Ball Burglar’s gang since it was formed in 2004. (What is the Ball Burglar? Click here to find out.) He claims he can barely spell “Twitter,” but he can write.

Shaw66 brings a long-term perspective few in the #BillsMafia movement have, so view this as an opportunity to perhaps have your horizons expanded a little. While the tone may be slightly different than our other bloggers “on staff,” Shaw66 still brings an attitude that is consistent with what #BillsMafia is all about.

Takin’ Care of Business

It’s getting tougher and tougher to write the Rockpile Review right after the games. It’s always something; this week it was travel and weather.

I went to Florida on Thursday for the Ultimate Club National Championships. My team, District 5, lost in the semi-finals on Saturday afternoon. After a great, wind-blown final game on Sunday, we drove to Tampa and watched the Bills and Redskins at Beef O’Brady’s. Fortunately, the Bills made quick work of it, and we got to the airport with plenty of time to spare.

Plane was delayed, of course, and we got into Connecticut about 11:30. That’s when the fun began. Connecticut had been devastated by a freak snow storm on Saturday, much like the storm that decimated western New York a few years ago. Most of the leaves weren’t off the trees, and the leaves caught the unusually heavy snow. Trees and branches were down everywhere. By Sunday morning, more than 800,000 people were without power.

So when we got home, the house was cold and dark. No Rockpile Review Sunday night. Monday was work and driving around trying to find an open gas station.

So now it’s Tuesday night and the Jets game will be upon us if I don’t write this thing tonight.

I was watching the game from long range, with no sound, so mostly what I was getting was an overview – numbers were more or less impossible to see. A cute blond in a Bills jersey had a great seat right in front of the Bills TV AND the Pats TV. I would have joined her, except I was with my wife. So we were relegated to the cheap seats.

Takin’ care of business – that’s what Sunday’s game was about. Good teams handle inferior opponents and move on. They aren’t looking to run up the score, they aren’t looking to make it exciting. Get an early lead, clamp down on the opponent and coast home in the fourth quarter. Nothing fancy; just take the W and get ready for next week.

The Bills looked like a good team on Sunday. Were the Redskins an inferior opponent? They sure looked like it. Before the Bills game, they had been at least reasonably effective on offense and defense. On Sunday they were dominated on both sides of the ball. Of course, they were playing with a sorry quarterback, and they were missing their best running back and their best receiver. A better QB would have made the game different; without a better quarterback, it really didn’t matter what running backs and receivers were on the field.

It was definitely the Ryan FitzMagic show.
It was definitely the Ryan FitzMagic show.

Against the Redskins, it was definitely the Ryan FitzMagic show. The guy is playing in the NFL because of his superior intellect; he simply understands what’s going on on the field and executes. His classy play controlled the offensive game for the Bills. He found Chandler twice for TDs on plays where he read the defense, knew where the open man was and delivered the ball.

The second TD was a thing of beauty. He lofted the ball into the left corner of the endzone, deep enough so that Chandler had to continue his route at nearly full speed, which gave the defender absolutely no opportunity to close on Chandler or make a play on the ball. Still, the ball was thrown so that Chandler didn’t have to leave his feet to make the catch or worry about the sideline coming into play. Great, great touch on that ball.

Fitz stood in and took the hit from Fletcher on the play that Freddy turned into a long gain.

Fitz checked beautifully to complete a silly little pass to Fred just over the line of scrimmage for a key second-half first down.

The guy is in complete control of the offense. Remarkable talent.

Even his biggest problem of the day turned out okay, when he had Spiller deep and – once again – under threw him. This time, however, it wasn’t Corey Webster defending, and the throws that turned into interceptions against the Giants became a long pass interference penalty in Toronto.

To say it was the FitzMagic show, of course, doesn’t tell the whole story, because Fred Magic-Jackson was on display, as well. Every week, every week, the guy is like magic. How does he do that? It’s magic.

The Redskins had been pretty good getting at the QB in earlier games, and they got to Fitz a few times. Most of the time, however, the offensive line was in control, both in the run game and in pass protection. Gailey tipped his hat to Levitre after the game, as well he should. Stick the guy out there after spending all of his pro career at guard, and have him put in that kind of performance – WOW!

So, was the defense good, or were the Redskins horrible on offense? Hard to say. The pass rush the Bills put on was relentless. They didn’t come up with many free runs at Beck (did I say he was horrible?), except the Byrd sack. But the front four was relentless attacking, and Beck’s indecision gave the Bills just enough time to get to him several times.

Did the defensive line come of age, or was it the Redskins? We’ll know better when we see how they do against the Jets.

Nick Barnett demonstrated, again, why he may have been the prize free agent of the 2011 off-season.
Nick Barnett demonstrated, again, why he may have been the prize free agent of the 2011 off-season.

There were nice plays all over the defense. The two picks were nice defensive plays. Marcell Dareus showed, again, his extraordinary physical talents. Nick Barnett demonstrated, again, why he may have been the prize free agent of the 2011 off-season. Leodis McKelvin seemed stuck to his man all day long.

How do we know the 2011 Bills are different? One way is that the guy who seemed to be the best player on the team for the past several years, Brian Moorman, suddenly has become an afterthought. Finally, this team isn’t dependent on Moorman to make the best plays, and Bills fans have great players to talk about at other positions.

So what exactly is the story about the 2011 Bills? We’ll know in less than two weeks.

There are three kinds of wins that the mark good teams: easy wins over inferior opponents (check), wins over good opponents in the division (Jets) and wins over good opponents on the road (Cowboys). Wins in the next two weeks would send the Bills to 7-2 and end all arguments about whether the Bills have arrived. If they go to 7-2, they will have arrived, ahead of schedule.

If, on the other hand, they find themselves at 5-4, they will have demonstrated that they are a nice team, improved over last season, but with more distance to cover before they can be considered a serious playoff team.

The Jets are tough, with a creative coach, but their offense continues to struggle and their defense is not impenetrable.
The Jets are tough, with a creative coach, but their offense continues to struggle and their defense is not impenetrable.

7-2 is well within reach. The Jets are tough, with a creative coach, but their offense continues to struggle and their defense is not impenetrable. The Cowboys have had their moments, but they aren’t the dominant team their mystique suggests they are. (What is it with the Cowboys? Every year fans think the Cowboys are a premier team, but the truth is they haven’t won much of anything in a long time.)

The Bills look like a lot of the better teams in the league – tough, a serious threat to beat anyone, and a team with flaws. If someone – the Jets? – figures out how to shut down the short passing game, the Bills’ offense could fizzle. If they figure out how to bottle up Fred at the same time, lights out. Can the Bills offense gain yards and score points in the fourth quarter? Has the Bills defense stiffened, or is it still vulnerable to good running attacks?

The Bills haven’t been dominating teams, but other than the Packers, no one has. Every team has flaws.

We’ll know better what we have in a couple of weeks.


The Rockpile Review is written to share the passion we have for the Buffalo Bills. That passion was born in the Rockpile; its parents were every-day people of western New York who translated their dedication to a full day’s hard work and simple pleasures into love for a pro football team.

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