Everyone says it… and it’s good to remember: it’s hard to win on the road in NFL. The opponent is comfortable and has the support of a vocal crowd.
So here are the Buffalo Bills, two games into the season with two road wins in the book, including one against a division opponent. The Bills are 2-0, and that was the objective. Mission accomplished.
Are the Jets and Giants two of the five worst teams in the league, and therefore no one should get too excited about the 2019 start? Maybe they are, and maybe most teams in the league would have started 2-0 against the Jets and Giants. No one knows, not yet. But there’s nothing more that a team can do but beat the teams on their schedule. Good teams do that; the Bills just did it.
Even better, the Bills looked like a good team. In both games, they responded to adversity. In both games they were in control as the game wound down in the fourth quarter.
Teams don’t often dominate the play for a full 60 minutes, unless, it seems, you’re playing the Dolphins. What good teams do is dominate enough of the game to be the clear winner. The Bills did that to the Giants. Yes, the Giants, opened the game with a powerful drive, but the Bills responded with a punt and then three straight touchdown drives. Yes, the Giants controlled most of the third quarter and scored early in the fourth, but the Bills responded with a touchdown drive of their own. After that, the Bills shut down the Giants to end the game.
Good teams don’t let stars beat them. The Bills didn’t let Le’Veon Bell beat them in week one, and they didn’t let Saquon Barkley beat them, either. Sure, Barkley looked all world on the opening drive, but after that, the Bills had him contained. The Bills defense challenged the rest of the Giants to beat them, and the Giants more or less had no answer.
All around, it was a quality win.
A few observations:
1. Josh Allen. He is who we thought he is. The guy can throw, he can throw all kinds of passes. He’s still learning. He had an ugly sack fumble that fortunately was blown dead, or so the referee said. He’s still holding the ball too long sometimes, but he will learn. He missed a deep ball. He is getting better and better at finding the open man in the weak part of the defense. He can run, but he isn’t running as much as last season. He’s throwing shorter passes and completing most of them. NFL fans are about to wake up to the fact that the Bills have a quarterback.
2. Running backs. Once again this week, the opponent had the star running back, and the Bills had the better rushing attack. The Bills are getting good blocking at the point of attack, some superb downfield blocking, and the running backs are smart and tough. Gore plowing into the end zone was beautiful. Anyone can see that Singletary can play. He’s special. It would be nice if all he had was a cramp, but I don’t recall seeing many hamstring cramps. His immediate reaction looked like a classic hamstring tear or strain. We will see. He’s a critical part of the offense, even if he isn’t getting a lot of touches yet.
3. Receivers. The success of the passing game is attributable to a point that’s often overlooked: receivers get open based on scheme much more often than they get open because they can “get separation.” Allen’s completions against the Giants usually were uncontested catches, and the receivers weren’t open because they left some defender in the dirt. They ran patterns that gave them an advantage and Allen knew they’d be open. The receivers did their jobs, and they got open. It was textbook football.
4. Who’s responsible for that textbook football? Brian Daboll, that’s who. Over the past two weeks, the Bills offense consistently has had the answer. They’ve had the right play, they called it or they ‘audibled’ into it, and the entire offense has known how to execute.
5. Micah Hyde. I like how he catches punts. And how he hits receivers. Oh, my.
6. Rookies, rookies, rookies. They’re all over the field, and they can play. It’s a testament to McDermott’s process. When the veterans all do their jobs, somehow it’s easy for McDermott to get the rookies to do theirs. Johnson & Johnson on defense, plus Oliver. Knox and Ford (I know, give him time) and Singletary.
7. Perfection? Far from it. There were more than a few ugly plays by one player or another. There’s a lot to improve on. But big picture, these guys are getting the job done.
8. Bojo. Please don’t outkick the coverage. Please.
9. Shaq Lawson is for real. Two weeks in a row. He’s becoming too much for defenses to handle. It’s nice to see.
It’s been years, maybe decades, since Orchard Park has seen a home opener like the one we’ll see this Sunday. It’ll be like a Monday night game. Bills will want and should get non-stop noise. Bengals are 0-2, and yes, they could also be among the five worst teams in the league. The schedule is outside the Bills’ control; how they play is squarely in their control, and so far, the Bills are doing just fine.
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 everyday 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.
Editor’s babble: Thanks, as always, to Mark Korber for his contributions to our blog. You can’t find Mark on Twitter, but you can find him posting at twobillsdrive.com’s Stadium Wall message board.