Week 1: Bills vs Colts
It was an absolutely electric atmosphere on Sunday for the Bills home opener, and the team certainly appeared to feed off of that energy. The Indianapolis Colts walked directly into a buzz saw, getting outplayed badly in all three facets of the game. It was a fantastic team effort overall that showed the league the potential that this Bills team has to make this year. I’ll take a look at the best and worst aspects of the Bills performance week one.
The Secondary: They performed so well on Sunday that I had to find a spot for all of them in the Stock Up section. Most rational fans already understand what Stephon Gilmore is capable of, and he looks to have gotten even better to start the year. It’s certainly an encouraging sign that Gilmore played the role of lock-down corner in a tough matchup to start the year. Ronald Darby, despite his struggles throughout the preseason did not look out of place at all. Rex Ryan is on the record as saying he put Darby out to dry all preseason, giving him no help over the top, which lead to at least a portion of his trouble. On Sunday, Baccari Rambo helped out Darby by playing deep and shying to the side of the field which Darby was lined up on. Even without help, Darby managed to break up a pass and make a nice adjustment on a ball in the air to make an interception. Aaron Williams looks to have taken his game to the next level as well, flying over the field in coverage, run support, and even a few blitzes. The two unsung heroes of the game, however, were Nickell Robey and Mario Butler. Robey has shown what an asset he can be in the slot as a nickel corner, but his run support was phenomenal on Sunday as well. Mario Butler stepped in and played extremely well relief of Darby after he left with cramps. Butler had a great pass breakup in the endzone, and another deflection that resulted in an interception to seal the game.
Tyrod Taylor: The most encouraging portion of Taylor’s performance was that he made plays when they needed to be made. When the score was 0-0 early in the game, letting Andrew Luck hang around in a close game can be flirting with disaster. Taylor steps up and delivers a beautiful deep ball for a touchdown to Percy Harvin (more on him in a bit), and breaks the tie ball game. Another example comes in the opening drive of the third quarter when a touchdown would have given the Bills a comfortable cushion, and Taylor delivers with a dynamic 31 yard run. Tyrod Taylor’s debut couldn’t have gone better in the eyes of the Bills. He has taken his level of play from the preseason and brought it up a notch in the regular season, which is music to the ears of Bills fans. What differentiates Taylor from other running quarterbacks is that he does not look to run at first opportunity, but rather surveys the field, progresses through his reads, and uses his legs as a last ditch option. Tyrod Taylor was sensational.
Percy Harvin: Everyone knows that Percy Harvin has immense talent, but his usage has been a question mark since he signed his one year deal in the spring. Most viewed him as mostly a gadget player that would play intermittently and flash ability every so often, but if week one is any indication, this will not be the pace. Harvin had an extremely efficient game finishing with 5 receptions for 79 yards and a touchdown. He played 37 snaps, compared to Robert Woods 28, slating him as the number 2 receiver at this point. Harvin showed the quickness and burst that has gotten him this far in his career, and he’ll look to build off an extremely strong week start to the year. He has game breaking talent, he just needs to find a way to stay on the field.
The Offensive Line: Taking away Tyrod Taylor’s 31 yard scamper and Karlos Williams 29 yard run, which was no product of the offensive line, the Bills only averaged 2.55 yards/carry on Sunday. This is simply not good enough for a team that is going to run the ball a lot. For a team that will look to win and lose games at the line of scrimmage, this is an aspect of their performance that needs to improve down the stretch. The right side of the offensive line struggled significantly more than the left. Cordy Glenn and Richie Incognito looked very solid in both run and pass blocking. John Miller and Cordy Glenn, however, really struggled in run blocking, but were adequate in pass protection. Miller and Henderson have both looked very good in preseason, so let’s hope this is just a bump in the road for the guard and tackle.
The Bills will welcome New England to Ralph Wilson Stadium this upcoming Sunday, and this should represent a much stiffer test for the Bills, especially the defense. Assuming the Bills can establish a better run game, they’ll have the opportunities to put up points. The Steelers moved the ball fairly easily on New England last Thursday but it couldn’t materialize into points. The Patriots do not have a lot of depth in the secondary, meaning that the options the Bills offer in the receiving game will result in favorable matchups across the board. As usual, when playing New England, the Bills will need to take advantage of every opportunity to put points on the board. On defense, the Bills will be presented with a much tougher matchup in the secondary. At least some of the Bills success against the Colts was due to the nature of the Indianapolis route trees, and they could not find a way to get open. The Patriots, for years, have been well versed in running routes to beat aggressive man coverage. Lots of quicks routes to Julian Edelman and company will set up the dagger throws to Gronkowski. Gronkowski, of course, is a transcendent talent that is a nightmare to cover for just about everyone. Who should cover the big tight end will be one of the biggest discussions this week at One Bills Drive. The two logical options are Stephon Gilmore and Aaron Williams, but I can foresee an option in which they choose to blanket him across the field with various people. This is easier said than done, clearly. It will be a difficult matchup, but it is one that Rex Ryan has won before and can certainly win again.