Ok, here we go, arguably the biggest game of the year. I’m driving to Pete’s house to watch the game. On the way there, I make a poor decision and pick up two dozen Krispy Kreme donuts. It’s just one of those games where you need extra sugar running through your blood stream, much like Jay Cutler’s pre-game routine, only I don’t have to draw blood. I pull up to the house; grab the pastries and sprint into the family room. Glazed, cream-filled and a Labatt, that’s how this morning is going to start. Turn on the game; it’s a beautiful day in Buffalo! There isn’t a cloud in the sky, on this particular Sabbath; the good lord is smiling upon Western New York. The Bills kick-off and the defense forces a three and out! We are off and running!… What just happened? The game is no longer on the screen; instead it has been replaced with a “Buffalo Bills vs. San Diego Chargers” graphic. What’s that, James Brown? Power outage? Can’t broadcast the game? You’re sending us to the Steelers/Bengals games?? This is the biggest game of the year and there’s no game! What the hell are we suppose to do? I got up and poured myself a generously sized glass of milk. “Anyone want to bet I can’t put down a whole box of Krispy Kreme’s on my own?” This is what happens when you take football away from a man; chaos ensues, people panic, and the irrational becomes rational.
As if the City of Buffalo needed to supply outsiders with any more material to ridicule the “All America City”, our stadium loses power due to birthday balloons getting caught in power lines. Isn’t there some kind of contingency plan for this sort of thing? The concept of back-up generators comes to mind. Also, if power was hard to come by, maybe the lights should have been turned off considering it was the middle of the afternoon and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The notion that a cluster of balloons shut down Ralph Wilson Stadium and CBS just boggles the mind. This is the 21st Century, right? If Buffalo can’t keep power on, they might have a hard time keeping the Bills in town for the long term. Hopefully both of those issues are resolved promptly.
This was a huge win for the Bills. The Chargers came in at 3-3 but I think everyone knows they are much better than their record. The fact that the Bills were the under dogs in their own stadium is proof of that. The defense was outstanding, limiting the highest scoring offense in the league to fourteen points. Not to mention, I believe both Charger touchdowns came on third and long, so they really shouldn’t have even scored as many points as they did. Kawika Mitchell has played well all season, but really proved his worth in this game. Apparently his late game interception was the result of intense film study, which allowed him to read the play and make the pivotal move that got him in position to pick-off Rivers’ pass. The understated play of the game may have been when Mitchell was able to knock Darren Sproles out of bounds a yard short of the first down, which forced a Chargers punt as they were entering Buffalo territory.
The media is loving Trent Edwards after this game and when you set a Bills record for the highest completion percentage in a game, it is probably deserved. Edwards looked extremely sharp, especially when you consider he just had his brain knocked around two weeks prior. He showed no signs of being jumpy in the pocket and the official stats say, not only was he not sacked in the game, no one on the Chargers defense even registered a QB pressure. The offensive line was dominant in pass protection, but still provided little running room for Lynch. The Bills did rush for over a hundred yards as a team, but certainly the fans would like to see a dominating performance from Marshawn any day now. When the nasty winter weather hits, this team is going to have to run more efficiently or the offense will be in big trouble.
The defense shut down one of the best offenses in the NFL and they did so without Terrance McGee or Aaron Schobel. The unit held the best running back in the league to 41 yards and forced three turnovers off the highest rated quarterback in the league. The defense has had an incredible turnaround from last year and if they can continue to play at a high level, this team has a good chance at making a post-season run.
The offense once again put up over twenty points. The only game that has not been the case was two weeks ago in Arizona when JP “the woodsman” Losman filled in for an injured Edwards. The offense is certainly not explosive yet, but they have been consistent throughout the year when it comes to getting points on the board.
When I watch this team play, one of the things I really like is their chemistry. They seem to all really like one another and will do whatever is asked to help the team. Fred Jackson was as proud of his key block that led to a Lynch touchdown, than of anything he has done as a Bill to date. Lynch showed his gratitude by following close behind Jackson on the way back to the sideline to demonstrate to everyone how he was able to score. Certainly winning will create a positive locker room, but this team is far from the “bickering bills” that dominated headlines in the early 90’s. Now if they can just be as successful as those teams, we might have something in the works.
Bills first round pick Leodis McKelvin was treated rudely in his second NFL start in place of Terrance McGee. I could be mistaken, but I believe both touchdowns the Chargers scored were passes caught by McKelvin’s man. Growing pains are part of the maturation process of a young player, but the notion that Leodis could step in and dominate in his rookie season is starting to lose merit. He also has looked very tentative on his kick-off returns, but I will take conservative returns if it means he holds on to the ball every time. Considering the Bolts only scored twice, I don’t think it’s fair to say McKelvin played poorly, but at present, he’s a far cry from being the game changer that we hoped he would be early on.
On the weekend of his 90th birthday, Ralph Wilson’s Stadium looked as if it were just as old. It has now become evident that the facility was completely unprepared for this contingency. If this had been a night game, the stadium would have been put into a state of emergency. Reports say that all the lights were off in the bathrooms, no stairwells were lit, and sanitation of the surroundings was in miserable condition. Huge lines formed at the gates because there was no power to the ticket scanners, thus fans were unable to get into the game. What happened to just ripping the ticket and giving a person a stub? The Bills paid millions for a new scoreboard and couldn’t even use it on Sunday. To me, it is completely ridiculous that the stadium was sent into the dark ages courtesy of a cluster of balloons. I’m sure the NFL was not happy about how the situation at One Bills Drive was handled. We can only hope this doesn’t cost the Bills primetime considerations in the future. I would hope someone at the Bills would present the NFL with a plan should this ever happen again, so that their minds are put at ease. Otherwise, there won’t be a lot of trust from the NFL. You can’t have a Monday Night Football game go black because there are no other games to cut to! Instead of the Bills game, you would be forced to watch re-runs of “Jimmy Houston Outdoors”. I can handle having to watch the Steelers and Bengals. I won’t respond as well if I’m forced to watch fly-fishing for two hours.
Stupid Announcer Comment of the Game: Luckily the blackout spared us hours of listening to Dan Dierdorf. Part of that saddens me because I know he would have supplied plenty of material for this portion of the column.
Wins needed to prove Donte Whitner Correct: 5 (assuming 10 wins gets the Bills a playoff berth)
Many people are calling this a “statement win” for the Bills. Certainly it was a big win against a perennial AFC powerhouse, but I think the statements that need to be made are coming in the next three weeks. The Bills next three games are AT Miami, home against the Jets, and AT New England. Miami is much improved and will be inspired to play the division leading Bills coming off two straight loses. The Jets are an up and down team but with Favre at the helm and a running back that just rushed for 150 yards, you know you’re going to get a battle. As for the Pats, anyone who thought they were going to roll over this year should have been scared straight by the beat down they gave the Broncos on national TV. This is a very good team even without Tom Brady. The real statement the Bills need to make is that they can beat the New England Patriots, something they have done only once in this entire decade. The Bills may be leading the division now, but until they prove they can knock off the Pats, they’re just renting the space. We’ll know a lot more about the 2008 Buffalo Bills in three weeks after they run the gauntlet of division play.