There is nothing better than beating the Fins.
Except beating the Pats or Jets, or the division or AFC, or winning the Super Bowl or lottery. Okay, so there are a lot of things better than beating the Fins, but it feels great when it happens and it still feels great several days later.
This 2013 Bills team is learning how to finish and induce high blood pressure. This week, The Bills found themselves on sportsnet’s “The 20 Most Watchable teams in all of sports” because all of their games have been down to the wire, Kiko Alonso, and (I suspect) rather suspect criterion by their Canadian editors. http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/the-20-arsenal-broncos-and-penguins-top-ranks/
Mario Superior almost single-handedly won the Fin game with his one-handed, 4th quarter strip sack of Cryin Tannehill. Kyle Williams thought about picking it up and running for a TD before he remembered that he couldn’t bend down, so he smartly fell on it like a war hero falls on a land mine. Mario now has more sacks than some baggers at Wegman’s and may be worth the $100m we’re paying him.
On offense, Thaddeus Maximus is starting to make Captain Checkdown look like Daryle Lamonica the Mad Bomber. But Thad did enough to win the game and for the 2nd straight week, somewhat exceeded expectations. Outside of carrying the ball like a baseball pitcher, Lewis managed the game and managed to walk out with a W. He missed several open receivers on early downs, and maddeningly threw 5 yard passes on 3rd and 7 all day long, but he avoided INTs and did what he was asked to. Jeff Stuel is back on the bench where he belongs, and now a distant (bad) memory.
Third downs, however, are grating on fans, especially in the pass game. But the receivers are not getting open and the line is leaving Thad out to hang; not to mention we always seem to be 3rd-and-forever. Robert Woods fell down and nobody heard him. TJ Graham still has trouble catching the balls he catches. Marquise Goodwin must have been so fast that no one even saw him. Chris “7-11” Hogan is always open except on Sundays. Stevie Johnson, however, who has been quiet due to injury, suspicious play-calling and wildly erratic passing, returned to being Stevie on a 6-61 afternoon and made a couple essential catches down the stretch.
The running game slugged it out sluggishly. Fred and CJ wouldn’t do well in a three-legged race with all the injuries. But on two legs total between them, they still grind yards even if we only had 30 carries for 90 yards against a tough Miami defense. Thaddeus faked the camera out as well as the Dolphins once or twice with slight of hand/largesse of head ball-handling on a read-option. Taster’s Choice continued to show both toughness and butterfingers. Frank Summers had one nice run, mostly because the Dolphins didn’t know he was on the team let alone in the backfield and getting the ball.
Special Teams are especially perplexing. Brian Moorman, who in his first week boomed punts into orbit, came down to earth and nearly crash landed. Dan Carpenter won the game with a gimme field goal and has now made 15 consecutive, 3 short of a Bills record. But the coverage, this time on a KO, nearly cost us the game again at the end and Danny Crossman is now in the crosshairs.
Each week, a rookie seems to shine. In SharkWeek, it was Nickel Robey who made a spectacular break on the ball for a PICK 6 which set an early tone. And we’re starting to get healthier on defense. Injairus Byrd and Futon Gilmore looked a little better. Gilmore got the bedding off his wrist in practice this week. Unfortunately, just in time to play Drew Brees and the Saints in N’awlins.
But this Bills team is fun to watch despite the hair loss they induce, and we have the stats prove it. Advanced Metrics are becoming the rage in the NFL even though most fans don’t really recognize let alone understand the acronyms. The Bills are amazingly 3rd in the entire NFL in PVMA. In __, we are _th in the conference and even more surprising, _th in the league, when in the last __ years we have finished no higher than __st. Kiko still measures out as the best LB in the NFL and the legend grows in beanstalk proportions. Okay, so I just made up PVMA.
In fact, however, Football Outsiders ranks the Bills 6th in Defensive DVOA at -9.4%(negative numbers are good on defense), and 4th in Pass Defense. Bills are a little lower in Run Defense ranked 14th at -9.8, which is still pretty good considering our run defense the last 100 years. Without adjusting for strength of schedule and opponent, the Bills are 4th best in the NFL.
The Bills coaching is causing as many fans to turn on each other as it is turning on them. As many think Nathanial cannot Hackett as think he is doing a terrific job considering all the issues and injuries. Half complain we run too much on 1st and 2nd down and the other half point out we are 4th in the league in rushing. Conservative play-calling drives half the fans insane and the other half deliriously happy we are in the game at all and won at the end.
For me, Marrone has done a semi-miraculous job overall. At 3-4, which could easily be 7-0 or 0-7, this week becomes the turning point of the season and possibly the franchise. An upset win in NO makes us 4-4 mid season and right in the middle of the hunt for the wild card race. So come on down to the Bison Dome to watch the Saints come marching in and then falling down like toy soldiers against Mario Superior and Mike Pettine’s attacking defense. The Bills may be turning into Fin-ishers.