ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: George Wilson #37 of the Buffalo Bills intercepts a pass in the end zone intended for Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 25, 2011 in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo won 34-31. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Even though Bengals fans within the 75-mile radius from Paul Brown Stadium won't be able to see the game this weekend, unless fans attend (psh), it doesn't mean that the Bengals won't actually play the game. Brian Galliford of Buffalo Rumblings takes a few minutes to get us prepared for the team's week four game kicking off this Sunday.
Against the Patriots and Oakland, it seemed that Buffalo’s slow start were often self-inflicted; much of it penalties and interceptions in the first half. Yet they’re able to turn it around, making them the first team in NFL history to win consecutive games in which it trailed by at least 18 points in each contest. What happens in the second half that gives Buffalo a boost?
They stopped making those mistakes you mentioned, started playing excellent football, and their opponents started making mistakes of their own. Tom Brady threw four interceptions. Darren McFadden had a key fumble lost that set up a Bills score. The Bills are tied for second in the league with 10 first downs that have come by way of opponent penalty. They've made some seriously excellent halftime adjustments in these games - credit that to Chan Gailey - but they've also gotten a ton of help in making these comebacks.
Stevie Johnson is currently the Bills most prolific receiver. However, David Nelson is having a good start to the season and even Donald Jones is a threat. What’s been the biggest surprise with this offense through three games this year?
It's certainly not the receivers, as all of these young guys showed flashes in their rookie season a year ago; this was expected, and is the biggest reason the team felt so comfortable trading away Lee Evans. The biggest surprise, without any shred of doubt, has been the offensive line. The running game has been one of the league's best this year, and Ryan Fitzpatrick has been sacked exactly once, and his jersey's been clean for three weeks. They're playing their butts off for being a group that was considered a weak point all off-season.
Bengals fans know Ryan Fitzpatrick and know that he has good escapability, even though he was sacked 38 times in 2008 through 12 games. With the Bills this year, Fitzpatrick has been sacked once (week one against the Chiefs). What would you say is the biggest reason for staying relatively upright; a quick passing game, his pocket presence or Bills pass protection?
There's never really one answer to that type of question. All three factors that you mentioned have played a role, as has the fact that the team is running the ball so well; the fact that the team has been so balanced between run and pass has allowed Chan Gailey to keep defenses on their heels a bit. You can't point to just one thing; everything is clicking for the Bills right now. I will say this about his pocket presence, though: it has improved considerably. When he first came to Buffalo, he was not a quarterback that could move out of the pocket and make throws down the field. He has done that well this year.
Much is being made about the Bills offense, however the defense has given up over 450 yards of offense in the past two weeks against the Raiders and Patriots. Now New England will get their yards, but is there a general concern about the Bills defense, especially considering its forced the team to play from behind?
Sure, there's concern. I don't know that it's overwhelming concern, because as good as the Patriots are offensively, the Raiders are pretty darn good, too. They just hung 34 on Rex Ryan and the Jets this weekend, after all. The team is much better against the run than they were a year ago, and they've got one heck of a middle linebacker in Nick Barnett. The pass rush is still a concern, and there's been some inconsistency in the cornerback play. I'm not overly worried about this defense yet, because they've played some excellent offenses - and the one they didn't, they held them to seven points.
How have Marcell Dareus and Aaron Williams looked through the first three games this year?
Williams has had a rough go of it; not only is he out for the next few weeks with a collarbone injury, but he was pressed into duty earlier than he anticipated, and he struggled on the field. Wes Welker ate him alive before he got hurt. Dareus, on the other hand, has looked excellent. He's big, stout and quick, gets a ton of playing time, and is active against both the run and the pass. He won't put up gaudy numbers like Ndamukong Suh, but he's really an excellent football player. He and Kyle Williams are a handful in the middle.
Situation: Bills are down by four points, on the Bengals three-yard line with two seconds left in the game. Who do the Bills go to to win the game?
The open man. It sounds simple and a little corny, but that's Ryan Fitzpatrick. The team obviously looks towards Stevie Johnson (3 TD this season) and tight end Scott Chandler (4 TD) in the red zone, but in that situation, the Bills are likely to spread the Bengals out and make them defend every inch of available real estate. Fitzpatrick's been so good this year because he isn't afraid of simply finding the open guy; everyone's been delivering in the clutch.
Situation II: Bengals are down by four points on the Bills three-yard line with two seconds remaining in the game. Who would you expect on the Bills defense to win the game for Buffalo?
George Wilson. The former receiver turned starting strong safety has something of a flair for the dramatic, is a bit of a playmaker, and can defend the run really well. I wouldn't feel particularly confident in that situation, but Wilson's a guy that's come up big in the clutch before.