All hail Rian Lindell!!!
For months weíve been hearing about how the fate of the 2005 Buffalo Bills hinges upon the performance of a second year quarterback with a good arm and a cocky attitude, the legs of a Miami running back, and 11 guys who form one of the best defenses in the league.
Indeed, this is a playoff caliber team if J.P. Losman can learn quickly and limit his mistakes, Willis McGahee can continue to perform at the level he did last year as a starter and the defense can be as stout as last yearís unit. But nobody talked about Rian Lindell, the man who scored 16 points for the Bills on Sunday and is on pace to score 256 points on the season.
Could Lindell be the key to the season? The man upon whose leg a playoff appearance rests? The man who hit a career high 5 field goals in the opener?
Not on your life.
For those people ready to anoint Lindell as the savior of the season, the people rushing to pick him up on the fantasy waiver wires and the people desperately trying to purchase official Lindell jerseys at $270 each (hint: they donít make them unless you special order them), letís have a reality check.
Lindell did this weekend what he is paid (and paid quite well I may add) to do Ė kick makable field goals in good conditions at home. I certainly appreciate what he did for the team Ė he put points on the board when the offense failed to get into the end zone five times, and he didnít miss. I certainly hope this performance continues (Lindellís, not the Bills inability to punch it in for 6), but I have my doubts.
Lindellís longest field goal of the day came from 42 yards. While this is 1 yard shorter than his season best kick last year and 2 yards shorter than his career long in Buffalo, itís hardly something to get excited about. When youíre paid $1.125 million a year to kick the ball through two poles, you should make almost all of those opportunities.
I hope Iím proven wrong, but I still believe that Lindell is a potential liability on the roster Ė he is inconsistent (he made a 54 yard attempt in the preseason but missed one from 32 yards), kicks over 40 yards are out of his range (4 for 10 in his career with the Bills), and the worst of the seasonís weather is yet to come. Iím cheering for the guy, really I am, but to me it seems inevitable that he will play the role of the albatross that drags the team down.
But enough of our kicker Ė letís talk about the debut of the quarterback of the future, J.P. Losman. The kid from Tulane had a solid if unspectacular start to what could be a great career in Buffalo. Many people believe Losman was the MVP of the game Ė I beg to differ. Like Lindell, Losman did what he was supposed to do Ė played well and avoided mistakes but hardly wrote his ticket to the Pro Bowl or Hall of Fame.
Losman had command of the Bills offense and made some nice throws (the 42-yard strike to Lee Evans was nice and hopefully a taste of the future). He did, however, get away with some bad throws. On 3 passes, including his first of the game, Losman escaped interceptions that could have easily turned the game. Twice he had short passes where the defensive back jumped the route but couldnít come up with the pick Ė good news for the Bills. Losman is young and with further experience and seasoning heíll learn not to throw some of the balls he did.
As in years past, the Bills had trouble finishing their drives and putting 6 up on the board. The Bills had to settle for field goals on their first 4 drives, two of which stalled in the red zone. When you have a great defense and youíre playing a team like Houston you may be able to afford to forgo touchdowns, but you wonít always be so fortunate.
I know what youíre thinking Ė Iím just a nattering nabob of negativity who canít enjoy a Bills win. While I should be happy, all I can do is focus on what could have gone wrong rather than what went right. Not true. Iím optimistic about the future of the team this season. But I want to keep the victory is perspective and not elevate Lindell or Losman to all-pro status as some may be inclined to do. Houston may be the easiest game on the schedule this year if Miami plays as well as they did on Sunday and the Jets are better than they showed in Kansas City (did anyone seriously predict them to be Super Bowl contenders?).
There were positives in the game on Sunday that Bills fans should rightfully be excited about. In fact, there were 11 of them and they all play for the Bills defense. The unit completely dominated the Texans. They held Houston to 120 total yards and finished the game with 5 takeaways, giving the team a +5 turnover ratio for the year. David Carr looked like FEMAís Mike Brown Ė getting pressure from everywhere and taking it on the chin to the tune of 5 sacks. The Bills may have the best defense in the league this year, and if they can get some help from the offense this team may be going to the postseason. Iíll be cheering for the Bills, even the guy with the golden leg.