Week 1: Defense Shines In Opening Day Rout
Bills reverse fortunes from last year
by Steve Saslow
Wow what a difference a year makes. Last year the team bumbled two games with the Pats. This year they totally dominated the opening day contest. The new look defense was even better on the field than they were on paper. The offense shined early going 170 yards in their first two possessions to score. Our position by position grades reflect the solid performance on both sides of the ball:
Drew Bledsoe finished with 230 yards on 17 of 28 passing. When it counted he really put up big numbers early 158 yards in the first two drives including a touchdown pass. He did throw one pick. Grade B+: Managed a solid ballgame with a lead.
Travis Henry ran for two touchdowns in the red zone and ate up the clock in the second half with tough runs when they had the lead. That is what they have to do in the ball control offense. He finished with 86 yards rushing and 37 receiving. He only had 3.1 yards a carry but kept the clock moving. Sammy Morris filled the Larry Centers role perfectly catching two passes including a 20 yard screen pass on a scoring drive. He also rumbled for 14 yards on two carries. Joe Burns ran the ball twice for four yards in garbage time. Grade B: Kept the clock moving in the second half.
Eric Moulds led the way with four catches for 81 yards including a 49 yard bomb beating Lawyer Milloy's replacement. Josh Reed struggled mightily dropping two passes including a flea flicker that woud have gone for a 56 yard score. He may lose his number two spot to Bobby Shaw who had three big catches in the first half including two that kept the opening drive alive. Dave Moore caught one pass but it went for a touchdown. The team played two tight ends on many plays as Moore and Mark Campbell did a solid job blocking. Campbell looked goo as a receiver also catching three passes for 24 yards. Grade C+: Moore and Shaw shined, Reed may be in trouble. Campbell and Moore make a good team.
The line played well allowing only two sacks and giving Bledsoe time to get rid of the ball. They didn't open up huge holes in the running game but did tire out the Pats defensive line as the game wore on. Trey Teague had a bad snap in the shotgun that took the Bills out of field goal range. Grade C: Didn't do anything to hurt the team.
The Bills decided to dress only three defensive tackles so they put Mike Williams in on the goal line defense for two plays. Sam Adams clogged up the middle to shutdown the run while also getting a sack and the interception return for a score. Aaron Schobel had a nice block on Adams score. Schobel and Ryan Denney were quiet in rushing the passer. Pat Williams had a quiet game. Grade B+: Solid effort with big plays from Adams.
London Fletcher remained the tackles leader despite the new additions. He was in on 13 of them. The big plays however went to Takeo Spikes he had two interceptions and a big hit on
Troy Brown to breakup a pass. He also got pressure on Brady on Adams' interception. He also had six tackles. Jeff Posey had the quitest day of the newcomers on defense but was in on four tackles. The speed of the corps helped shutdown the screen passing game that killed the Bills last year. Grade A+: This may become the best corps in the league.
Nate Clements had a beautiful diving interception in the end zone on a pass that was deflected by Lawyer Milloy. The former Patriot played the whole game had a sack, and was in on five tackles. Antoine Winfield was his usual lock down self and had eight tackles. Kevin Thomas is no Chris Watson, he can cover. Peirson Prioleau was in on four tackles and didn't give up the big play. Grade A+: Held the Pats to 154 yards passing which is phenemonal considering they were playing catch up the whole game.
Brian Moorman earned the big contract today, booming a 71 yard punt and averaging 56.5 yards on four punts. He gave the Bills the field position battle when the game was still in doubt. Rian Lindell hit his only field goal attempt, a 44 yarder. He did come on to try a 54 yarder but after a timeout the Bills decided to go for it. Antonio Brown found out that it isn't the preseason anymore. He went backwards on two returns and finished with just three yards on four punt returns. The coverage teams gave up about an average amount of yards in the Pats return game. Grade C+: The kickers are fine, the return and coverage games were the same as they were last year.
Not much to fault here. Gregg Williams had them ready to play and Dick LeBeau's zone blitz package worked to perfection. They knew how to take away the short passing game of Tom Brady and did so perfectly. The use of Mike Williams on the defensive line was an interesting move. The flea flicker was a nice surprise option that hasn't been seen in Buffalo in a long time. Too bad it was wasted on a dropped pass. Penalties remain a concern, 10 are too many. Grade A-: Williams finally got the better of Bellichick.
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