by Mario "Game" Granata
As the dust starts to clear over an emotional and heartfelt victory against the Miami Dolphins at One Bills Drive, one must not overlook the numbers and what they mean to the rest of the 2014 season for the Buffalo Bills. While most fans will focus on the number that counts (2-0), the gameplay and factors surrounding the start have to be examined in more detail. Here are just a few points to consider as the Bills prepare for the San Diego Chargers next week.
1st and 3rd Down: While much will be made of the Bills and how they defeated a divisional opponent, the number of 1st Downs and their 3rd Down Conversions leave much to be desired. The Bills, despite putting up 29 points, only managed 13 first downs. The more astonishing number is their conversions (5-15, 33%) on 3rd down. When a team puts up those statistics, it is usually followed by a loss, but the Bills were able to cover some of their mistakes today against a team that was worse on 3rd down (5-16). The Dolphins managed 23 first downs, which echoes the philosophy of Schwartz from Week 1, and his ‘bend-but-don’t-break’ game plan for the Bears and Dolphins. If those numbers don’t improve, look for the Bills to struggle.
Just for Kicks: Dan Carpenter went 5-6 on field goals connecting on attempts of 27, 27, 31, 32, and 38, and missing an attempt of 31. If you do the math, that means that Bills drives stalled at the 10, 10, 14, 15, 21, and 14 yard lines. You don’t have to be a student of the NFL to understand that if you are getting 3 rather than 7 when you get into the red zone, you are going to find yourself on the short end of the stick when it comes to victories. While it may work against the Dolphins, some of the other elite offenses will make you pay when they finish their drives in the endzone.
Finish What You Start: The Buffalo Bills offense benefitted from some very favorable field position against the Dolphins. The average drive start for the Bills for the game was their own 46-yard line. Now, with a kicker like Carpenter, the Bills would only have to drive 20 yards to secure points, but while the name of the game is ‘football’ a team shouldn’t rely on the kicker to get points consistently.
Explosion in Spurts: Those naysayers who were a little apprehensive to putting CJ Spiller as a kick returner took a backseat when he had his electrifying 102-yard kickoff return. Spiller is without a doubt one of the most dangerous players in the NFL when he is open space, and where is there more space than on kickoff? And while others might question why he didn’t get more touches when the Bills were on offense, although he put up impressive numbers (12-69) one has to remember that he had one carry for 47 yards. That means that he was only able to muster 22 yards on his other 11 carries. A 2.0 average is less than stellar, which is why Marrone and Co. feel more comfortable keeping him in a specialist/big play role.
All in all, the Bills are 2-0 and the fan base in Buffalo couldn’t be more excited for this team moving forward, but there is still some work that has to be done for this team to reach the next level and be considered among the NFL’s elite. Sammy Watkins had a breakout game (8-117-1) and Corey Graham again proved that he is a corner to pay attention to, but the Bills fans can’t get too excited as there is still improvements that can be made. Otherwise, we as Bills fans are headed for a season like 2011. Now, I will pause so you can see the parallels between the start of that season, and this one.