With the first quarter of the 2013 NFL season in the books, let’s reflect a little on how the Buffalo Bills (2-2) have performed so far.
The Bills have shown us that they are going to be in every game they play. This season, every game has gone down to the wire. If one or two plays would have gone differently, the Bills could easily be 4-0, or conversely, 0-4.
This is a young team that is learning to win games late. I think that theses close games will start to get easier and they will figure out how to close them out. For example, this week against the Ravens, Buffalo successfully ran the clock out at the end of the game. This is a step forward from Week 1, when Buffalo failed to run the clock and left Tom Brady and the Patriots 5 minutes to drive the length of the filed for the game-winning field goal.
We have learned that E.J. Manuel is the real deal. Manuel has played relatively mistake free football through the first 4 weeks, only throwing 3 interceptions and fumbling the ball twice. This is something that the Bills have been lacking in seasons past. Manuel also has shown that he can make all the tough NFL throws. The fade pass to Stevie Johnson to win in Week 2 against the Panthers and the 42-yard bomb to fellow rookie Robert Woods this week against the Ravens are a few prime examples that he has all the tools needed. Finally Buffalo has a quarterback for the future.
Staying on the topic of rookies, Buffalo has a lot of rookies that are playing great. Wide receiver Robert Woods is leading the team with 2 touchdown catches, and is 2nd to only Stevie Johnson in receiving yards with 201. Defensively, rookie middle linebacker Kiko Alonso is leading the team with 4 interceptions, two of which came this week against Joe Flacco. Kiko has also recovered 2 fumbles and forced 1. These young players are only going to get better as the season goes on, making the future look very bright for those in Western New York.
Some concerns I have with the Bills begin in the secondary. Buffalo is about one injury away from posting an ad on Craigslist for defensive backs. The Bills have been without Stephon Gilmore (wrist) and Jerious Byrd (foot) for the entire season so far. Last week against the Jets, their 3rd best DB Leodis McKelvin went down with a hamstring. This week against the Ravens, Aaron Williams tweaked his shoulder in the first quarter and played sparingly for rest of the game. This has forced the guys deep on the depth chart to step up. Against the Ravens, the backups did just that. They performed well this week, but it’s a definite question mark as we move forward in the season.
Buffalo has to get better on third downs, especially on 3rd and short. About 1,388 times they have been faced with 3rd and 1 and failed to get that 1 extra yard. It’s the most annoying thing to watch. Coach Doug Marrone needs to take a gander at this and think of new ways to pick up 1 yard.
The Bills also have struggled in the red-zone. Kicker Dan Carpenter has attempted 7 field goals within 30 yards so far this season. If Buffalo could have cut that number in half, scoring touchdowns rather than settling for a field goal, they could very easily could be 4-0.
The Bills will kick off their 2nd quarter of the season on Thursday Night Football against the Cleveland Browns. Hopefully Buffalo can start stringing together some wins.