By Ch2 Sports Director Ed Kilgore
After the Bills 31-24 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, I stood next to a Philly tv sports guy who didn't mince words about his audience's favorite team; on live tv, he said "this team stinks! It stinks. It stinks!" He was just getting warmed up. In fact, you would have thought there wasn't another team out there, so bad were these now 1-4 Eagles.
While it's true the Eagles have been beating themselves, and they did just enough against the Bills to ruin their own spirited late rally, I doubt if the Bills would like to play them again anytime soon. Michael Vick made some mistakes, but he is without a doubt the most electrifying player in the NFL, and he is surrouned by big play weapons who make any lead look tiny.
What I'm saying here, is that forget the records, the Bills deserve credit for a win over a team that will be a factor in the NFC East before this season is over. It's true the Eagles defense is not as dominant as it once was, the the offense is simply scary good. They piled up over 300 yards in the second half and made it look easy. Struggling? Yes. Lacking in cofidence? Maybe. Stink? Don't think so.
For the fourth straight game, the Bills defense gave up over 450 yards, but that isn't the statistic that's important. Five takeaways, and just one give away, are the numbers to look at. When a team is plus 2, it usually wins 85 per cent of the time. The Bills were a plus 4, yet won by a touchdown. That's how good the Eagles are once they cut down their mistakes.
Give the Bills credit though, for forcing mistakes, and it was refreshing to see some young players make impact plays. Second year outside linebacker/defensive end Alex Carrington deflected a pass that led to the Bills first of four interceptions of Vick - his worst day as a pro - rookie linebacker Kelvin Sheppard gave . Vick a big but legal shot just as he threw, leading to a Nick Barnett 31 yard pick six. Second year linebacker Arthur Moats forced another Vick pick with good pressure, and 1st round pick Marcell Dareus deserved a sack on a Vick incompletion.
Although Vick was the most electrifying player on the field, the BEST player on the field Sunday, as I see it, was Bills safety George Wilson. Wilson looked like two people out there, because he was literally everywhere at once. He had 11 tackles to lead both teams, an interception, a tackle for a loss, and generally created havoc. He played perhaps his best game as a Bill, and it mattered.
Offensively, Fred Jackson was, well, Fred Jackson. He gained 111 yards on 26 carries with a touchdown, but also chipped in with 6 catches for 85 yards, including a 49 yard gain that set up a td. It was Jackson, helped by another strong showing by the offensive line, who helped open the passing game for Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Give fast Freddy his dough, Ralph!
Fitz didn't have a big game numbers-wise, hitting 21 of 27 for 193 with a touchdown and an int, but this wasn't a game where he would need to throw 35-40 passes. He did make one mistake, but in the overall scheme of things, that is winning football. Fitz isn't nearly as exciting as Vick, but he was definately more effective in terms of limiting mistakes while still moving the chains.
Fitz also showed his Harvard smarts, once noticing the Eagles left the middle open on a 3rd and 4 in the third quarter, and he simply tapped center Eric Wood on the butt and drove right behind his big center for a 10 yard gain and easy first down. Heads up stuff.
It was nice to see Buffalo's own Naaman Roosevelt come through when he was given the opportunity. Wide receiver Donald Jones left with an ankle injury, and Jones, on crutches after the game, told me he would be "out a few weeks", which leaves the Bills dangerously thin at the wr spot. But Roosevelt jumped in and made 5 catches for 41 yards, including a huge 20 yard catch over the middle that helped get the Bills out of a deep hole in the fourth quarter when it was crucial to keep the ball away from the Eagles.
The Bills have now equalled their win total after all last season after five games, and we're starting to get a picture of why this team is a legit playoff contender. Their o-line is pretty solid, even with rookie Chris Hairston making his first NFL start at left tackle with starter Demetrius Bell out. Fitzpatrick is a winner who has some weapons with Jackson, C.J. Spiller, Stevie Johnson, David Nelson and tight end Scott Chandler.
Defensively, the Bills are giving up too many yards, but they are attacking and creating turnovers. They lead the NFL with 12 int's after five games, and they've returned picks for td's in their last three games. Their style can result in allowing some big plays, ala the Eagles game, but by being proactive rather than reactive, they are forcing even qb's like Vick and Tom Brady into mistakes.
The Bills special teams are among the best in the league, and they did a terrific job covering kicks against the explosive Eagles.
Chan Gailey told his team after the game that they are a 4-1 team that deserves to be where it is. Yes, they've gotten a bounce or two that might have gone the other way in other years, but this is now, and that was then.
Maybe the fans and media think the Eagles stink in Philly, but the Bills had a lot to do with the aroma in the Ralph.