By Ch2 Sports Director Ed Kilgore
Really now, who didn't see the Bills all alone in 1st place in the AFC East after the first 3 weeks of the season? Surely you could see the Bills as the highest scoring team in the NFL after week 3, right?
No, not even the most optimistic Bills fan could see this one coming, and please don't tell me you are in no way shocked at what we're seeing so far.
As amazing as the comeback win over the Raiders was a week ago, and thanks Raiders for knocking off the Jets at your place, the win over the Patriots was better. Much better actually, when considering just how Tom Brady has toyed with the Bills for the past several years.
Brady is still Brady, and the Pats will still be around when the playoff invitations come out later, but these Bills are not the same Bills we've been watching for the past decade or so.
No secret here, you have to start with head coach Chan Gailey, who pulled few punches when he arrived prior to last season. This year's success is part carry over, no question, with the Bills inspired play over the final part of what looked like a totally lost season meaning something. The 49 point 2nd half at Cincinnati, specifically, was mentioned by the Bills after they roared back against the Raiders, and that same feeling was still there after these Bills were down to the Pats 21-0 early.
Right there with Gailey of course, is his quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is on pace to throw 48 td passes this season. That's pretty heady stuff, but Ryan is a pretty heady qb who is an extension of Gailey on the field. Don't know about you, but I've seen enough to think the Bills need to rework his deal, as much as I hate to see that kind of thing done during the season.
Fitz, and running back Fred Jackson, are the heart and soul of this team, and as long as they stay healthy, the Bills will remain a tough out for anybody.
We can't leave out gm Buddy Nix, of course, because even though many of the "no name" stars like Stevie Johnson and Fitz and Jackson were already here, the Bills have been able to identify talent even when the rest of us just don't see it at first.
Donald Jones? David Nelson? Scott Chandler? Are you kidding me? All of them are playmakers nobody else wanted - not really. But they can play, and Gailey is making the most of their talents through Fitzpatrick.
The biggest surprise in the 3-0 start though, is without a doubt the offensive line. Eric Wood, off to a rough start with a chop block and then hold early against the Pats, gives the Bills a smart and physically tough center they haven't had since Kent Hull. Demetrius Bell is playing well at left tackle, and Andy Levitre had some key blocks from his left guard spot after being challenged way back in training camp.
Fitz has been sacked exactly one time in three games, and that's probably more surprising than the Bills 3-0 start.
The defensive secondary really stepped up after a less than stellar showing against the Raiders. They were chewed up for 387 yards and 4 td's by TD Tom, but they also picked him four times. Four is the total number of int's Tom threw all last season.
Leodis McKelvin, the target of most the criticism against the Raiders, made a huge int early in the third quarter after the Bills went three and out, and they took advantage by scoring a td to get back in the game at 21-17.
It does puzzle me how the Bills couldn't find an answer for Wes Welker, to nit pick a bit here. The Bills simply couldn't cover him, and in key situations there wasn't a fan in the stands or watching at home on tv that didn't know Brady was going to #83. Every time. He had 16 receptions for 217 yards and a couple td's and was incredible.
So what does the 3-0 start really mean? The Chiefs are terrible, but the Raiders just beat the Jets and the Patriots are, well, the Patriots. This win has the rest of the league looking at the Bills a bit differently, which is both good and bad. Think the Bengals wouldn't love to knock the Bills off next week at Cincy?
Gailey said after the win over the Pats that it all comes in stages. The Bills are showing they have some mental toughness they lacked when he arrived, and they are learning how to win. But the more they win, the more pressure they'll feel as each game gets bigger. Also, they'll be hearing and seeing and reading nice things, and interview requests will intensify. Brady is used to this, while Fitz is getting used to it.
We still don't know what will happen as teams break down films and try to take away the things the Bills want to do on offense, but at long last we are seeing genuine, legitimate progress. It's real, and the fun at the Ralph is back!