Rookie Buffalo Bills Safety Jarius Byrd is quietly becoming one of the premier safeties in the NFL after his second consecutive two-interception game, and his third consecutive game with an interception. Although Buffalo was out gained in every statistical aspect of the game, Jarius Byrd and Buffalo's spectacular special teams led them to a 20-9 victory over the struggling Carolina Panthers.
As I predicted in my last article Jake Delhomme's sloppy play would definitely play a major factor in Buffalo's game plan. Delhomme did pass for a season-high 325 yards, yet it was Jarius Byrd again who made the difference in the past two Buffalo victories. Both of Byrd's interceptions led to Buffalo touchdowns, one rush by Marshawn Lynch and a beautiful pass and catch by Lee Evans, who has also scored in consecutive games.
Not only has Byrd contributed by intercepting passes, he also has broken up seven passes, as well as recording 27 tackles on the year.
Offensive Line Improving?
The young and inexperienced offensive line continues to grow, only allowing the backup Ryan Fitzpatrick to be sacked twice, which is a stat I did not expect. I did predict Julius Peppers recording a sack, yet the offensive line allowed Ryan Fitzpatrick just enough time to get the ball out.
However, they did allow a safety, when Fred Jackson was tackled in the endzone backed up in the endzone, giving Carolina their first points of the game.
If the Offensive Line continues to gel with each other as they have been, I see the Bills terrible rushing offense improving by next season.
Trent Edwards or Ryan Fitzpatrick?
Replacement Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick did not put up huge numbers, (he did complete a 50 yard pass to Lee Evans), yet he did manage the ball game. Previous Buffalo losses were due mainly to multiple offensive turnovers.
Fitzpatrick has recorded under 125 yards passing in each of the Bills past victories, with have both been on the road. Furthermore, he only turned the ball over once, an interception against the Jets.
Now that Ryan Fitzpatrick has led Buffalo to two consecutive road victories, the Bills coaching staff needs to re-evaluate the severeness of Trent Edwards' concussion, as Buffalo is 1-4 with Edwards, 2-0 with Fitzpatrick.
Ryan Fitzpatrick seems to have a little better pocket prescense than Trent, and gets throws the ball hard, connecting with his receivers around him.
With a home game against the Texans this upcoming Sunday, the Bills need to stick with what has worked; and that it Ryan Fitzpatrick under center.
Dick Jauron's Play Calling
Hopefully Dick Jauron is starting realizing that his conservative play calling is simply not working. Buffalo ran the ball 12 out of the 22 first downs they had. This has been allowing defenses to be ready in these situations, which is why Buffalo's running backs have not performed to the degree they were initially expected to at the seasons start.
Carolina has one of the worst rush defenses in the league, which is why Buffalo's offensive play calling has to change. Fast. Marshawn and Fred should have put up solid numbers yesterday, yet the Panthers were ready for the run on first down. Those 12 rushes on first down resulted in a total of 13 yards, an average of about a yard-per-carry, which is simply embarrassing.
Buffalo's Defense Against Houston's Explosive Offense
In the past two weeks, Buffalo has recorded nine interceptions, which has led us to victory. Sunday, we face a seemingly unstoppable offense led by QB Matt Shaub and WR Andre Johnson, who I believe to be the best wideout the NFL.
Buffalo's secondary needs to be healthy and force turnovers if they want success against Houston. Shutting down Andre Johnson will be a difficult task, and is a huge mismatch, Johnson being 6'3, 225 lbs, matching up against Terrence McGee, who is only 5'10 and just under 200 lbs.
In addition to shutting down Johnson, the Bills linebacking corps will have to cover TE Owen Daniels, who just had a huge day recording 7 receptions for 123 yards and a TD against the 49er's strong Defense. Steve Slaton hasn't been producing in the run game.
Furthermore, Houston RB Steve Slaton has not been producing the yardage or touchdowns that he was last season, so hopefully the last ranked run defense doesn't let him run all over them as they have the past 4 weeks.