As the 2008 NFL season nears the halfway point, on of the biggest surprises (other than the New England Patriots losing Tom Brady and the play of the Indianapolis Colts) has been the AFC-East leading 5-1 Buffalo Bills.
One of the reasons the Bills have jumped out to a good start has been their ability to make clutch plays. Each week there has been a different hero making an impact.
This continued last Sunday against the San Diego Chargers at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park. The new hero of the week was first-year Bill and last-year Super Bowl champion Kawika Mitchell. Overall, he had a very good game defensively, making tackles all across the field.
However, his fourth-quarter play might have been the best quarter of football he has played in the NFL. With the Chargers driving down to the Bills 9-yard line and looking to go ahead 21-20 with the touchdown and extra point, the Chargers called a play that has worked well in the past for them, a pass to Antonio Gates.
Any good team watches film and the Bills are no different. Hearing Mitchell talk about that play, it was obvious the Bills were waiting for this play to develop.
When the Chargers called the play, the D was ready and Mitchell made the play, picking off San Diego Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers on the goal-line.
Mitchell's interception and return out to the 32 yard-line set up a Bills field goal to go up 23-14. Just the one play would have made for a very good day for Mitchell. He wasn't done yet.
On San Diego's next drive and enough time for Rivers to possibly go for two scores, Mitchell answered the call to prevent any chance of a comeback.
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell called a linebacker blitz, sending Mitchell. Mitchell came in untouched to hit Rivers' arm and force the fumble that was recovered by the Bills. The Bills run out the clock after some good running and the Bills win.
This is why the Bills went out and signed Kawika Mitchell. He has size, strength, a veteran presence, and intelligence. Mitchell proved it against the Chargers with his playmaking across the field.
However, Mitchell's performance was matched and maybe even surpassed by second-year quarterback Trent Edwards. Edwards played a brilliant game, setting the Bills franchise record for completion percentage, surpassing Jim Kelly's mark set in 1994.
Edwards looked poised and in command of the pocket, not taking a sack. He was on target and showed no ill effects of the concussion he suffered on the third play against the Arizona Cardinals prior to the bye week.
Perhaps the highlight of Edwards' day was a 2-yard touchdown pass to Lee Evans. Edwards threw a perfect fade route and Evans made a David Tyree-esque catch, pressing the ball against his helmet as he dragged his toes before going out of bounds.
Also of note was the performance of strong safety Bryan Scott. Scott was signed as a free agent early last season after Ko Simpson went onto injured reserve with a broken ankle. He plays the run very well, but the Bills used him against the Chargers tight end Antonio Gates who was not really a factor in the game, held to four catches.
The Bills survived a game plagued by a power outage that lasted most of the first half and interrupted play a few times. The crowd stayed in the game even without electricity, providing a loud atmosphere that lasted the entire game.
The Bills are making noise in the NFL, and are finally getting a crack at the rest of the AFC East against the Miami Dolphins.