Buffalo Bills Drop Preseason Opener: Defense Gets 9 Sacks, Offense Gets 3 Points
The Buffalo Bills lost their preseason opener Saturday night at the Chicago Bears 10-3. The Bills starters played several drives in the first quarter for the most part. From there, it was the second and third-teamers.
Bruce Smith is the all-time Bills career leader with 171 sacks. He would have to be proud of a Bills defense that generated nine sacks in their first contest of the exhibition season. Nine sacks hasn't occurred very often lately for a Bills defensive unit that generated only 27 in the entire 2010 season. Last night's haul was one-third of the entire season total, to give you an idea of how huge that production was.
Many of them occurred against the Bears' second- and third-string quarterbacks, but with the combination of Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus and Shawne Merriman, the Bills have the potential to cause nightmares for quarterbacks all year, provided that all three can stay healthy.
For anyone that did not see the game, it is being re-aired on the NFL Network tonight at 7:00 pm EST.
Is "Lights Out" All the Way Back?
Whenever Bills fans see Shawne Merriman doing his "Lights Out" dance, you know that the defense is doing their job. The more that Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus can absorb the offensive lineman and free up a path for Merriman to the quarterback, the more we can expect to see Merriman repeat the dance.
He only saw limited time in the first quarter, which amounted to nine snaps over two different drives. The end result was three sacks in nine plays. Merriman flushed Jay Cutler out of the pocket, which led to Marcell Dareus' first sack as a Bill, and then Merriman registered sacks on consecutive plays against backup QB Caleb Hanie. After that, Merriman's night was done, as the Bills intend to slowly bring him around after being out of the game for the past 18 months.
Marcell Dareus Generated Good Pressure
Marcell Dareus was all smiles after collecting his first sack, as he was able to put Jay Cutler away in the first drive of the night. Nice debut for the Bills rookie. He was joking with Shawne Merriman on the sidelines that he flushed QB Hanie out so that Merriman was repaid the favor on Merriman's sacks later in the quarter.
For a video clip that includes all of the defensive highlights from the various sacks to the interception by Aaron Williams, here is a link, thanks to BuffaloBills.com.
Ryan Fitzpatrick Effective in the Short Game
The Bills opted to have Ryan Fitzpatrick come out focusing on the short passing game, and he excelled at that. In his two drives, Fitzpatrick went seven for nine in his passes, which included one dropped pass.
Nine pass attempts, with seven catches that totaled only 44 yards shows you how short these plays went for. Fitzpatrick's QB passer rating of 87 is decent, but the Bills were not interested in throwing the ball down the field in this game. They have three more preseason games to work on that.
Fitzpatrick was not sacked in either of his two drives, and led the Bills to their only points on the night, with one of his two drives resulting in a field goal from 44 yards out by Rian Lindell.
For the final three quarters, the quarterbacking efforts of Tyler Thigpen, Brad Smith, Levi Brown and Josh Nesbitt combined to result in zero points. Since this is only the first preseason game, it's no cause for panic yet, but nobody will be doing many back flips in celebration over this effort either.
Run Defense Had Ups and Downs
The Chicago Bears are known for their running game, and the end result was what Bills fans have come to know all too well lately: 35 rushes for 164 total yards.
The leading culprits were Kahlil Bell and Marion Barber. Bell had 13 rushes for 75 yards while Barber had seven rushes for 45 yards.
Granted, most of the yards that the Bears picked up on the ground game were against the Bills' second and third team defenders, but the sooner the Bills can limit an opponent to fewer than 90 yards per game on the ground, the sooner I will stop worrying about the defensive effort in stopping the run.
Special Teams Units Gave Up Big Plays but Created None
Not the greatest game for the Bills' special teams unit.
Johnny Knox had one kickoff return that went for 70 yards against the Bills. Earl Bennett had one punt return, and that went for 33 yards.
The Bills' longest return was a 24-yard return by Marcus Easley.
Bears punter Adam Podlesh had four punts, but the Bills did not return any of them, as many were due to field position issues.
Brian Moorman got off a 54-yard punt and backup Reid Forrest got off a 62-yard punt.
Rian Lindell looked good on a 44-yard field goal.
That is the special teams overview.
Bills Escape Poor Field Condition with No Major Issues
Any time you are playing in your first preseason game you worry about how ready the players are to get out there and bang some heads, but not get injured in the process.
No official word yet, but in the post-game press conference, Chan Gailey said that he was not aware of any major injuries, which is a great sign. Hopefully that will continue into the regular season.
There was a major concern coming in to the game about the condition of the field at Soldier Field, and there was heavy rain during the day, which left the field in less than ideal conditions. The fact that the Bills got out of there without losing anyone is probably a big morale victory.
The Bills were able to get the ball in the hands of tight end Scott Chandler, and he was able to make enough plays which suggests that he could very well be the starter. At least he is able to get out on the field which is something that seems beyond the capability of Shawn Nelson.
Brad Smith showed off some of his running skills in being able to move the chains running the ball out of the Wildcat offense. Smith was able to convert three running plays into first downs, which should prove to make him invaluable to the Bills throughout the year.
Chan Gailey seemed to voice the most concern over the lack of production from the offensive line and from the efforts of his special teams in giving up big plays. Gailey suggested that the starters on the offensive line are far from a sure thing, so anyone who can show that he are capable of stepping up will be given every opportunity to win a job.
It kind of makes you wonder why the Bills weren't more active in free agency when there were so many offensive linemen looking for jobs. But that is more of a question for Buddy Nix to answer.
Next up are the Denver Broncos, who the Bills face on Saturday night in Denver, August 20th.