Seen and Herd: Week 1 | Buffalo Bills Vs. New England Patriots

Chris Trapasso@ChrisTrapassoAnalyst ISeptember 15, 2009

I'm finally getting feeling back in my body after a game that was like a Novocaine shot to my heart last night.

You know what I'm talking about, that empty, numb feeling. That was me, and I'm sure it was the same for thousands of other Western New Yorkers.

I've got a lot today so bear with me.

After being up 11 points with under six minutes to go, the Buffalo Bills pulled a typical Bills-like epic collapse late in Foxboro.

Now before you think I'm one of those totally angered fans that can't even think about the game, and is truly disgusted with the entire team—much good did come out of the loss.

Trent Edwards said it best— it's not good to be one of those moral victory guys, but I have to be, because it's a long season and I'll always remain optimistic. I'll try to spread my optimism to a fan base that's in dire need of some TLC right now.

But first, the gruesome.

Untimely mishaps lead to loss

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Bills fans today are pointing their collective finger at kick returner Leodis McKelvin. His fumble late gave the Patriots an extremely short field, which ultimately lead to defeat for Buffalo.

He's a young, dynamic player, has made big plays before in this league, and was simply trying to make another one. If you watched his post-game interview, he did his best to man up to the fumble, but every so often a grimace of sheer self-disgust emerged.

Many say he probably should have taken a knee, but he was on the edge of the goal line, and certainly didn't want to take a safety in that situation.

Gotta' feel for the McKelvin.

Outside of his fumble, and a few illegal procedures by Demetrius Bell, the Bills played a nearly flawless game. 

Lots of good, doubters wrong

Offensive Line

I try not to dive into the pool of national media like the ESPNs and Sports Illustrateds of the world when they're discussing the Bills because it's rarely anything positive. Quite frankly it seems as if it's across-the-board negativity of the team and the organization as a whole.

But I did read, watch, and analyze a lot of what was being beaten into our brains this week. The media brainwashed into the minds of Bills fans that absolutely, their team would be a laughing stock this season.

First, everyone, and I mean everyone, wrote off the offensive line. The late cut of starting left tackle Langston Walker, the scrambling of positions, and inexperience of Bell, Eric Wood, and Andy Levitre made us believe the line would struggle. Some suggested Trent Edwards might not make it to Week Two. 

Wrong. The Bills' line was stellar on Monday night. Wood controlled any defensive player assigned to him. Bell was flagged the most often, but showed he was more than capable to handle the speed or bull rush from the right ends.

Brad Butler stood strong on the right side, while Levitre and Geoff Hangartner slowed down Ron Brace and Pro-Bowler Vince Wilfork enough to give Trent Edwards time.

The box score gave the Patriots three sacks, but one came on the last drive of the game.

Not bad for a line with under 60 career starts combined.

I wasn't extremely worried about the pass blocking. It was paving roads for the run that had me concerned. The Bills finished the game averaging 4.7 yards per rush, and a few long runs were nullified by penalty.

In Week 17 of last season, it was Fred Jackson's great vision and drive that led the way to his caree-high 136 yards, but last night, the line created some gaping holes.

The screen game killed the Patriots all evening. In the past, any success with screens was due to the talent at running back, not strong offensive line play.

Not anymore. This is exactly what Sean Kugler wanted. A more fleet-footed, intelligent offensive line. They baited the Patriots' defensive line into the backfield with ease, moved ahead of the screen and finished on some devastating blocks.

Trent Edwards' night

After an abysmal preseason, where Edwards allegedly "regressed", he proved a lot of doubters wrong.

His workman-like 212-yard, two-touchdown performance, while completing 60 percent of his passes, shows us who Trent Edwards really is.

He's not going to sling the ball down the field, yet he's more than a game manager. His intellect is his best asset, and occasionally his athleticism leads to some outstanding throws.

He didn't make a bad decision all night.

He easily could have completed nearly 80 percent of his balls, but drops by Evans, Jackson, Owens, and Nelson hurt early. 

He hasn't regressed, isn't finished, and is a good enough quarterback to lead this team to victories. He may have a bad game once in a while, just like every quarterback experiences, but anyone trying to ride him out of Buffalo is sorely mistaken.

He's a gamer.

Which leads me to my next point of analysis.

Van Pelt's Potential

The last big storyline heading into Week One was, "how in the heck is first-time play-caller Alex Van Pelt going to develop a good enough scheme to give the Bills offense a shot at winning not only the first game, but any games this season?'

They finished a sub-par preseason, and Van Pelt was given only 10 days to prepare.

Improbable, right?

Well he answered the critics with a wonderful creatively-called game. He understood that Fred Jackson's elusiveness coupled with the new O-line's increased aptitude and quickness meant the screen play would work wonders. And it did. Jackson caught a team high five passes for 83 yards with a score.

I'm sure he was looking for the home run, because trust me, it's going to be nearly impossible for teams to cover both Lee Evans and Terrell Owens down the field, but the Patriots rolled coverages deep all night.

He didn't call for any forced throws, his drives ate clock, and kept the chains moving.

The long balls will come with time.

Most importantly, he again allowed his offensive players' strength to take over.

Turk Schonert gave Edwards little room for changing the play at the line. Not anymore.

Van Pelt knows Edwards, in his third season, can read defenses pre-snap. He's allowing Edwards' football IQ to lead to quality decisions. Very similar to the control of the offense Ted Marchibroda gave to Jim Kelly.

As for Terrell Owens, he's more upset over the loss than he is about his two catches.

If Van Pelt can continue to progress and continually produce great game plans that find opposing defense's weaknesses, he'll become a mainstay in Buffalo.

I'm not crowning him king yet, but if he completes that outstanding of a game prep for a team like New England, I have faith in him.

He passed his first test, a tricky one, with flying colors.

Questions about Brady

Here's where I'm going to get into the Patriots. Tom Brady is a star in the NFL. A marketer's dream. I'm not discounting anything he's done, or what he did last night, but let's be honest, his 39 completions and 378 yards don't tell the real story of his evening.

Sure he threw two touchdown passes in the last minute of the game, but he didn't exactly do it with his back against the wall. He got the ball at the Buffalo 30 after his first score while the crowd was still on it's feet.

Sure the two throws were great, but all this "Brady's back" talk is a bit premature. The real Patriots fans know he's has yet to fully return.

I'm sure Brady will revert back to his old ways eventually, but last night's comeback hides the fact that he looked uncomfortable in the pocket, missed on some easy throws, and is susceptible of getting hit. His line isn't as rock solid as it used to be.

Brady's passer rating 97.8, Edwards' 114.1.

Gotta' give it to him though, the man is clutch.

Defense inspired, short field too much

The Bills went in with a defensive game plan determined not to give up the big play. I've been critical of Perry Fewell's "bend not break" defense, (there it is again) but I stand corrected.

Brady's longest completion was on a 31-yard crossing route run by Randy Moss. Brady threw it about 15 yards, Moss did the rest. A lot of dinking and dunking for the gunslinger.

Outside of a Leodis McKelvin missed tackle in the first half on Kevin Faulk on third down conversion, the Bills tackled well, and tackled with authority. Something I haven't seen in a while.

Sure Wes Welker and Moss combined for 24 catches, but it shows that if they're restricted to underneath stuff, the Bills can stay in a game with the likes of the Patriots.

In the first half, they got to Brady often, and made him a bit weary while in the pocket. Something he's yet to experience in his entire career.

Injuries may be big

Part of the reason why the Bills were successful in reaching Brady throughout the first half was because of the rejuvenated play of Aaron Schobel, Chris Kelsay, and Paul Posluszny.

Poz and Kelsay went down with injuries before halftime.

Posluszny apparently broke his arm, although it's not seen to be as drastic of a break as the season ender in 2007. He'll be missed for however long he's out.

We'll never know if he would have made a play covering Benjamin Watson on this two scores, but he looked bigger, stronger, quicker, and played more of a leadership role in the first half on Monday night.

Kelsay, a man who I had written off, was determined coming off the edge frequently in the first two quarters. His injury isn't thought to be as serious as Posluszny's, but the Bills need his presence. Probably not as much as Posluszny, due to the depth at defensive end and lack thereof at linebacker.

We'll there you have it ... the Bills fought hard, executed well, but are 0-1.

The 50th anniversary celebration begins next Sunday when the Bills face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home at 4:05. Should be an thrilling atmosphere. Week Two edition of Seen and Herd to follow.