Last Sunday’s rousing overtime win over the Chicago Bears got the Buffalo Bills off to a surprise start in their season opener. That win, combined with the news that legendary quarterback Jim Kelly is cancer-free, and that the Ralph Wilson estate has agreed to sell the team to Buffalo Sabres’ owners Terry and Kim Pegula, created a tremendous positive atmosphere among Bills’ fans going into the home opener against division rival Miami. Adding to the anticipation was the plan by the Bills to honor their late founder and owner, Wilson, in a pre-game ceremony. Being a relatively young team, there was a concern that the Bills might go into the game a little too hyped up and come out flat, but instead they put together a workmanlike 29-10 win that resembled the opener in Chicago in that it was another great “team” win, with contributions coming from all over the roster. Buffalo followed the same formula that got them the win over the Bears – they played solid defense, got numerous big plays from their special teams and played just well enough on offense to win. Quarterback EJ Manuel, once again, had pedestrian numbers but, as coach Doug Marrone stated last week, he “played winning football”. He didn’t make any mistakes, and the lone touchdown drive he engineered came right after the Dolphins scored their only TD of the game. Rookie Sammy Watkins was a key target in the game plan, and he responded with 8 catches for 117 yards and his first NFL touchdown. The special teams, without a doubt, played “winning football” also. Their contributions included a blocked punt by Anthony Dixon, a recovered muffed punt by Randell Johnson, solid punting by newcomer Colton Schmidt, a 102 yard kickoff return by C.J. Spiller and five successful field goals by Dan Carpenter. Defensively, Buffalo harassed Miami QB Ryan Tannehill all day, sacking him 4 times and batting down several of his passes. The Dolphins were also held to 80 yards rushing, although they lost their top back, Knowshon Moreno, to a dislocated elbow in the first quarter. For the second straight week, the Bills did not surrender any big plays, and even though the defense was a bright spot in the Bills’ 6-10 season a year ago, new coordinator Jim Schwartz’s unit looks to be improved.
So the Bills, who appeared lost and looking like they were going nowhere coming out of preseason, are now 2-0 and stand alone atop the AFC East standings. Next up is a home date with the San Diego Chargers, who will provide a tough test for Buffalo. The Chargers, whose offensive coordinator is former Bill Frank Reich, opened their home season on Sunday with an even more impressive display – knocking off the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.