While the Buffalo Bills always play the New England Patriots tough, last Sunday was an entirely different level of determined. In a game everyone expected the Bills to lose, as ten points underdogs missing the two best players in their secondary and starting a rookie quarterback returning from knee surgery in his first NFL game, the Bills almost pulled off a massive upset. And how did the Bills almost pull off the unthinkable? Turnovers. The Bills recovered a Stevan Ridley fumble for a touchdown, intercepted Tom Brady just before the half in what translated into a quick touchdown drive and recovered a botched snap by the greatest living American (Brady) on fourth-and-goal to prevent the Patriots from an almost guaranteed touchdown. While the game story might be more about Patriots negatives than Bills positives, allowing the Patriots only one play over twenty-five yards is impressive. I honestly believe that if it weren’t for Danny Amendola’s clutch receptions on multiple third down plays, the Bills would have won the game.
A major struggle the Bills faced on Sunday was one of the only bright spots most people anticipated the Bills had going into the game, the play of C.J. Spiller. After what can be expected as an emotionally draining few weeks, coming after his grandfather shot and killed two people before killing himself, Spiller’s football emotions were then “spillered” all over the field after losing a fumble on the second play from scrimmage. The fumble looked to frustrate Spiller, which he never appeared to recover from all afternoon. Spiller had pedestrian-like numbers going for forty-one yards on seventeen carries with an additional fourteen yards on five receptions. Spiller will look to bounce back against a Carolina defense that will be keying on him.
While the Bills Week Two opponent, the Carolina Panthers, only notched seven points in a loss to the Seattle Seahawks, their defense proved mighty. The Panthers front seven overwhelmed sophomore quarterback Russell Wilson and shutdown the rush-attack, generously providing Marshawn Lynch with Spiller-like Week One numbers on the day. Unfortunately for the Panthers, when @DangeRussWilson did wriggle himself free of the Carolina pressure, he proved to be effective.
The Panthers front seven, lead by last years NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award winner Luke Kuechly, will look to have similar success against rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel and running back C.J. Spiller this weekend. However, if the Bills offensive-line can protect Manuel, Seattle showed to have success through the air against a weak Panthers secondary. That is a major “if” as the Panthers defensive front looks to be stronger than ever before.
Cam Newton looked mediocre at best in Week One, going sixteen for twenty-three for one touchdown and a career low one hundred twenty-five yards passing. But lets not underestimate Killer Cam’s ability to toss the rock. Superman should be able to turn the on/off switch whenever he pleases involving in-game heroics, right? Perhaps last week was his attempt to throw the NFL (and government) off the scent that he is indeed Superman? Either way, Cam Newton isn’t going anywhere in Carolina, so the pressure is on coach Ron Rivera to make his quarterback productive again. Will Rivera and Newton be able to take advantage of the Bills depleted secondary? They’re sure going to try.
This match-up has dogfight written all over it. The team to win the battle in the trenches will be sure to win the game. My gut says that team will be the Carolina Panthers this Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Buffalo’s secondary is just too banged up and I expect Cam Newton to take advantage of that. Expect another great game from future Offensive Rookie of the Year E.J. Manuel. Manuel is the real deal. But I just don’t see the Bills pulling this one out.