Art Wander

DON’T GET ME STARTED ON THE BUFFALO BILLS OPENER. I would like to think that offensive coordinator Nate Hackett heard my criticisms last year and during the off-season and training camp that he wasn’t creative; that his play calling was beyond suspect and that his time in the NFL might be short-lived.

If he did hear those criticisms, he probably got real angry and came up with a pretty good game plan, and some good, creative play calls against the Chicago Bears in the season opener for both teams. Everyone echoed concerns about E.J. Manuel since Buffalo didn’t score an offensive touchdown against starters in 5 exhibition games. All of a sudden the Bills put up a pair of touchdowns in the first half, plus a field goal and when they needed to mount a game winning drive, they did so allowing kicker Carpenter boot a 27=yard field goal in overtime to win the game. The defense did its job, making key stops plus picking off 2 Jay Cutler passes and also recovering a fumble.

C’mon now, how many thought that Buffalo would get a rare road victory. Many probably kept praying that they would look good to save themselves from any embarrassment. They did better. They won the game.

With the win, Buffalo finds itself perched in a tie for first place with Miami and New York. Look out – the Patriots were humbled by the fish big time so for one week, the Bills can tell the fans……we’re unbeaten and in first place.

The Bears came out roaring on their first possession needing only 4 plays to reach the end zone on a Cutler pass. It was 7-0. The Bills stiffened, scored a pair of touchdowns and went to the locker leading 17-7. Much joy in Buffalo. E.J. Manuel was 10 of 12 in the half and finished the game 16 of 22 for 178 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed 6 times for 19 yards that included a short stride into the end zone around the left side on a great call by Hackett. Woods and #1 draft pick Sammy Watkins made some fine catches. Woods had 4 for 78 yards to lead the team.

Fans were eager to see what would happen in the second half. Their fears were realized as the Bears kicked a field goal. E.J. Manuel threw a 3rd quarter interception leading to a Bears TD tying the game 17-17.

Wow, Bills fans were still hopeful. Chicago was facing a 3rd and 1 from the Bills 33. The defense chased Cutler out of the pocket forcing an ill-advised pass into the waiting arms of DT Mike Williams stopping the drive. Buffalo marched into position for Carpenter to boot his 2nd field goal of the game, putting the Bills on top 20-17. That second half had a couple of things happen that made fingernails being chewed. First, the Bills were flagged 9 times in the 2nd half, either hurting the offense or giving the Bears precious first downs, moving the chains.

Then with Chicago marching toward field goal range, the refs threw the flag against the Bears for holding BUT then the ref picked up the yellow marker said there would be no holding call. That infuriated Doug Marrone on the sideline. Even defensive tackle Mike Williams claimed a Bear shoved his hands into his facemask……no call. Later a pass by Cutler, ruled incomplete by the ref was overturned even though the replays seemed to be inconclusive. Once again the defense stiffened forcing the Bears to kick the tying field goal, a 37-yarder by Robbie Gould with less than a minute left in the game and it was 20-20.

That set the stage for overtime. Bills fans were shifting weight on the couch when the coin toss favored the Bears who wanted the ball. The sturdy Bills defense that held Chicago’s Jay Cutler to only a pair of touchdowns and 2 field goals made the stop forcing a punt as Buffalo took over in their territory. C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson took over. Spiller ripped off a 13 yard gain as the Bills moved into Bears territory. and then the oldest running back in the NFL, Fred Jackson, came in and ripped off a huge 37-yard run to the Bears 1 and a couple of plays later, Carpenter booted the game winner to give Buffalo a fantastic 23-20 opening game victory.

The running game saw Jackson carry 7 times for 61 yards; C.J. Spiller 15 for 53 and newcomer A. Dixon gaining 60 yards on only 5 touches.

If the Bills are going to do this during the rest of the season, let’s hope that Marrone, GM Whaley and CEO Russ Brandon continue yelling and screaming at each other in practice on Don’t Get Me Started.

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