First and Five Wrap Up: Arizona Cardinals
First and Five Wrap Up: Arizona Cardinals
It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win and Chan Gailey was happy to accept it. If you asked anyone on the team, the response was similar. It was an ugly win. The Buffalo Bills found many ways to try and lose the game and on a normal Sunday, most teams would have taken advantage of those mistakes and it would have been a typical Monday, where we scratch our heads and wonder why this team makes the same mistakes. As it turns out though, there is another team that royally screws up when it matters most and luckily the Bills were playing that team.
Now that the frustration is out of the way from that win, there were a lot of bright spots in this game, that for the time being, has the bad hiding in the shadows. There were some players that really stepped up this week. Mario Williams finally had an impact, with Kevin Kolb on his back more than once and Williams recording two sacks. Jairus Byrd stepped up when it looked like the Bills were doomed, twice, and Alex Carrington forced the game into overtime with his play.
The Bills may have overcome their confidence issues this week and put an end to a couple impressive streaks that the Arizona Cardinals had going. Coming into this game, the Cardinals had an eight game home game winning streak, and also had also won their last five overtime games, one of those being just two weeks ago against division opponents, Miami Dolphins. So far, the Cardinals have been able to pull off wins against both the Dolphins and the New England Patriots. Hopefully, then can pull of the win against the New York Jets when they head to the Meadowlands in week 13. So how did the Bills pull off this ugly win? Keep reading on to see what they were able to capitalize on.
1- Team needs to stay healthy
Coach Gailey couldn’t recall any major injuries after the game which is a plus. The Bills can’t afford any more injuries and they knocked Kolb out of the game, which quite frankly, could be the reason the Cardinals failed to win the game, as John Skelton looked rusty coming in after filling in for the first time since an injury suffered in week one. The team continues to get healthy, as Fred Jackson says he is close to 100% and went without the knee brace that he had been wearing since their loss to the Patriots.
Gailey also said that there was a chance that Spencer Johnson and Kraig Urbik both have a chance of playing this week when the Bills go back to Buffalo to win an important game against the Tennessee Titans before heading into a much needed bye week. Offensive lineman, Cordy Glenn, still has a week or two before he is likely to return, however, the offensive line seems to be doing well as Ryan Fitzpatrick seemed to have a fair amount of time to get the ball away.
2- Defense needs to stop the run
Luckily, the Cardinals were hurting on offense as far as their running backs go and were foced to start running back--LaRod Stephens-Howling, who was also splitting carries with William Powell. Many thought Stephens-Howling would have a break out game, but the Bills defense was able to hold off the run game and force Kolb to throw the ball. Powell ended up as the leading rusher with only 70 yards on 13 carries. Kolb had a good day finding holes to grab a couple first downs, as he rushed for 66 yards on the day. Running backs weren’t able to find the end zone so the defense did improve this week against the run.
It remains to be seen if they have really locked up some of the issues on the defensive line or if they lucked out going up against a beat up running game but it came as a good time, as the Bills defense was really worrying fans in upstate New York. They have quieted the masses for another week, but will be put to the test this week as they going up against Chris Johnson, who seems to have found his stride finally for the Titans.
3- Fitzpatrick needs to get the ball to his number one receiver
You have to feel for Stevie Johnson. Unfortunately, he just can’t catch a break with this team. Johnson is getting open and beating corners on a regular basis, but unfortunately, the Bills coaching staff doesn’t seem too concerned about the inaccuracy of Fitzpatrick. On a positive note, he didn’t throw any interceptions, but that is only because he is so off target to where any player is that he is throwing into open field and the secondary can’t even pick the ball off. Stevie had a touchdown in each of his first three games this season but hasn’t put points on the board since. He did manage 82 yards on just six receptions out of his 11 targets so his average of 13.7 yards a catch is more attributed to Johnson’s ability to run after the catch, more than it is Fitzpatrick’s ability to throw him the ball.
Johnson showed frustration in his radio interviews this week, saying he wants more catches and thinks, as a number one receiver, he should be targeted much more. We all agree. If the coaching staff wants to “spice things up” and go with a Wildcat deep throw down the field when you have the lead and should be burning the clock, with a quarterback who can actually throw more than a 4 yard screen pass, then maybe it would be wise to consider throwing it to your number one receiver. Stevie will need to be a main priority going up against a weak defense who is low on the totem pole as one of the worst defenses in the league.
4- Force the Cardinals to punt the ball
Leodis McKelvin didn’t get any punt returns for touchdowns, but he held his own and helped create short fields this week. Buffalo wasn’t able to capitalize on most of them, but they scored when it mattered. McKelvin finished the day with 55 yards off of two kickoff returns, with his longest being 33 yards, and 10 yards off of 2 punt returns. Showing that field possession does matter, McKelvin’s longest run of 33 yards was followed by the first touchdown scored in the game by the Bills.
Special teams did matter in other ways, however. Credit has to be given to Alex Carrington who got a hand on the field goal attempt to win the game, as Jay Feeley missed a gimme 38 yard field goal, after beating his own record on the Cardinals’ prior drive and nailing a 61 yard field goal to tie the game. If Carrington doesn’t get his hand on the ball, the game ends there and Buffalo would be sitting at the bottom of the division.
5- Better decision making from the coaching staff
If this wasn’t part of first and five, it would definitely be my weekly rant. There were some decisions in this game that make fans want to spike a ball into the television. Sometimes, I know many actually want them to lose for some of the calls that go on as Buffalo seems to try their hardest to lose. First, I will go off of the Wildcat play that I already touched upon. I’m not sure if we are all watching the same team, but Jackson and C.J. Spiller both posted their best numbers since their injuries, so to say that the team was having trouble running the ball which is why they chose to resort to a Wildcat play to put away the game is pretty troublesome. Regardless of how you feel the backs were doing, the team is winning the game and the main objective should be running out the clock.
When the Bills had the lead in the fourth quarter, rather than try and run the clock out , the often chose shotgun formations and short passes. After Byrd intercepted Kolb with 5:54 minutes left, the Bills chose to throw the ball three times, rather than continue running the ball when the line was allowing Jackson and Spiller room to grab first downs. On the last play of this drive, they decided to go with the wildcat and we know how that turned out. The Bills coaching staff is dead set on proving the Fitzpatrick is a good quarterback and will continue to put the game on the line to save their jobs, rather than manage the game with the running backs they have on this team. It is only a matter of time before this bites them.
Was this a good win for the team? How do you feel going into week 7. Let me know what you think. You can also find my articles on twitter @christynepolle.