Degenerate gamblers, still smoldering from the week 1 dismantling of the heavily favored Patriots, conspire to make the Bills 8 point favorites against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa is visiting Ralph Wilson stadium for the first time in history, and are coming into Buffalo having been taken to the woodshed by Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys the previous week.
Unaccustomed to being expected to win, Dick Jauron was noticeably nervous.
“I liked it better when everyone thought we sucked. Now we have to win. I need to come up with a game plan, and I’m not sure I know how.”
Coach, perhaps you should just hand the ball off to Fred Jackson again?
“Ooh, that’s a great idea. I think I’ll do that.”
Well then. Let’s get it on.
It’s a sellout crowd at Ralph Wilson Stadium, 70 degrees with no clouds in sight. Madden and Collinsworth break down the matchup. The Bills and Bucs are even in most categories, but Madden gives the Bills a big edge in QB (?), HB, Special Teams and Coaching (!!).
Seriously. The Bills have a big edge in QB play. This may be the year that Madden strokes out during the pregame. Maybe Brian Moorman has a cannon for an arm, and I just wasn’t using him properly. Now I’m a bit nervous. Should I have told Jauron to work at least one pass into the weekly practices? This can’t be a good sign.
Keys to the game are announced: WR Antonio Bryant is labeled a “dynamic playmaker”, while QB Ryan Fitzpatrick “has shown he can be an efficient game manager”.
The Bills win the toss and elect to receive. First play from scrimmage – play action pass. I’m stubborn that way. With no one open and the linebacker unblocked and speeding towards him, Fitzpatrick hits the FB McIntyre on the dump off. A stiff arm later and he’s suddenly in the open field. First down, 44 yard gain. Next play, toss left to Fred Jackson: touchdown, Bills.
After the kickoff, video game Collinsworth proves to be as repetitious and obnoxious as well, Collinsworth.
“The last thing the Bucs need after a drive like that is to go three and out. It really…”
Puts pressure on the defense? Thanks Chris.
The Bucs take the field with Josh Freeman at the helm. Suddenly, the pre-game rankings begin to make sense. Incomplete, incomplete, third and long.
Facing third and long and a strong side blitz, Freeman is chased out of the pocket and forced out of bounds short of the marker. Donte Whitner shows up from off camera and drills Freeman after the whistle. 15 yard penalty.
“Sorry coach, force of habit.”
Donte, while I admire your go-getter attitude, the last thing we want is someone other than Josh Freeman at QB.
“It won’t happen again. I just got excited and hit the truck stick.”
The Bucs settle for a field goal, 7-3 Bills.
Executing Jauron’s game plan with surgical precision, the Bills run 5 consecutive off tackle right plays, capped off by Fred Jackson’s second TD of the game. Bills 14-3.
Collinsworth, any thoughts?
“The last thing the Bucs need after a drive like that is to go three and out. This game has the ability to get ugly if they aren’t careful.”
On the ensuing play, Tampa hands off to Cadillac Williams. He appears to be stopped behind the line, but the Cadillac shrugs off the arm tackle. The Bills defense runs the wrong way, and is slow to react. Cadillac rumbles and bumbles his way to an 82 yard touchdown. 14-10 Bills.
Fitzpatrick responds with an interception.
At the end of the first half, the Bills lead 14-10.
Relevant 1st quarter statistics:
Buffalo rushing: 15-101
Buffalo passing: 1-2, 44 yards, 1 INT
Tampa rushing: 7-106
Josh Freeman takes his position under center.
“There was plenty of shoddy tackling on that last drive. Even as a little kid you are taught how to tackle in Pop Warner. The Bills put on a clinic in how not to tackle.”
Expert analysis, indeed.
Freeman drops back, sack 14 yard loss. Next snap: sack. Third and 28, wild incompletion. How do you like them apples, Chris?
The Bills then proceed to do what they do best: hand off to Fred Jackson. When Fred Jackson gets tired, Xavier Omon takes the rock and scores a TD! Xavier Omon now has two TDs in two weeks. Omon jerseys will be flying off the shelves at halftime. 21-10 Buffalo.
Buffalo later follows that up with a field goal, 24-10 at the half.
Following an uneventful Tampa drive and a horrible punt, Buffalo takes possession past midfield.
Sensing a run, Tampa executes a run blitz to perfection. 4 yard loss.
Not to be out done, Jauron calls another run. Tampa calls another run blitz. Let’s make it 3rd and 16.
Jauron calls time out.
“Mango, I don’t know what to do. I usually just run the ball, but it doesn’t seem to be working.”
Hey coach, try passing then. Don’t use play action, I’m begging you.
“Good idea. Play action pass.”
No. I said no play action pass.
“Play action pass, got it.”
Fitzpatrick fakes the handoff. Tampa is not fooled. Facing heavy pressure, Fitzpatrick scrambles, pump fakes… and hits a wide open T.O. for the touchdown.
“I love it when a plan comes together.”
I hate you, Dick.
As Freeman takes the field, Collinsworth adds “Tampa needs to show the Bills that they aren’t about to lay down.”
Sack: Aaron Maybin.
Interception: Marcus Stroud.
“This game is really starting to get out of hand.”
Shortly afterwards, Buffalo took out their offensive starters. It was all over but the crying. Buffalo continued to harass Freeman and an overmatched Tampa Bay Bucs team. Buffalo wins 47-20. Marcus Stroud is named player of the game.
Ryan Fitzpatrick: 11/16 242 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Josh Freeman: 31/47 341 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT
Fred Jackson: 34-151, 3 TD
Cadillac Williams: 12-109, 1 TD
Xavier Omon 7-16, 1 TD
Clayton 11-120, 1 TD
T.O. 3-98, 1 TD (another TD called back for clipping)
Buffalo team sacks: 10
Marcus Stroud: 7 tackles, 6 TFL, 4 sacks, 1 INT, 1 Forced Fumble.
Next week: Week 3 and the Vernon Gholston reclamation project.