Tsuj’s Ten: Sabres inspire Bills’ quick start?
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • September 27, 2011 @ 12:06pm
1) Ah, it’s a good feeling atop the Bills’ high horse. In fact, I don’t think Buffalo football fans know how to react. We’re not exactly staring down in contempt at the rest of the NFL—we can’t forget the early 1990s—but this unexpected charge to the top of the AFC East came wholly unexpected. It’s awesome, so relish it, Buffalo.
2) Call me crazy, but I have to think part of the Bills’ fast start is due to the city’s attention paid to the Sabres. This summer, the city wasn’t bustling about whether or not Ryan Fitzpatrick was the long-term answer at quarterback; the chatter surrounded Terry Pegula’s imprint on the Sabres, the additions of Regehr, Ehrhoff and Leino in free agency and the aggressive renovations of the First Niagara Center. The spotlight shining on the city’s other professional sports team must have served as a stimulus, as I can’t believe being dismissed as Buffalo’s perpetually losing franchise was well received by the Bills. Is it the only reason the Bills are off to a hot start? No. Does it play a role? Probably.
3) For the most part, the Bills at least made an attempt to cover Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski, even though the combined 23 catches, 326 yards and four touchdowns would suggest otherwise. Nick Barnett, regarded as a capable linebacker in coverage (one major reason Gailey was happy to have him in Poz’s stead), was eaten alive by Welker’s quickness, and the George Wilson/Bryan Scott duo had no chance against Gronkowski’s strength and speed. Should the Bills panic at their back seven’s inability to cover? Not yet, but it’s certainly not a strength.
4) I’ve never liked Chad Ochocinco very much—mostly due to his dumb show with T.O. and the theatrics surrounding his name change. He apparently couldn’t revert his name back to Johnson due to “money issues”; a little research tells me that the most expensive name-changes are roughly $500, and “eight-five” is set to make $5 million this year. Still, I felt a little sympathy after his botched touchdown grab. His ability has declined precipitously since five consecutive Pro Bowl selections in the mid-2000s, and his body language reflects his frustration. If the Patriots had any wide receiver depth at all, Ochocinco would be cut.
5) Speaking of frustration, Buffalo Bulls’ coach Jeff Quinn was at a loss for words during Saturday’s post-game press conference, moments after his team lost to UConn 17-3. Proud that his team competed well against a second Big East school (UB fell to Pittsburgh in Week 1, 35-16), he didn’t know what to say to a team that fell short but gave maximum effort. Quinn’s theory that there are “six or seven plays each game that determine the outcome, and the challenge is to be on the right side of most of them,” held true, as Nick Williams’ two long grabs shifted the result in UConn’s favor. Quinn is now 3-12 as Bulls’ head coach, with two of those wins coming against FCS school (Rhode Island and Stony Brook.)
6) Bulls linebacker Khalil Mack is so thoroughly dominant. There are times when I just want to halt the live-blog and watch him individually play after play. That sounds a little creepy. He’s constantly in the opposing backfield, scooting around blockers and forcefully wrapping up ball-carriers. A former unheralded Turner Gill recruit from Florida, Mack played one year of organized high school football, initially committed to Liberty University but wound up at UB after a bigger school came calling.
7) Chazz Anderson’s starting QB job is not in danger, and it’s safe to say that he has a fairly long leash. Alex Zordich, tremendous in camp as a passer (he was already a threat as a runner), is next in line, probably chomping at the bit for reps. Quinn was comfortable rotating quarterbacks within a game at Cincinnati (immobile pocket passer Pike and scrambler Collaros), so I see that as a possibility if Anderson’s struggles continue (2-3 more games?). In fairness, though, UConn’s defense was stingy, and Sio Moore, Yawin Smallwood and Blidi Wreh-Wilson were much better than I expected. Once shutdown corner Wreh-Wilson left due to injury (starting safety Jerome Junior was out to begin with), I was disappointed that Anderson didn’t target Marcus Rivers relentlessly.
8) St. Joe’s whipped Central Mountain (PA) on the road last weekend, 61-28. The linebacker trio of Nathan O’Brien, Blaze LaDuca and Rod Payne has steadily improved each week, most recently holding Von Walker to a rather tame 110 yards and two scores on 16 carries (take away the 62 yard scoring run, and that’s 15-48-1). After the damage done by Aquinas’ Billy Lombardi (224 yards) and Canisius’ Mercer Timmis (248 yards), Walker’s stat-line is considered a defensive win. Chad Kelly was predictably awesome, running over the Wildcats’ defense to the tune of three first quarter touchdowns before hooking up with Nigel Davis for scores twice in the second quarter. Leading 41-14 at halftime, the Marauders substituted liberally down the stretch. St. Joe’s plays at 7 p.m. Saturday night at St. Francis.
9) The Steelers/Colts Sunday Night Football game was painful to watch, but before I dozed off mid-fourth quarter, I couldn’t help but marvel at Troy Polamalu. I’ve seen him in action for years, but until you watch him intently for an entire game, it’s tough to appreciate how dynamic he is. I missed the prime Ronnie Lott years, so I can’t say that’s a fair comparison, but it’s reasonable to think that Polamalu is the best safety since the Raider legend. John Lynch and Steve Atwater starred, but Polamalu’s phenomenal instincts, sudden changes of speed, recognition of plays (predicting Kerry Collins’ cadence at the line gave him a crazy jump on the play several times) and bone-rattling tackles give him an edge.
10) Obligatory soccer notes: everyone’s favorite part of Tsuj’s Ten! I’ve watched roughly ⅔ of the 20 English Premier League teams so far in 2011, so here’s a quick list of five players I’ve been impressed with and five players I’ve been disappointed by:
Impressed: Laurent Koscielny, Arsenal defender; Yaya Toure, Manchester City defensive midfielder; Luis Suarez, Liverpool midfielder/forward; Danny Welbeck, Manchester United forward; Rory Delap, Stoke City midfielder.
Disappointed: Aaron Ramsey, Arsenal midfielder; Carlos Tevez, Manchester City striker; David De Gea, Manchester United goalie; Nicklas Bendter, Sunderland striker, Fernando Torres, Chelsea striker.