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Kelly's Call: Strong team character is evident

Posted Nov 26, 2010

The Bills comeback win last week against the Bengals was enjoyable to watch. Knowing it’s the biggest road comeback for Buffalo since our Oct. 25th game at Miami in 1987 when we were down 21 points and won 34-31 only brought back some good memories.

When a 1-8 team can pull off a second-half come from behind victory like that it says a lot about Chan Gailey’s team. It’s validation for what they’ve done in their last month of play. They’ve been in every game. They’ve never given up.

They’re not looking at their record and feeling sorry for themselves or folding up their tent in the third quarter of games. These guys are showing their pride and wearing it on their sleeves and proving they’re not as bad as team as their record might indicate.

That’s one of the things to really build on. They understand that they’re only a few players away from being a great team. People are stepping up and they’re making plays when they have to, and Ryan Fitzpatrick is surprising a lot of people. I like seeing it. You just hope his play will continue so that top draft pick wherever it may be might be a more open selection that can be used on a position other than quarterback that’s of great need for this team.

You really can’t deny Fitzpatrick’s production. I had the chance to talk to him last week and you can tell there’s confidence there and he really has a good grasp of Chan’s system. What’s great to see is how he sits in the pocket and goes through his progressions. That was one of the things that bothered me the most about Trent Edwards. He never went through his progressions. He was always too eager to dump the ball off if his first read wasn’t open. He was too worried about getting sacked.

Sacks are going to happen, but sometimes you’ve got to hold onto the football for that last half second to complete a pass that you need to maybe break the game open. Fitz has made the throws he’s had to and it’s even more encouraging to see Steve Johnson come on big time this season.

One interesting aspect of last Sunday’s game was how Buffalo’s offense adjusted when Cincinnati lost their two starting safeties and then later one of their starting corners. As a quarterback you try to see what they’re going to do to protect the backups that are now on the field.

Quarterbacks in concert with the offensive coordinator may take a chance here or there to see how the defense reacts. Will they protect that new corner or that new safety with different coverages? You check it out. And you might experiment for an offensive series or two to see if there’s something you can take advantage of, but ultimately you stick to your game plan.

Coaches and quarterbacks know what’s going on out on the field and they recognize those personnel changes. There’s no doubt you do try to take advantage of those mismatches if they’re out there. You still go through your progressions as a quarterback, but you may stay on that fade pattern a moment longer to see if your receiver gets that separation.

If what you find in testing the new corner or safety is that you have a distinct advantage then obviously you adjust your play calling to exploit that.

It’d be hard to think that the coaching staff will take touches away from Fred Jackson moving forward after the last two weeks that he’s put together. He got his 20-plus touches each of the last two games and has put up back-to-back 100-yard rushing efforts and he’s got four touchdowns. As I mentioned last week, this time of year getting that kind of production on the ground is critical.

The offensive line to their credit is playing pretty well. I’ve watched them more closely of late and the adjustments they were making, especially the tackles, knowing the three interior players have been pretty steady. Those two outside guys held up pretty good. Now there are a lot of games left and the competition takes a step up for pretty much the remainder of the season, so we’ll see how it all looks in the end.

The tackles do look like they’re coming along though. Hopefully they’ll continue to not only get better as a unit, but also understand the offense and the blocking schemes. Once you don’t have to think and react you’re so much better off. It becomes a lot easier.

Pittsburgh will certainly be a tough opponent on Sunday. Their defense is as good as ever and Ben Roethlisberger looks to be in a groove offensively. That being said the Bills are coming into this game with the kind of confidence that they haven’t had in a while.

The Steelers won’t be worried, but there will be some concern because they know the Bills at any given time can put up a lot of points and beat teams. They’re going to come in here pumped up knowing if they don’t they could get victimized just like the Bengals did last week.

Mike Tomlin will have them ready to play, but they know in the back of their mind they have to play well because this is a Buffalo Bills team that’s getting better week in and week out. It’s a good matchup that will demonstrate just how far the Bills have come this season.