Some observations on the Bills-Jets game from the perspective of the Buffalo Bills radio booth:
- C.J. Spiller has improved almost immeasurably in his third year in the NFL. The Bills will surely miss Fred Jackson when he's out, but C.J. is more than capable of filling his shoes. He represents the kind of quality depth the Bills were trying to build going into this year. C.J. does a much better job now in getting yards after contact. In fact, Bills guard Kraig Urbik sounded amazed in the postgame locker room, when he talked to me about Spiller's ability to fight through tackles.
"I thought he ran really physically and broke a lot of tackles," Urbik said. "Those two big runs he had, he wasn't just untouched, he was running through tackles. He played really well, and we're gonna need that if Fred is out for a while."
But it wasn't just the two big runs that showcased Spiller's development as a runner. In one of Buffalo's fourth quarter touchdown drives, Spiller did a great job fighting through traffic and setting up his blocks. On 1st-and-10 from the 50, he picked up six yards on a tough run through traffic. Three plays later, 1st-and-goal at the nine, Spiller picked up three tough yards by being patient and waiting for his blocks to develop. They were the type of runs he may not have been able to pull off two years ago.
Urbik says the improvement came late last season.
"Yeah, you definitely saw that last year," he told us. "In the six or seven games last year when he had a bigger role, he got more patient and saw the holes better. You saw his performance get better and better, and you saw it out there today, too.
- The highly touted "Battle of the Wildcats" never emerged in Sunday's game. By my count, Tim Tebow lined up in the Jets Wildcat offense eight times during the game and he did not have much of an impact. He never attempted a pass after he took the direct snap. The Jets said after the game they didn't feel the need to use their Wildcat offense once they got up early in the game.
The Bills never unveiled their version of the Wildcat. WR/QB Brad Smith did not get in the game at all as he continues to recover from a groin pull from a couple of weeks ago. Buffalo's Wildcat has not been let out of the cage yet.
Much has been made about the Bills lack of pass rush in the game. In fact, neither team had a sack on Sunday—not the Bills revamped front four on defense, not the Jets confusing Rex Ryan "attack the passer' defense.
Jets QB Mark Sanchez had his timing and rhythm down perfectly in this game. The Bills elected not to throw many (if any) blitzes his way, which accounted for part of the problem. Buffalo's defensive strategists no doubt are counting on being able to generate pass rush with their front four.
But the back end of the defense is also responsible for the fact that Sanchez looked comfortable and relaxed in the pocket. During his session with the media Monday, Head Coach Chan Gailey indicated it was coverage, not pressure, that was the problem with the Buffalo pass defense.
"We need to tighten up our coverage which will help our pass rush," Gailey said. "If you let them get it out in rhythm they will. The key is to not let them get it out in rhythm. We have to tighten things up and if we tighten things up I think the pass rush will be much more in play."
Look for a healthier Terrence McGee to play a bigger role in shoring up the coverage problems in Buffalo's secondary.
- The Jets, who finished 8-and-8 last year, got most of their offseason publicity by trading for backup QB\Punt Protector Tim Tebow. But it's some personnel additions on the defensive side of the ball that may have the most impact on their hopes for improvement.
Safeties Laron Landry and Yeremiah Bell were both big contributors to Buffalo's offensive struggles Sunday. Landry led them with 7 tackles, he had two quarterback hits, and he forced the C.J. Spiller fumble. Even though some Bills players were not happy with his overly aggressive play, there's no denying the impact a hard-hitting safety can have on opponents.