Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

What We Learned About The 2015 Buffalo Bills From Their Week 1 Home Opener Against The Indianapolis Colts at Ralph Wilson Stadium

Talk about an offseason: A new head coach, high profile trades, and big name free agent signings. Finally, real football was played for 60 minutes. Here is what we learned about the Bills...

What an incredible offseason. A new head coach, high profile trades, big name free agent signings and saying farewell to some popular players. Finally, real football was played for 60 minutes between the Buffalo Bills and their first opponent, the Indianapolis Colts. Here is what we learned about the Bills...

Tyrod Taylor Is The Real Deal

After languishing on the bench behind Joe Flacco for four years in Baltimore, Bills starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor fared well in his first start* in the NFL. Taylor did not appear to be skittish behind an offensive line that was somewhat inconsistent on Sunday. He used his legs when he had to, but appeared patient and poised when his pass protection failed... which was a bit too often. Taylor was not sacked and did not turn the ball over. The Bills QB finished the game 14/19 with 195 yards passing, 1 TD, and an additional 41 yards rushing on nine carries. His quarterback rating was 88.2. There will be more than a few #5 jerseys sold this week in Western New York.

The Bills Ground Game Looked Good... Mostly

First, the good: The Bills running backs combined for 147 yards rushing against the Colts. The biggest bright spot here is rookie Karlos Williams, the 6'1" 230 lb. FSU product who averaged 9.2 yards per carry. The coaches have to feel good about their #2 RB. and Bills fans should expect to see the rookie as a regular part of the rotation. Bills starting RB LeSean McCoy averaged only 2.4 yards per carry with a bad hamstring behind an inconsistent and oft-penalized offensive line. Anthony Dixon and Karlos Williams each scored on the ground.

Now, some possible concerns (and yes I understand the Bills won and there's only been one game played): Bills running backs combined for only 97 total yards on the ground (Tyrod Taylor and Percy Harvin combined for an additional 50 yards rushing). Could LeSean McCoy's hamstring be a factor in his 2.4 yards per carry averge? Absolutely. But the offensive line was expected allow the Bills RB's to run at will against a Colts offensive line that included two rookies making their first start. There's no panic button being pressed on the ground game, but McCoy's injury has to be a concern, as does the offensive line's run blocking.

The Bills Passing Game

We'll talk about Sammy Watkins later. Newly signed WR Percy Harvin made a highlight reel touchdown on a 51 yard bomb from Tyrod Taylor. Harvin led the team with 5 receptions for 79 yards. LeSean McCoy showed us what we all know about his receiving abilities with 3 grabs for 46 yards. Charles Clay made a few catches, but reports about his knee and related career longievity will be worth watching as the season progresses.

Sammy Watkins... it is only one game. Here is what we know about Sammy Watkins. He was only targeted 3 times on Sunday. He finished the game with 0 catches, for zero yards, zero first downs, zero touchdowns, and zero... you get the picture. I wonder why? Watkins is an elite slam dunk blue chip wide receiver who the Bills paid for dearly to move up and draft. Watkins was matched up against Vontae Davis, who is without a doubt the Colts best defender. But good players may disappear when covered by Davis, not elite ones. And why was Watkins only targeted three times? Was the game plan to use him as a decoy to keep Vontae Davis away from Harvin and open the field? Did Tyrod Taylor not see Sammy Watkins open? Wait... was he open? Could it be that the Bills only threw the ball 19 times? Is Sammy Watkins an elite elite slam dunk blue chip wide receiver or not? It IS only one game...

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The Bills Defense Is Elite

Other than the fact the Bills finished the game with a 27-14 win, here is the most telling stat line about the Bills defense:

Andrew Luck: 26-49/243 yards passing/2 TD/2 INT/QBR 38.7

Pro Bowl DL Marcell Dareus may have been out with a suspension, but that only seems to make what the Bills defense accomplished even more special. Andrew Luck did have 243 yards in the air including two touchdowns and two interceptions, but 74 of those yards along with one of his touchdowns came during garbage time in the 4th quarter. Luck is a perennial MVP Candidate and an elite top-3 quarterback. Bills rookie cornerback Ronald Darby made his first ever interception in his first NFL start. Bills Free Safety Aaron Williams recorded both an interception as well as a QB hit against Andrew Luck. In all, Luck was sacked twice, hit five times, and chased all over the field, which really made an impact on his ability to get the ball to his very talented group of receivers. 

The Colts ground game struggled mightily. Newly signed RB Frank Gore was held to just 31 yards combined rushing/receiving, which is far below the threshold I predicted the Bills would need to win. In fact, even without Dareus, the Bills held last year's ill-fated AFC Championship participant to a very pedestrian 64 yards on the ground for the game. 

That asterisk on Tyrod Taylor's first NFL start*:

Believe it or not, Sunday will go down as a start (and win) for Matt Cassel, with Tyrod Taylor credited for starting as a wide receiver. This comes from the Bills odd decision to try a trick play on their first snap, which resulted in a tricky 6 yard loss for LeSean McCoy:

https://twitter.com/ByTimGraham/status/643170903472361472

https://twitter.com/ByTimGraham/status/643243610180292612


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