DISARRAY (Part 2):Special teams staying alive

The Buffalo Bills' ship seems to be sinking quickly this season. The only thing keeping them afloat seems to be their special teams unit that is packed with talent from Brian Moorman to newcomer, Leodis McKelvin. BFR's Ian Smith explains why this unit needs to maintain its intensity in order for the Bills to make a run into January.

The term bailout seems to be getting thrown around a lot this year.

And for the Buffalo Bills, the $700 billion financial rescue package comes to them in form of the special teams unit.

In order for the Bills to turn this season gone-spoiled back into the prominent season that it once was, the special teams must play a huge role in every game.

I have to start off by apologizing, and rescind a statement I made last week about Buffalo's special teams. Basically, I said that the Coach Bobby April's squad made a direct contribution to the three straight losses against the Dolphins, Jets, and Patriots due to their poor play and sloppy coverage.

Boy, oh boy, did they prove me wrong on Monday night.

At the turn of the fourth quarter, the eastern side of Lake Erie grew deafly quiet after a 72 yard touchdown run by Cleveland Browns running back Jerome Harrison. The dash seemed to be the game-winner, the immediately turn off the television, swear a whole bunch, and throw the remote at the nearest human being deal-breaking play that all football fans, especially Bills fans, know and hate.

However, rookie Leodis McKelvin electrified Ralph Wilson Stadium with a 98 yard kick return to the house, seconds after Harrison's run. Along with it being the Troy University graduate's first touchdown of his career, it put the Bills back within a field goal of the Browns.

Although it did not ultimately work out for the Bills (part II of Wide Right and thousands of Bills fans crying themselves to sleep), the special teams unit has put the team in good position to win almost every game.

After Monday's showcase, McKelvin is now third in the NFL in kick return average (29.6 yards per return). If field position is the name of the game, you can start calling Leodis Mr. Monopoly. One game of him and he goes for a long, long time.

Other members of the special teams have been playing equally outstanding. Punt returner Roscoe Parrish is second in the league in punt return average (14.7 yards per return) and is one of only seven players to have a touchdown this year. At times this season, both Parrish and the speedy Fred Jackson have been put deep to return. And at times this season, opposing special teams coaches have been deathly afraid and needed a clean pair of boxer briefs.

On the defensive-side of the Bills' special teams, punter Brian Moorman has continued to prove why he is a two time Pro Bowler (2006 and 2007) and the best ill-weathered punter in the league. Moorman ranks in the NFL's top ten in punting average (45.2) and net average (39.4 yards per punt). And punting that well in the cold swirling winds of Buffalo is no easy task. On top of that, the college track star can speed right by the first down marker if called upon.

The one question mark right now is kicker Rian Lindell. After the Oakland Raiders game (in which Lindell made a 38-yarder with no time remaining to win it), Lindell was the man. Mr. Clutch. Mr. Freeze Vein.

But the time is right when the lights shine bright on Monday night.

And Lindell simply couldn't make the big one to win it. Under 40 yards, Lindell is absolutely phenomenal, 11 attempts and 11 successes. A little uncertainty is added once you go beyond that 40-yard marker, Lindell is 8 for 13 in such a range.

Fortunately for the Bills, the positives on special teams outweigh the negatives. If Buffalo's special teams unit continues to shine, the Bills could be poised to make a run for the playoffs in January. Keep in mind that other factors must also click in order for the Bills to even consider thinking about the words AFC playoffs. But if the third side of the ball game continues their awesome play, don't be surprised if the Bills turn this season around and make it a special one.

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