Bills/Chiefs: Game Balls and Goats

Inside, get analysis on who did well and who struggled in Buffalo's 16-10 win Sunday. Fred Jackson (left) was a horse to bring down all day, whereas quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's stock dipped to season low. For one game, the Bills got a glimpse at the benefits of making Jackson the 1-A running back...

GAME BALLS

Fred Jackson

So many times, Jackson was dead to rights. And so many times, he squirmed his way into a positive play. Finally getting his crack as Buffalo's No. 1 back, Jackson flourished with 99 yards on 20 carries. Kansas City knew Jackson was getting the ball, stacked the box accordingly, and the elusive (yet punishing) back continued to pour salt in the wound.

He had help, too. For the first time in five years, Buffalo churned out 200 rushing yards on the road. Marshawn Lynch had 84 yards, including one 47-yard scamper. But Jackson did the most damage. For an offense that drew S.O.S. in the sand way back in September all season, Jackson has been a silver lining. Bittersweet, really. This is all too late. The Bills needed to anoint Jackson the focal point a long time ago. They would have saved themselves one, or two, or three fourth-quarter meltdowns.

At the very least, a strong December should secure such a role for Jackson next season.

Buffalo entered Arrowhead with a simple plan. Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt — for one game at least — mandated Buffalo to be a run-first team.

"Alex challenged us," Jackson said. "He said we want to get 200 yards on the ground, and if we do that we should be able to get the victory. It was the No.1 goal."

Goal, met. Jackson burnt the Chiefs on cutback runs. He'd coast toward the strong side of the line (where Jamon Meredith was used as an extra lineman) and pin-ball to the weak side. Jackson knew the Chiefs' linebackers over-pursued, which opened up a large enough crease to burrow through. Still, Jackson's productive was more than the scheme. He escaped several jams. On an 18-yard run he spun away from the nose tackle. All instincts.

We've seen flashes like this before, flashes where Jackson and Lynch dominate in tandem. For some reason, a 1-2 punch hasn't been sustainable. Former head coach Dick Jauron tended to fade away from this formula, experimenting with odd plays at odd times.

Maybe Sunday's win was a step in the right direction. Jackson, 1-A. Lynch, 1-B. The FJ Cruiser can handle any terrain.

Secondary

Buffalo's defensive backs have said all year that they share a special bond back there. Now, you have to believe them. It's beyond cliché. Last year, the Bills had 10 interceptions. This year? Twenty-five, the most in the NFL. Yes, something special is brewing.

After picking off Matt Cassel four times in the second half Sunday, the Bills have the most picks it ever has had in a season since 1975.

"[Defensive backs coach] George Catavolos does a great job with those guys," Fewell said. "This group of DBs, they show up on Monday nights and they study. They come in on Tuesday night, they come in on Wednesday. They get together and they know their game plan. I think that's a tribute to those guys. They want this. They want to be a good secondary."

Leading the way is Jairus Byrd, who seems only a couple picks away from locking up Defensive Rookie of the Year Honors. With nine, he leads the entire league. And that ninth pick couldn't have come at a better time Sunday. With just over two minutes left on fourth down at Buffalo's 21-yard line, Cassel's pass was tipped by Bryan Scott and Byrd swooped in to snare it.

The Byrdman certainly has helped mask Aaron Maybin's miserable rookie season. You can't help but be excited about his and the team's future in deep center. Everyone is young. Everyone is flying to the football. Even on Cassel's final pick — a Hail Mary heave — players were arguing over who intercepted it. They're getting their hands on the football like never before.

Brian Moorman

Seventy-three yards. Enough said. Hand him a lei right now.

GOATS

Ryan Fitzpatrick

At this rate, maybe Perry Fewell will have no choice but to play Brian Brohm. It won't be about the future. It will be about winning games.

Because Fitzpatrick was awful Sunday. He completed only three passes to wide receivers, had one pass picked in the end zone in triple coverage, has two other interceptions dropped and averaged a paltry 4.3 yards per attempt.

Maybe the plan was to run the ball. But somewhere, even JaMarcus Russell is chuckling.

Fighting for a job of his own, Fewell is going to play the best quarterback. After Sunday, it will be very tempting to give Brohm a look. The gap isn't so big between the two anymore. While you certainly do not want to stunt Brohm's development any further — he was traumatized in Green Bay — it would be an incredible confidence-booster if he did succeed.

And, wow, Fitzpatrick is struggling. Outside of the occasional bomb to Terrell Owens, he has been nonexistent. Five touchdowns, nine interceptions. Yes, Fitzpatrick is a standup guy—rare in today's NFL. But he sure looks destined to be a career backup. Gus Frerotte 2.0. There is no upside to stick with him game-in and game-out at this point.

Matt Cassel

This weekend, Bills fans were all reminded that things could be much worse. At least the future wasn't mortgaged for Ryan Fitzpatrick. After investing $63 million in Cassel, Kansas City has received nothing but migraines in return.

Last week, Cassel was benched for Brodie Croyle. This week, he wasn't and still found a way to hit rock bottom. He threw high. He threw in the dirt. He missed reads. He was sacked four times. And he threw the four interceptions.

All of a sudden that summer investment is backfiring big time. Migrating from New England to Kansas City is kind of like moving from the Hamptons to Harlem. But still. Cassel should be performing at a much higher level. Last season, he pioneered one of the NFL's best offenses with 3,693 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

It may be a long, long time before Cassel returns to that level. If at all.

thdunne@gmail.com

-------------------------------------------------

FOLLOW THE BFR ON TWITTER here.

AND LET YOUR VOICE BE KNOWN INSIDE THE ROCKPILE here.


Buffalo Football Report Top Stories