Buffalo’s no-huddle offense is under construction. Just didn’t seem that way Saturday night against the Chicago Bears.
Trent Edwards was a perfect 10-of-10 for 79 yards. His backup, Ryan Fitzpatrick, was 13-of-16 for 143 yards. And the Bills rolled to a 27-20 win over the Bears. The Bills’ first- and second-team offenses left plenty of points on the board but they can still walk away optimistic that the no-huddle offense is ahead of schedule.
Even with Terrell Owens in a dorm room, tweeting about his toe.
“I thought we caught them off guard again like we did last week, and I think we need to continue to try to do that, to try to get ourselves into shape where we can run that during the regular season, too," Edwards said.
Edwards’ highlight of the night came with his back pinned against the wall. At his own 13-yard line, he hit Lee Evans in-stride for 36 yards. Evans burned Nathan Vasher badly on the play, getting a good three yards of separation. Even with Owens (toe) sidelined, Buffalo's passing offense moved a rhythmic rate.
"Lee just beat the guy,” Edwards said. “(Evans) a playmaker and I just have to get the ball in his hands."
Fitzpatrick looked like a veteran operating the no-huddle offense. And, really, he kind of is. Buffalo’s new backup ran this same offense during his entire collegiate career at Harvard and then again in parts at Cincinnati. The no-huddle pace doesn’t scare him, doesn't hurry him. Fitzpatrick tore up Chicago’s second-stringers for multiple extended drives. He put up 10 points but it would have been more if not for a Roscoe Parrish fumble inside the 20 and questionable clock management on a field goal before halftime.
All in all, any clamoring for a new backup surely was silenced. Fitzpatrick has the brains and quick release needed to effectively pioneer a hurry-up offense. He was decisive with the ball each play, connecting with multiple receivers on a bevy of routes.
The Bills’ rushing game struggled for the second straight week as the team managed only 2.9 yards per carry on 43 attempts. Part of it may be the revamped line. Part of it may be overdancing around holes. Lynch had a couple open lanes but prematurely bounced himself into traffic.
On the other side, Jay Cutler was rusty in his first game as a Chicago Bear. The guy Chicago traded an arm and a leg for directed four drives, only leading the offense to 70 yards. Cutler threw a pick to Leodis McKelvin and had another interception dropped by Reggie Corner.
The Bears hope it’s nothing but new-team cobwebs. After going through 25 different starting quarterbacks since 2001, the Bears traded the Denver Broncos two first-round picks, a third-round pick and Kyle Orton for Cutler.
McKelvin’s pick on Cutler typified the corner’s elite speed. He stayed with receiver Devin Hester stride-for-stride up the left sideline, Cutler’s ball was a tad underthrown and McKelvin leapt to pick it off at its highest point. Despite some shaky coverage through two games, McKelvin has been able to comfortably keep his starting spot with two interceptions in the preseason. The Bills need big plays. McKelvin's their best bet to provide them.
Seventh-round pick Ellis Lankster most likely punched his roster ticket against the Bears with a pair of interceptions that set up touchdowns. Gibran Hamden lofted a 3-yard jump-ball score to rookie Shawn Nelson and Bruce Hall plunged in from four yards out. Dominic Rhodes scored Buffalo’s other touchdown on a 3-yard dive in the third quarter.
Lankster has been around the ball all training camp. It's not a coincidence, either. On one of Lankster's picks he stealthily sat on a route when Buffalo was in Cover 2. He almost had a reverse-Orton, tipping away another pass later on for a near pick. With more ballhawking moments like Saturday night, it’ll be tough to rein in Lankster come September. It'd be smart to get Lankster reps against a No. 2 offense as the preseason progresses.
On the down side defensively, two key cogs in the secondary suffered injuries. Both Drayton Florence and Bryan Scott sprained their knees. Florence has been the main nickel corner defensively, while Scott has started at safety. Both bring valuable leadership to a raw secondary.
For a complete blow-by-blow of the game, check out this
blog on the Buffalo News’ Billboard, by BFR’s Tyler Dunne.
And be sure to check in all week for analysis on this game and more.