Jairus Byrd was the solution to the Panthers in a 20-9 win
By Scott Pitoniak
Published: October 26th, 2009
Icon Sports Media, Inc.
Following Sunday’s 20-9 victory against Carolina Sunday, Bills rookie safety Jairus Byrd told reporters: “I want to a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem.’’
Not to worry, Jairus.
The past two weeks you’ve been a huge part of the solution. And, all of a sudden, there’s new life in a Bills season that just two weeks ago was on life support.
The second-round draft pick from the University of Oregon intercepted two passes for the second straight game. Both of his picks vs. beleaguered Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme led to scores as the Bills won their second consecutive road game and improved their record to 3-4.
Ah, if only Leodis McKelvin had taken a knee in New England and the Bills managed to score a touchdown vs. Cleveland, they’d be 5-2 and all by their lonesome atop the AFC East. But we digress.
A 3-4 record doesn’t look so bad after what they were looking at just two weeks ago following that miserable 6-3 loss to the bungling Browns. At that stage, the Bills season appeared hopeless. I and many others were in favor in blowing things up, and start preparing for the future.
But the Bills have shown us something these past two weeks. By no means am I saying they are going to take off and end their decade-long playoff drought. But with an upcoming schedule that features Houston at home, a bye, and road games in consecutive weeks against the reeling Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars, things could become interesting.
Some other observations:
The three interceptions today (George Wilson had the other) were impressive, but the key to the Bills victory was the job they did against the run. They entered the game dead last in the league in rushing yards allowed, but held the potent duo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart to 116 - 65 below Buffalo’s average yield and 202 fewer than the Jets managed a week ago. By holding Williams and Stewart in check, they forced Delhomme to beat them, and although he threw for 325 yards, he was picked thrice and failed to throw for a score, so the strategy worked.
I thought Ryan Fitzpatrick did a decent job of managing the game. He was only 11-of-22 for 123 yards, but he did drill that touchdown pass between two defenders to Lee Evans. I also liked how he’s starting to get Evans more involved. The Bills top receiver this decade, Evans had 5 receptions for 75 yards, including a nicely thrown 50-yard bomb from Fitzpatrick.
The special teams finally played like we’re accustomed to seeing. Brian Moorman averaged 45 yards on eight punts, and the Bills coverage was exceptional on both punts and kickoffs. Carolina began seven drives inside the 20, and Bills tight end Derek Fine recovered a botched Panthers punt return, setting up a fourth-quarter score.
Bills defensive coordinator Perry Fewell’s unit gives up an awful lot of yards, but they’ve shown marked improvement in taking the ball away and keeping opponents out of the end zone. In Buffalo’s first four games, it has given up an average of 27.5. In the last three, the Bills have allowed just 9 points per contest.
Middle linebacker Paul Posluszny looked really sharp in the middle. He finished with 11 tackles and did a good job of getting his teammates in the right position to make plays.
What makes Byrd’s start even more remarkable is the fact he missed much of the off-season and camp recovering from a sports hernia operation and that he played corner in college and is now playing safety because of all the injuries in the Bills secondary.
Buffalo’s offensive line has a long, long way to go. On that safety and several other plays, they were destroyed.
Delhomme is an absolute mess. He has turned the ball over 15 times in six games – 13 picks and two fumbles.
A nationally recognized sports columnist and best-selling author, Scott Pitoniak is pursuing new challenges after 35 years in the newspaper business. He hopes one day to write the great American novel and hit a baseball over the wall at Yankee Stadium. In the meantime, he runs his own website – ScottPitoniak.com – and blogs about sports and life’s other adventures.
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