Tim Avery can be found @thetimavery Instagram and Twitter
Thursday night, August 8th, the Bills took the field versus a Colts team fresh off a playoff run in 2018, presenting the Luck-less steeds with a relentless first team D. The Colts’ first series read like textbook Bills Offenses of the past two decades: fizzling out before they started, as Shaq Lawson knifed through the line on the first play for a 2-yard loss. After a nice Brissett toss to Funchess for a first down, Star and Oliver kept Tremaine Edmunds clean; ever the gentleman, ‘maine returned the favor by stuffing Hines for a short gain. Star, not to be out-done, responded on play #3 by batting a would-be-Brissett pass back in his face. Brissett was promptly chased by Trent Murphy, and lobbed a lame duck in the general direction of Coleman, who couldn’t have bagged that bird if he was playing Duck Hunt on the first stage (yes… I am old).
Suffice to say, the Bills’ first team defense came out hungry, and the Thursday night blue-plate special was horse meat, as the Colts had no answer for our pass rush or our zone press. I loved how The Shaq came back the very next Colts series, stuffing Hines again. The Clemson D-End knows this is a contract year, and every down counts, even in preseason. I love how he stepped up this game; cannot wait to see him play for the bills and the Bills, this year!
Our offense had some fits and starts, with nice snags by Beasley, bookended by overthrown missiles to late-round Boston College draft pick, Tight End Tommy Sweeney, and an under thrown ball to Zay. It wasn’t until Buffalo’s second series that the Motor started revving, as Singletary and Gore swapped one and five yard runs, respectively, followed by an 8-yard chain-mover from Josh to Zay. We started to air things out, as Allen uncorked deep bombs to Brown (miss) and Jones (hit for 23). With John Brown pushing to the Indy 18, things were looking up for the Bills, but Phillips burst through to sack Josh for 11 yards. We recovered, thanks to the very same Phillips on the next play, as he got greedy and jumped the gun: 5 yard penalty. Allen dumped a short one to Andre Roberts, who chugged 8 yards to the 16. Hausch-Money was still feeling poor from last year’s Jets hit, as he decisively missed a 34 yard field goal attempt.
It was starting to feel like last year, where we couldn’t help but bungle any good field-position, but our D stood strong again, as 7th rounder, Darryl Johnson came up with consecutive stops, as he punched Hines’ ticket for 0 yards on 2nd and 9, and helped snuff out a pass on 3rd and 9. Who is this guy? North Carolina A&T. Unsung because he wasn’t in a top-flight league. Written off. But McBean saw 6 ft. 5. length in the Defensive End, wingspan to match, and a relentlessness that screams lunchpail. I was surprised he took some snaps while the 1sts were still out battling, but that says something about what they think of this kid. Hey, McBean: DO NOT try to stash D.J. on the P.S. He won’t last long!
The Colts spanned quarter one and quarter two with another ugly offensive series (hey… to their credit, Captain Andrew Luck was busier on Twitter, twitting as his now-infamous Civil War moniker, then he was on the field). Whether you believe the Captain is the real deal or merely a brilliant and benevolent troll, the account is worth a follow, just for kicks. Speaking of kicks, the Colts punted after another three-and-out as the quarter expired.
Barkley burnt a listless three-and-out on his first plate appearance, taking the helm from Josh in the dying minutes of quarter one, but the ever-smiling USC back-up-QB took a page from the book of Singletary, letting the Florida Atlantic product feast on six straight plays (two passes, followed by three runs), to the net tune of 11 by air and 16 by land. A blip of a Ray-Ray incompletion dotted the radar, followed by—you guessed it—more Singletary, as he stretched a short dump-off for 10 yards to the Indy 9. A Yeldon sighting—reaping a mere yard—was followed by a 4th-read, back-corner fade to 2nd-year former Hokie, Cam Phillips, and Buffalo was first to draw blood!
Writing a few days after a pre-season game, we all know the outcome by now. I wanted to highlight a few points in the first half, and tell it like I felt it. A few notes from the 2nd half; more points of intrigue than play-by-play:
-Darryl Johnson came to play. His line: 3 tackles (2 solo), 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 Pass Defensed, 1 QB hit… Those are not 7th-rounder numbers, and he wasn’t just inserted in garbage time. Sue me for being excited, but this kid may be the steal of our 2019 draft class.
-Senorise Perry didn’t make flash plays, but he looked more tuned-in than Yeldon. From training camp and this game, I haven’t seen enough from Yeldon to warrant keeping him. Can Beane, the Witch, cull a 4th or 5th out of the former Jag, and current J.A.G.? A 5th for McCarron last year has me buying in.
-On the outside-looking-in: Marcus Murphy. The Missouri running back was—by the numbers—the best performing Bills RB on the day, carrying six times for 33 yards, for a very respectable 5.5 per carry. We know that McBeane love his leadership and attitude, but the media is calling for McCoy, Gore, Singletary, Perry. The questions: Can Murphy’s production continue? Can he wiggle his way onto this roster? Will he be another Mike Tolbert, or Joe Webb, or Kaelin Clay: players whose attitudes and mettle kept them alive in the 716? It remains to be seen, but tonight he made a case for himself.
-Question: Who is Lafayette Pitts? Answer: The Reason that the Bills’ brass didn’t bat an eyelash when putting E.J. Groin Sprains on the I.R. this Saturday. Two brilliant pass break ups—one in the end zone to save a would-be-TD—and a nice tackle, in limited playing time. Pitts put in the work this offseason, and it showed under the bright lights on Thursday night!
-Before this game, I had the WR corps looking like this:
But Isaiah McKenzie… He not only looked—at times—like the best receiver in the Bills’ Swiss-army-knife array, but he also made plays in the punt return game. I don’t know if we keep six, but if we do, McKenzie is knock-knock-knocking on the door.
-And I’ll wrap with the game’s golden moment. We all know about the terrific TD carry by Christian Wade. Thinking back on it, I have to say that it reminded me of the Kyle Williams 1 yard TD run against the Dolphins. As magical as both moments were, it’s not just about the unexpected player doing something incredible that burns the moment in our collective memories; what’s more telling is the way this team exploded into unmitigated joy when his second juke put him out of all reach, and carried him into the end zone. McDermott is truly building a brotherhood; a Family; a WAY here in Buffalo. Had Wade done that in New England, Grumper McHoodieson would have grumbled, “We’re on to Cincy,” and proceeded to scowl hard enough to curdle a cool, fresh glass of pasteurized milk at 300 yards. It is only a matter of time before true brotherhood turns from feeling good to playing great. The clock is ticking. Vegas started us at 6.0 wins; now the line is 7.5. Somebody knows something is happening. My question is Mulder’s question: DO YOU BILLEVE?