ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) — Electricity surged the Ralph Wilson Stadium as more than 70,000 fans ushered inside to watch the Buffalo Bills take the field in the highly anticipated season opener against the Colts. The Bills, now under Head Coach Rex Ryan, did not disappoint.
The opening drive for each team set a misleading pace, at least when considering the game’s 27 to 14 victory. The Colts received the ball first but faced setbacks on a few well-defended passes by rookie cornerback Ronald Darby, who despite suffering some muscle cramps, refuted throughout the game that he would allow NFL quarterbacks to pick on him.
When the Bills took over, they lost six yards on the first play, a confusing concoction that allowed both Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor to start the game. Ryan said Greg Roman devised the play, but both coaches thought it would be successful. McCoy ripped off yards after catching a quick snap from Taylor, but the drive stalled out.
Each team’s second drive followed suit, but Buffalo’s special teams units continued to pin Andrew Luck and his Colts back against their end zone, forcing poor positioning on the opposing team. On their second drive, the Colts started at their own nine-yard-line. Buffalo’s positioning continued to improve as they beat the Colts back.
That battle of positioning culminated when Darby jumped in on a long pass from Andrew Luck, snagging it to make his first NFL interception. His catch, and the yards he gained afterwards allowed the Bills to score on their third drive. Once the offense took over, Tyrod Taylor led the scoring charge as he lobbed a pinpoint accurate bomb into the end zone that found its target — new Buffalo Bill Percy Harvin. Harvin made his first touchdown as a Bill, but also his first catch of such a magnitude since 2011.
The catch set a tone reminiscent of the Buffalo Bills of old, hearkening back to Jim Kelly in more ways than one. The throw became the longest pass on opening day pass since Kelly himself threw a bomb in 1996 to start the season off.
A battle of positioning would continue, pitting Buffalo’s defense and special teams against the Colts. That battle became a victory as those units returned command of the football to a confident Buffalo Bills offense. That offense churned out three consecutive scoring drives after Tyrod and Harvin’s touchdown connection.
Buffalo turned their next drive, spurred on by a connection between Taylor and tight end Charles Clay, into a field goal by Dan Carpenter, bringing the Bills to a 10-0 lead. Carpenter’s accurate kick refuted the thought that his gas tank may have been empty — a notion Bills coaches may have had after the veteran kicker missed a host of kicks in the preseason.
The lead only grew when Buffalo’s defense stalled out a Colts drive, taking advantage of a missed field goal to march the ball into Colts territory with a waning clock. Taylor and the Bills burned it further to the two-minute warning where they regrouped and formulated a set of plays that they would cash in on. Tyrod Taylor put to use his legs as they approached the red zone, but Karlos Williams capitalized, ripping off a 26-yard run to bring the Bills up 17 to 0 to end the half.
As the second half resumed, it seemed like positioning again, thanks in part to a Colts roughing the passer penalty, would allow the Bills to score. LeSean McCoy briefly celebrated his first touchdown when he jaunted into the end zone on a 12-yard sprint, but a holding penalty called it back. Eventually Buffalo’s Boobie Dixon would punch in a one-yard touchdown to bring the score up 24 to 0.
Behind Andrew Luck, a historic quarterback in his own right, the Colts would put some points on the board, but their points came at a price. Luck and his Colts marched into Bills territory, but their first scoring drive ate up much of the third quarter. In a desperate attempt to score, Luck attempted and completed a two-yard touchdown pass on a fourth down, completing a two-point conversion thereafter to get in the game at 24 to 8.
Buffalo’s special teams proved their invaluable effort in the game when just a few series later, a Buffalo punt with a lot of hang-time fell from the hands of a Colts Phillip Dorsett. Randell Johnson, a linebacker on the prowl to make a name for himself, pounced — he recovered the ball, putting Buffalo in great position to score a field goal under Dan Carpenter.
Although the Colts would score again, Buffalo’s playmakers and coaching staff won the day for the Bills, both on paper and on the scoreboard. To coach Ryan, the fans deserve a large tip of the hat.
“Our fans were better than our players, and our players were pretty darn good,” Ryan said after the victory.
Ryan noted the need to up the volume in practice to mimic that which is an electrified Ralph Wilson Stadium, but said he felt impressed with the play he saw from his team, especially in the untested Tyrod Taylor.
“You could look into his eyes and see him command the huddle,” Percy Harvin, who caught one touchdown pass on Sunday, said. “His confidence, his poise is what will make him great.”
Harvin said Taylor inspired confidence in his teammates, and that confidence resonated. Team leader and elite defensive tackle Kyle Williams announced his team’s confidence following the game.
“People think the Colts are a Super Bowl contender, but news flash — basically so do we,” Williams said.