Tuesday, November 01, 2011


Bills Win Big in Toronto

The Go Train leaving Union Station was packed with football fans heading east. Most of the party were satisfied with the game. The Bills had whitewashed the Washington Redskins 23-0, handing Coach Shanahan the first shutout of his lengthy career.
Brad Fisher had attended Sinclair Secondary School in Whitby. He was wearing an Acadia Axemen jacket, rather proudly. I asked him about his football connection. “I played one year at Acadia, and loved it. I transferred back to Ontario, and now I’m in my final year of computer studies at the university in Oshawa.” Brad would tip the scales at well over two hundred pounds. I asked him for his comments on the game. He chuckled. “I really don’t follow the game too carefully. I focus on the offensive line, because that’s where I played”.
The game was by far the most successful tilt played in the Toronto Series thus far, both on and off the field. The authorities had localized many of the pre-game activities beside the Rogers Centre, pretty much self-contained. Fans lined up to get into the “Tail Gate Party” (no tail gates, mind you), before the game to listen to deafening music, to play a few carnival games, to drink Budweiser products from slim aluminum cans at $9.75 a crack.
This game was the fourth in a series of five that are taking place in Toronto. Thus far, the Bills had not won in Hogtown. The Redskins had a respectable record going into the game, albeit with some controversy at quarterback. The article in the program for the game was entitled “Redskins Showing Signs of Improvement This Season”. So much for that. Rex Grossman and John Beck both had taken turns at the helm this season. Beck got the nod last Sunday.

Beck was sacked nine times in the game. That means that he got the ball from the centre to start the play, moved back a little to see what might be on the horizon, and was met by several large men who wanted to drive him into the unforgiving turf. The result was a loss of a lot of yardage, and no escape.

On the other side of the ball, the Bills keep rolling along. For some observers, this comes as a bit of a surprise. Not in these quarters. There were quiet expectations about Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. As he has gained confidence in his career, he has met and surpassed most expectations. He is now in the upper echelon of NFL ball flingers, and plays with great poise.

It was nice to see former Bill and Hall of Famer Jim Kelly take the microphone at the tail gate party to stir up the fans for the game. He and legendary running back Thurman Thomas have been instrumental in promoting the team as it continues to improve.

The game was the first shutout in seventy-six games for the Bills. Credit that to a stingy defence. Credit is also due to the offensive line. Fred Jackson, the Bills’ premier running back credited the boys up front after the game. “When those guys can get a hat on a hat, that allows me to get into the secondary.” Jackson indicated he was very concerned when “Fitz” took a nasty hit in the game. “He’s a huge part of what we do. Everyone was wide-eyed when we got into the huddle. We were all concerned. It was good for him to get back up.”

Fitzgerald later indicated that he simply lost his wind.

Coach Chan Gailey was more than pleased with his team’s performance. He said the he was “scared to death” coming out of the “Bye Week” when the team had an extra week of practice. He said that players get out of their routines in that period. “Guys were late for meetings,” he added.

Gailey was thrilled with the crowd. There were mumblings out of Buffalo prior to the game that fans in Toronto did not really get behind the Bills. Such was not the case on Sunday. But Gailey added: “I just have to teach them not do to the wave when we have a third and one!” It was a little distracting for the Buffalo squad.

Defensive specialist Gorge Wilson told us that he found the environment “most exciting”. His read on the game? “We dominated the guy we were matched up against.”

The Bills are now 5-2 on the season, and face the New York Jets twice in the next four weeks. They also have the Dolphins twice before the end of the season. Both of those games should be cakewalks; however, it is the NFL, initials which can stand for “Not For Long” if your game is not right.

On Sunday, the Bills made everyone “Shout”.

James Hurst
November 1, 2011

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