3-0 Records Bring Hope to Buffalo and Detroit

That might explain how a 34-31 Buffalo victory over New England in Week 3 could provoke this reaction:

“It’s the best one of my career,” said linebacker Chris Kelsay, now in his ninth season with the Bills. “Regardless of if it’s Week 3 or the last game of the season. I’ve never been to the postseason, I’ve played on Monday night, we played a close one against Dallas but we came up short. We played these guys 17 times and only won one until today. It’s awesome, any time you can beat a great team like that, a great coaching staff like that, you’re going to enjoy it.”

Dominic Raiola, the longtime and long-suffering Lions center, said almost exactly the same thing about Detroit’s 26-23 victory over the Vikings, which was its first in Minnesota since 1997.

The Rust Belt is having a renaissance this season for the first time in a decade. Marv Levy, the former Bills coach, followed the game on the Internet until his local TV station in Chicago switched over for the final few minutes. His reaction to the Bills’ come-from-behind victory over the Patriots summed it up best.

“That was some performance,” he said Sunday night.

The Bills and Lions are both 3-0 and two of only four undefeated teams remaining (pending the outcome of the 2-0 Redskins’ Monday night game against the Cowboys). How long has it been since there has been this much hope in those two cities? The last time the Bills and the Lions both started 3-0 was 1980. That was two years before Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was born and eight years before the birth of Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Both teams have winnable games next week —  Detroit at Dallas, Buffalo at Cincinnati —  before bigger tests in Week 5, when Philadelphia goes to Buffalo and the Bears go to Detroit. But even when the sky turns gray, it might be time to put memories of J. P. Losman and Joey Harrington to rest. After all, since 1990, 75.9 percent of teams that started 3-0 made the playoffs.  

No-Huddle Offense Spreads

There have been 34 individual 300-yard passing games this season, the most —  by a dozen — through the first three weeks of an N.F.L. season. One big reason: the proliferation of no-huddle offenses, which, to the dismay of defensive coordinators, are sprouting up throughout the N.F.L. Matthew Stafford, who engineered the Lions’ comeback victory over the Vikings on Sunday, used it consistently. The Packers opened the season against the Saints with it. The Patriots are regular practitioners. The Rams used it so much against the Giants that the Giants possibly faked injuries to slow it down. And this is all with the greatest no-huddler of all, , sitting in the coaches’ box.

The reason for using the no-huddle is obvious. It gives the offense a decided edge because defenses are unable to substitute players, either to keep them fresh or to get them into favorable matchups depending on the situation. With the pressure to move quickly, it makes it difficult for the defensive playcaller to get and then convey the call from the defensive coordinator. The savviest quarterbacks can quickly get to the line and call for the snap to get cheap yards when the defense has too many men on the field if it tries to substitute. The most dramatic result, though, is physical. The pass rush of big linemen is neutralized when they are struggling to catch their breath. Example A: the gasping Miami Dolphins, who could not keep up with the Patriots in Week 1, even though the Dolphins practice in heat and humidity. 

That raises the question: why has it taken everyone so long to adopt the no-huddle? Marv Levy, whose Buffalo Bills teams ran the no-huddle with Jim Kelly, wonders, too.

“I am somewhat surprised that teams and coaches haven’t gone to this style of play before now,” Levy said Sunday. “Whenever I have talked to any coaches seeking advice, I have always recommended that it would be the style I’d most prefer.”

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