And there was. Not from the skies, but on the field.
Thunder, as in Fred Jackson (right, via AFP).
Lightning, as in C.J. Spiller (below, via AFP).
The Buffalo Bills’ first-rate running-back duo provided most of the offence Sunday, as the host Bills zapped the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars, 34-18.
Buffalo improved to 5-7, Jacksonville fell to 3-9.
It not only rained throughout the game, it absolutely poured all through the first half. Given the conditions, it was clear at the outset that whichever team could establish a running game was going to win.
And the Bills outrushed the Jags, 232-50.
The announced attendance at Ralph Wilson Stadium was 53,971 – some 20,000 short of capacity – but thousands of the soaked did not return after halftime, and who could blame them. At least the temperature wasn’t what you’d expect for early December on Lake Erie – 11 C at kickoff (52 F).
By game’s end, there was more Thunder than Lightning.
Spiller had 77 yards on 14 carries – which included a dazzling 44-yard touchdown run that broke that game open in the fourth quarter. He bounced a run outside left end and, with his great speed, was gone.
“We’ve got both Thunder and Lightning – so WE pick your poison,” blocking fullback Corey McIntyre said. “Thunder can go inside and out, and Lightning can go inside and out, too.”
So then why aren’t their nicknames interchangeable?
“Thunder has to be Freddie – (he runs hard) up in there,” McIntyre said. “And Lightning – ya know, fast, and quick. That’s C.J. We’ve got two good guys back in there.”
The Jaguars have only one, all-pro Maurice Jones-Drew, but he was sidelined again on Sunday as he nears recovery from a badly sprained foot. And his backup, Rashad Jennings, got hit hard in the head in the second quarter and never returned. Third-stringer Jalen Parmele is on I/R.
That left the Jaguars’ running entirely to fourth-stringer Montell Owens. He finished with 29 yards on seven carries, after Jennings had amassed only 20 on eight.
It’s not just that Owens can’t do what Jackson or Spiller does. Many NFL backs can’t.
“They both read the holes great,” said Bills guard Andy Levitre, “and they hit the holes hard, and they’re always moving the ball forward – which is awesome, and what I love about those guys.”
Because Spiller burst out of the gates this season, and Jackson missed a few early games with injuries, Lighting has supplanted Thunder as starter.
Head coach Chan Gailey in recent weeks said the plan would be to split carries roughly in a 60-40 manner in Spiller’s favour. Not on Sunday.
“The weather changed that just a little bit,” Gailey said.
“You would like for C.J. to be on a fast track. He proved with that one run that sometimes it does not matter. When you are in a physical, downhill game – that is more Fred’s game.”
Jackson made the best of his additional chances – and never fumbled on a day when there would have been a legit asterisk for doing so.
“I was so happy for him,” Gailey said, “because there is nobody that continues to work harder to help this football team win than Fred does.”
As for the teams’ passing attacks? Neither exactly scares the pants off any NFL secondary to begin with. Buffalo’s Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jacksonville’s Chad Henne did nothing to change that.
Fitzpatrick finished with 112 yards. Three of his nine completions were integral to the outcome, we’ll give him that.
Fifty-one of his yards came on his second pass of the day, a smartly placed bomb to speedy rookie T.J. Graham, starting for the injured Donald Jones. Fitzpatrick capped that drive with a one-yard sneak.
Fitzpatrick also threw an 11-yard touchdown to tight end Scott Chandler – which gave Buffalo a 17-10 lead at halftime – and a 13-yard out to in the end zone to Stevie Johnson, which put the Bills up 24-10 early in the third.
Other than those three throws, Fitzpatrick was 6-of-14 for 37 yards.
Henne was no more effective. Through three quarters he was 8-of-22 for 103 yards. Once Buffalo jumped ahead 34-10, Henne added 105 garbage-time yards and was picked off near the end by Bills safety Jairus Byrd.
Fitzpatrick then took a knee, and the game ended. The rain did not.
Once scary-bad Bills defence improving
The Buffalo Bills defence was scary bad before its Halloween-week bye. Now? Not so bad.
Defensive end Mario Williams has become the dominating pass-rushing threat the club had hoped for.
On a key play in the second quarter against Jacksonville, Williams had a sack (his sixth in five games), a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
The biggest improvement is in Buffalo’s run defence.
“We have got some guys running downhill and everybody has been in the right spot,” Buffalo head coach Chan Gailey said. “Everybody is being a lot more consistent about filling the correct gap. If I had to say there is one thing, that is the one thing.”