For now, Kyle Orton new sheriff in town, and while he may not look like the Buffalo Bills’ knight in shining armor most would imagine when visualizing an NFL starting quarterback, he most certainly looks like the team’s best option moving forward.
Kyle Orton, a fourth round pick by the Chicago Bears in 2005, has always had a knack for hanging around and coming in when a team needs him most. He appeared occasionally in Chicago, well before the days of Jay Cutler. He once was the trusted starter of a Denver Broncos team that had another notable name on its depth chart in Tim Tebow. The most impressive feat came last season, as Orton was thrust into the starting quarterback role for the Dallas Cowboys after Tony Romo’s back essentially gave out.
Orton was expected to be a game manager, but he instead took command of the offense and shouldered the weight of carrying the team on himself. Orton’s 358 yard, two TD and two interception performance brought the Cowboys within two points of the Eagles. It was that last interception that sealed the deal for Philadelphia, as Orton’s pass to Miles Austin went way wide of his target, and was easily picked off by Eagles’ cornerback Brandon Boykin, who had undercut the route and swiftly ended any comeback attempt by Dallas.
Orton has never been trusted to be the guy, but rather be a fill in who does just enough to get the job done. That may have been Orton’s status quo, and even as he took the field against Detroit in relief of incumbent starter E.J. Manuel, it seemed as though all he needed to be was ordinary. Kyle Orton had other plans, as he now may be counted on as something more; a savior.
Orton’s performance against a stingy Lions defensive unit was more than simply moving the chains to allow Buffalo’s playmakers the chance to rack up points, but rather an impressive display of touch, accuracy, and gritty determination. Orton, who went 30/43 with 308 yards, one TD, and one INT against Detroit, showed the rest of the NFL that he can be more than just a temporary fix to a much bigger problem with throws such as these. He made tough throws into tight windows, and rose to the occasion to send Buffalo back to Orchard Park victorious.
I want to point out a specific throw that stood out to me, and exemplified the notion that Orton is much more than a quick fix. Orton hit wide receiver Marquise Goodwin down the right sideline on a 42-yard deep ball that set up tight end Chris Gragg’s touchdown reception. It was more than a simple heave and pray from Orton, however. Orton placed the ball only where Goodwin could’ve made the catch, floating it right into the breadbasket, right ahead of two Detroit defenders. This allowed Goodwin to maintain his momentum without slowing up to adjust to the ball. Instead, he just continued streaking down the sideline as the ball fell perfectly into place.
That play looked eerily familiar to this play, as both throws required pinpoint accuracy and perfect touch. Orton’s determination showcased throughout the game turned me into a believer, and instilled newfound confidence in an offensive unit that looked listless and stagnant for two consecutive weeks. It made me believe that if Orton continues to display the confidence of a ten year vet, just as he did against the Lions, then maybe Buffalo’s offensive woes are a thing of the past.
Before you all paint me as an overexcited Bills fan desperate for some form of consistency (which I am), take a look at who Orton was facing. Succeeding as Orton did against a Detroit defense that ranks 10th in the NFL in passing yards allowed with 261.6 was no cake walk. It took throws into tight windows, creativity in the pocket, and the awareness to keep safeties guessing by looking them off. Orton did all of that against the Lions, and did a damn fine job of it. The only glaring blemish on Orton’s overall performance was a five yard hitch throw intended for Sammy Watkins that was read perfectly by seasoned veteran Rashean Mathis, who took the pick back 44 yards to the house. Orton could have let that play stick in his mind and let it affect him for the rest of the game. He instead put that throw behind him and moved on.
If Orton can keep this up, then contending for a spot in the playoffs is not too far fetched. It would be a totally different scenario if the team were 1-4 or worse, but 3-2 and tied for first place in the division is a great spot to be in. Better yet, Buffalo has a matchup with the New England Patriots on Sunday, the team that currently shares first place with the Bills. I know that E.J. Manuel is supposed to take notes on the example Orton is providing, but the drastic difference between the two passers has me believing that Orton can take this team to the postseason.
The proof is in the pudding. Orton has been completing short throws and connecting on mid-range throws that any competent NFL quarterback should be able to make. This in turn has set up playmakers like Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods for success, while also establishing an ideal chemistry between passer and receiver, one that is vital for success.
Orton got the ball moving, and rarely stalled out on drives, much unlike the guy he replaced. Orton is succeeding where Manuel isn’t, and the more comfortable Orton gets as the starter, the quicker the unit as a whole will gel. As the passing game gains confidence, the rushing attack will see more opportunities to pick up huge chunks of yardage and grind it out on the ground. Think about it: who do you cover? Locking up Sammy and the flurry of other young wideouts will open up more space in the second level, allowing Buffalo’s potent rushing attack to capitalize. When Manuel was under center, drives stalled and the passing game showed no signs of life, rendering C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson as Buffalo’s only offensive threats. Orton’s ability to spread things out and allow the offense to function as one unit makes them a dangerous team.
It was only one game, but it was a win against a tough opponent. It was a performance that sparked an entire offense, affirming all of the preseason hype. I believe in Kyle Orton, and I think that every Bills fan should feel the same way. All we have is hope, so why can’t Orton be our guy? With all of the positive buzz around this franchise, I feel as though Buffalo’s luck might begin to change.