The most maligned unit on the roster is, without question, the offensive line, and it has been that way in Buffalo for what seems like a decade. The Bills have struggled to find a consistent five-man group, mainly because they have been lax in addressing the line in the draft with high picks, seemingly scared to whiff the way they did in 2002 when they picked Mike Williams No. 4 overall and watched him flop.
But for one week, at least, the line was stellar as it dominated the Kansas City defense in every aspect. The Bills churned out 163 rushing yards, and Ryan Fitzpatrick was sacked only once and hit perhaps two other times in the 41-7 blowout victory.
"We didn't doubt our capabilities coming into this game; we know we've got the right group of guys here," said left guard Andy Levitre, a third-year veteran who was a second-round pick in 2009. "We came in, got our work done, and we all did a good job of doing that. It just shows the things we can accomplish if we all do what we're supposed to be doing."
Left tackle Demetrius Bell, a seventh-round choice in 2008, has been the biggest question mark, but he experienced no problems against the Chiefs. The only sack of Fitzpatrick came from the other side when right tackle Erik Pears was beaten cleanly by a very good pass rusher, linebacker Tamba Hali. In the run game, the Bills were getting good push as Fred Jackson picked his way for 112 yards, helping Buffalo pile up 37 minutes of possession time.
"The guys up front, for all they took throughout the offseason, throughout the preseason, they did a great job," said Fitzpatrick, who continually stood by his protectors when they were getting ripped by the local media and fans. "That group, taking that criticism, they're taking it personal, and I'm hoping this is a good start for us up front. They've played together and they played well."
Coach Chan Gailey was experimenting with different combinations right up until the final two weeks of training camp, but he settled on the group that also includes center Eric Wood and right guard Kraig Urbik. Pears originally entered the NFL in 2005 with Denver as an undrafted free agent; Wood was a first-round pick of the Bills 2009; and Urbik was a third-round pick of the Steelers in 2009. Pears and Urbik were claimed off waivers late last season. Another late 2010 waiver claim, guard Chad Rinehart, who was a third-round pick of the Redskins in 2008, is the top backup.
"They did a good job," said Gailey. "I was impressed with how we blocked some plays, we did some good things and made some adjustments on the field. The key to (the passing game success) is protection. Fitz was able to stand back there and see things and throw it where he needed to throw it."
Like Fitzpatrick, whose uniform was almost spotless even though he was playing on real grass at Arrowhead Stadium, Jackson was thrilled by what the line accomplished. "They played well," he said. "Anytime we have the line playing as well as they did, we'll be able to put up some points. They kept Fitz upright, he was able to make some great throws downfield, and we've always felt if we can keep him on his feet he'll be able to pick some defenses apart."
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