The hometown of the Buffalo Bills' Ralph Wilson Stadium is Orchard Park, NY, where the town slogan depicts that the town is "a great place to live, work, and play." What the residents of the surrounding Buffalo area don't have to proclaim is the town is a place that constantly eats, drinks, and breathes Bills football.
The intensity of the Buffalo Bills fan base is quite unique no matter how well or how poorly their beloved Bills are playing. Autumn Sunday's in Buffalo are always unprecedented events. This year – even after coming off of a 5-11 season - marks no exception. With newly appointed head coach Dick Jauron, the Bills have brought together a defense alone that would attract any crowd.
"I think they have passionate fans there and they love football," said New York Jets head coach Eric Mangini. "It's a really good environment to play a football game."
Even though Mangini made the trip to Upstate New York once a year for divisional play while coaching in New England, a player who can vouch for the massive support in Buffalo is offensive lineman Trey Teague, who played there for the last four seasons.
"They have good fans, they are there rain or shine, they are there regardless of the record," said Trey Teague, who replaced his Bills uniform with a Jets jersey this offseason. "The Bills are pretty much the most important thing as far as entertainment in the town. We fully expect them to be there, loud and ready to support their team."
The fans will undoubtedly bring the noise to the near 74,000 seat stadium Sunday when their 1-1 Bills square off against the Jets for their home opener and possibly a share of first place. This game will mark the Bills' third divisional game in as many weeks, as they dropped their opener in New England and then stunned the Dolphins in Miami. After watching tape from each of those games, Jets coach Eric Mangini was impressed by the Bills dynamic defense.
"They've been able to take control of games early with the sack for a touchdown against New England, and then five sacks in the first 18 plays against Miami," Mangini said. "You can see the types of players they have there. It's a good group."
After two weeks of play, Buffalo has combined for ten sacks from seven different players. Ryan Denney leads the way with three – all of which were collected in the win over the Dolphins. The defense is filled with youth, as Jauron and the Bills front office opted for defenders with each of their first five selections in this April's draft. In fact, their first overall, pick Donte Whitner, has 15 tackles and an interception thus far.
The Bills nearly upset the Patriots on the road in their season opener, but let a surprising victory slip away after a gutsy Patriots second half comeback. Despite the loss, the Bills defense not only held the home team in check for the majority of the game, but they scored as well. Veteran linebacker London Fletcher-Baker got the Bills rolling early, finding the end zone after a first quarter fumble recovery.
"They get a lot of hits to the ball, a lot of plays," said Mangini, the Jets first-year coach. "They're a good swarming defense. You see the way that they pursue to the football, the aggressiveness they have."
It will be critical for the Jets to match the energy level of their divisional counterparts. The Bills have set the tone in each of their two road games and they'd like nothing better than to get their crowd excited early Sunday.
"The motor that their players play with, the way they pursue to the ball, the style they play with - it shows up play in and play out," Mangini added. "It's going to be a really good challenge for us offensively to match that energy."
Jets linebacker Eric Barton on Bills' RB Willis McGahee, who has rushed for 161 in two games: "He's a big challenge for every team that plays him, because he's a hard runner, he's physical and he has speed," he said. "He's an all-round great player."... On the probability of a Wesleyan graduate (Mangini) and a Yale graduate (Jauron) meeting as head coaches in the NFL, Jauron replied, "I guess in this business there are so few teams that the odds of any two coaches from those two schools are not too good."... When asked about Laveranues Coles referring to him recently as "ornery", Coach Mangini laughed it off. "That's a great SAT word," he said. "There are a lot of people that have called me ornery. He may not be alone in that depiction. You know, miscommunications, mistakes, things like that, they make me ornery."
Wednesday Injury Report Jets Doubtful: OL Trey Teague (ankle)
Questionable: CB David Barrett (hip), WR Laveranues Coles (calf), WR Tim Dwight (thigh) & OL Pete Kendall (thigh)
Probable: *DL Dave Ball (hand), *LB Matt Chatham (foot), *QB Chad Pennington (calf), *S Kerry Rhodes (ankle) & *DL Kimo von Oelhoffen
Bills Questionable: S Matt Bowen (shin) & LB Takeo Spikes (hamstring)
*Denotes players who participated in practice