All summer long, I advised fans not to drink the Kool-Aid on the Bills. It was OK to sip, but it was wise to keep your expectations in check until we saw the first Rex Ryan team perform in a regular-season game.
Well, it's only one game, but after Sunday's opener, it's OK to take a nice swig. I wouldn't make any Super Bowl reservations, but the Bills looked like a legitimate playoff contender and a potential force in the AFC with a rousing, 27-14 victory over the Colts at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Ryan said he intended to build a bully and make the playoffs in his first season. And the Bills played the part before a raucous sellout crowd. They beat the Colts in every phase of the game. The defense bullied the Colts, rendering them one-dimensional and making Andrew Luck look pedestrian.
The Bills didn't miss Marcell Dareus one bit. With Ryan and Dennis Thurman using their typically confounding array of blitzes, the Bill shut down the Colts' running game and held Luck in check. Luck went 26-for-4 passing for 243 yards and two TDs, but much of it was in garbage time.
Ryan didn't build the bully on his own. General manager Doug Whaley's cast of newcomers was uniformly terrific. Virtually every new face made a big contribution to the win. They didn't seem to miss Fred Jackson.
It started with quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who flashed his bazooka arm and sprinter's speed for the first time as a regular-season NFL starter. Taylor connected with embattled newcomer Percy Harvin on a 51-yard touchdown bomb on the last play of the first quarter to give the Bills a 7-0 lead.
Taylor completed 14 of his first 16 throws and finished 14 of 19 for 195 yards. He also ran six times for 45 yards, including a dynamic 31-yard scramble. Bottom line: He outplayed Luck, considered the best young QB in the league.
Ronald Darby, the rookie cornerback who was said to be a short leash after a shaky preseason, held his own and intercepted a Luck pass.
Fellow rookie Karlos Williams, who inherited the backup running back job after Whaley cut popular veteran Fred Jackson, broke a 26-yard TD run on his first NFL carry and led the team in rushing with 55 yards.
Tailback LeSean McCoy had a modest 41 yards on 17 carries, but had three catches for 46 yards and had a 12-yard touchdown run called back because of a penalty.
The offensive line, with Richie Incognito and rookie John Miller fortifying the guard positions, held up well in the passing game.
All in all, it was a spectacular opening game for Ryan, who became the first head coach ever to win his Bills debut on Opening Day. Bills coaches had been 0-17 in that spot since the franchise began in 1960.
Next week, Ryan gets a shot at his old AFC nemesis. The Patriots and Tom Brady come to town. If they win that one, you can buy the Kool-Aid by the gallon.