Time to break down the offense's performance against the Buffalo Bills starting with the...
Big Ben seems to have returned to pre-motorcylce accident form, having completed 58% of his passes with 5 TDs and only 1 INT through two games. That completion percentage would be even higher if not for a number of dropped passes in the Cleveland game, and several in Week 2 against the Bills as well.
Big Ben's 34 passes against Buffalo initially seemed like a high number considering the game was never in jeopardy, but really, if you think about it, the only reason we threw the ball as much as we did is because we were constantly converting on 3rd down! How good were we on 3rd down? 11-of 16! That's huge and we're going to continue dominating if we can stay anywhere near that mark. Big Ben hit 9 different targets yesterday, proving he's comfortable going through his progressions without panicking and not staying locked in on his initial reads. Part of the credit also goes to Arians' play-calling, but you've got to trust yourself in the pocket and not make bad decisions when your first and second options aren't there. Couldn't be happier that Big Ben seems to be healthy physically and mentally again this year.
The even more encouraging news is that Roeth can still get better. He's let a few balls sail over the middle. While they haven't cost him yet, a little bad luck on even just slightly overthrown balls can lead to momentum changing turnovers. I'm not really all that concerned though. After watching Jason Campbell and Donovan McNabb spray the ball eratically for most of the night tonight, I'm pleased with where Big Ben and his receivers are through 2 weeks.
Ben's efficiency was much worse in the red-zone but not all of that was his fault. On the Steelers first trip inside the 20, Ben made a wise check-down to Heath Miller on 3rd and 11. A year ago he might have tried to force something. On the Steelers second trip to the red-zone, Dan Kreider dropped a ball on 3rd and 2 that would have been enough for a 1st down. On our 3rd trip, Ben missed a throw (good coverage though), and a failed running play on 2nd and 10 set up a 3rd and long that wasn't converted. I'd like to see Arians get Hines Ward the ball in open space perhaps on some sort of screen when we're inside the 20. He's pretty good at making people miss and picking up tough yards, so hopefully we'll try out some different things in the upcoming weeks.
On our fourth trip, we had to waste 1st down spiking the ball to stop the clock. Basically a rushed 2-minute drill that fortunately led to points but can rarely be expected to be converted. After all, we did start the drive at our own 30 with only 1:38 on the clock. The bottom line is we need to be better closing out drives if we're going to win tough road games throughout the season, but I can't say it was all on Big Ben. The point is some of the missed opportunities were a product of circumstance, some were on Big Ben, some were simply due to the Bills finally waking up and making a few plays.
There's more progress to be made, and it's still to be determined if Ben will be able to get rid of the ball a bit quicker when under more pressure than he was on Sunday. All in all though, a promising start for Big Ben.