"Chuck made a comment this week that made me happy," he said after the win. "He told us we had to be more wide open, we had to throw the ball more. It surprised me. It was exciting. I think the Jets were expecting a more conservative approach, and when I opened up, it kind of confused them."
Ferguson was a low-key quarterback last season, very sound, very meticulous, but 18 NFL passers threw for more yardage than he did. Sure, it was Buffalo's superb defensive effort against the Jets that set up the carnage that followed, but when given the chance, the Bills showed the kind of quick striking power that was absent in 1980.
"They were biting on a lot of our play fakes, which left us open," said Halfback Joe Cribbs, who caught Ferguson's first touchdown pass, a 28-yarder. "I think you're going to see an explosive type of offense this year. I think we're going to score a lot of points."
Cribbs, who handled the ball more than any NFL back in 1980—running, catching and returning kicks—gets the ultimate mileage out of his 5'11", 190-pound body. Against the Jets he carried 15 times for 61 yards, a rather understated day for him. But he had plenty to say about the Jets' seven-back rotation.
"I wouldn't want to play in a system like that," he said. "If you've got a good back, you've got to work him. McNeil, for instance, is supposed to be a super ballcarrier, but I guess they must feel they've got other people who can do a job, too."
"It's no good," Smerlas said. "You come out of the game, you cool off. They were yanking guys in and out so fast that no one got the feel of anything. Sometimes even when you're tired, you get a feel of things in there."
In the Buffalo coaches' room Tom Catlin, the 50-year-old defensive coordinator, was buttoning his shirt and quietly accepting congratulations. He's in his 22nd year of coaching various phases of defense, and in those two decades-plus he has seen a lot of flashy offenses go down the drain. "He's a genius," said Right Linebacker Isiah Robertson, who was with Catlin for seven years in Los Angeles. "The reads he gave us today were right on the money. Perfect."
"I'm kind of glad the Jets went conservative early," Catlin said. "I thought they'd be going long earlier."
But what was the scheme, the brain-work behind this Opening Day shutout? Catlin smiled. The Bills have to play the Jets again in six weeks.
"We were just laying back playing a zone defense," he said.