Writing a weekly column about the Buffalo Bills isn’t always easy. Some weeks it’s hard to come up with an interesting topic or find something about which I feel strongly.
This week my job is easy. I have a topic, and it’s something I feel very strongly about.
The Bills team that showed up in Foxboro on Sunday night is the worst team in football. Arizona, San Francisco and Carolina all showed much more spark than the Bills. Even Miami had a better week and they were on a bye. Hands down, the Bills did almost nothing right. The offense was terrible. The defense showed that they were all hype and no substance. The coaching and game plans were awful.
I am embarrassed to be a Bills fan after such a performance. As a loyal fan and buyer of merchandise and tickets I feel that I deserve better than what I got on Sunday night. I have a feeling I’m not alone in my anger after a blowout loss to the New England Patriots.
As I said last week, Sunday’s game was a test for the Bills. The results are in and the Bills failed miserably. If this had been an actual test they would have only received credit for spelling their name correctly.
It starts with the offense or lack thereof. Simply put, Drew Bledsoe is terrible. It’s hard to imagine that any quarterback on the Bills roster could have had a worse performance. Even an injured rookie or a veteran who hasn’t seen the field in well over a year would have likely been an improvement over Bledsoe. As a matter of fact, J.P. Losman did have a better night than Bledsoe if you look at the passer rating 16.7 vs. 14.3 – even though the rookie was 1 of 2 for 5 yards and two turnovers. If you can’t beat Losman’s debut statistically you’re really in trouble.
New England haunts Bledsoe. When he plays his former team he turns into a guy who can’t complete a pass; a turnover machine who leads his team to defeat with a full head of steam.
Against the Patriots Drew seems to go into some sort of voodoo trance. He drops back and doesn’t get rid of the ball. He locks onto his receiver and throws the ball even when the entire stadium knows who he’s targeting. He never seems to check down to other receivers and when the pocket inevitably collapses he gets crushed like a grape for a sack. Bill Belichick couldn’t script Bledsoe’s poor play any better if he had his own voodoo doll and could orchestrate all of the quarterback’s motions.
Bledsoe’s final numbers are almost too horrific to display: 8 of 19 for 76 yards and 3 interceptions. Pathetic. Makes me nauseous to look at it. If these numbers don’t scream that a change is needed I don’t know what does.
As bad as Bledsoe was, he wasn’t the only person who played poorly. The offensive line regressed again, giving up sacks and doing a miserable job of run blocking. Willis McGahee had absolutely no holes to run through as his steak of 100-yard games came to a screeching halt. McGahee failed to break 3 yards per carry. Take away his long run of the night – 11 yards – and the “rookie” everyone talked about so highly averaged 2 yards per attempt.
Receivers also didn’t help some of the time. There were multiple drops by receivers. Down the stretch even veterans like Eric Moulds were making big mistakes – Moulds jumped out of bounds unnecessarily on a crucial 4th down play. The tight ends were invisible.
Defensively the Bills were M.I.A. For a unit ranked 3rd in the NFL, the Bills did a great job of disguising their supposed defensive prowess. The Bills gave up more yards in the first half than they averaged per game. The unit came into the game as the only team to have not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season and walked out as a team that gave up 200 on the ground (over 150 yards to Correy Dillon alone). Against the pass the Bills allowed Tom Brady to complete passes to 10 different receivers. The secondary gave up multiple big plays and were called for numerous pass interference calls. The pass rush was nonexistent most of the night as Brady was able to sit back and pick apart the Bills. Tackling was terrible – Bills defenders missed tackles like kids trying to catch a greased pig at the county fair.
So the offense showed just how bad they were and the defense showed that they were mostly smoke and mirrors. So the Bills got blown out – it happens. What makes the situation so intolerable is that it happened against the Patriots. The Bills can’t seem to beat the team from New England, even when they come into the game with momentum and face an opponent who has injuries at a number of positions. What also makes the situation so maddening is that it happened on national TV. America almost never gets to see the Bills play and when they do they see a team that looks like they should be playing high school football. It’s hard to tell people you’re a Bills fan if the only thing they associate with the franchise is the merciless drubbings they bring upon themselves. On the bright side, the Bills stand absolutely no chance of appearing on Monday Night Football in 2005 and at the rate they’re going they could go an entire decade without seeing the likes of Al Michaels and company.
So where do the Bills go from here? One place they won’t be going is the playoffs – that dream is now officially dead. They also won’t be going to .500 – they’ve lost too many games to realistically reach that important mental milestone. They now go back to Buffalo to prepare for the Rams. They’ll hold press conferences and talk to the media about the need to execute better and put a good spin on things by pointing out that they could still turn it around and see the postseason. If you believe the ridiculous statements from One Bills Drive about being able to make the playoffs you probably also believe the politicians who say they can cut the federal deficit in half while proposing policy initiatives that will cost $3 trillion – the numbers just don’t add up. Remember – these are also the same people who tell you that Bledsoe gives the Bills the best chance to win and there are no plans to make a change at the quarterback position – they either live in deep denial, reside in Bizzaro World or are flat out lying to us.
If the Bills are smart they’ll work hard to start the preparations for 2005 now. They need to season McGahee with more game time and also give Losman time under center in real game conditions. They need to try offensive line and secondary personnel configurations that hold the most promise for next season so these units can start to gain experience now. Although the Bills desperately need a second starting cornerback I would advocate Troy Vincent’s move to safety when he’s healthy – that’s probably where he’ll play next year so he might as well start playing that position now. Mike Williams can move to guard if that’s where he plays best.
Change is possibly the only thing to assuage the anger Bills fans are experiencing. If the organization is wise they’ll start being straight with the fans, admit their shortcoming and embrace the changes that need to be made. Don’t count on it. There’s more ugliness ahead – can’t you feel the burn?
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